Fangio is now the Denver Broncos’ head coach, but he was Chicago’s defensive coordinator in 2018 when they made the blockbuster deal with Oakland. The teams are preparing to face off in Denver on Sunday, the first time student meets teacher as the enemy.
But what about when student met teacher as good guys? A nostalgic Fangio remembers it well.
“It was very little talked about. I probably didn’t find out until just a couple of seconds after the world found out. Obviously, I was very excited,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I didn’t know a lot about him other than I knew he was a good player. When he came out of college, we were drafting very late in the first round in San Francisco at the time, so they said, don’t even bother watching him. So, I didn’t watch him as a collegiate. With him in Oakland and me in the NFC, I didn’t really see him play a lot. Then when we got him and it was just after a few days, it was like ‘holy s**t.’ I guess you’ll have to bleep it a little bit (laughing).”
Mack was shipped from the Raiders to the Bears in exchange for a variety of draft picks, including first-rounders in 2019 and 2020. In year one under Fangio’s tutelage, Mack made a consistent, game-wrecking impact, finishing with 12.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, four pass deflections and a defensive touchdown — good enough to earn Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors.
Mack (Plan of) Attack
Largely held off the stat sheet in Week 1, Mack gets a juicy matchup against a Denver offensive line that resembled a swinging gate in their brutal loss to the Raiders. The Broncos will be without starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who suffered a knee injury, thrusting former undrafted free agent Elijah Wilkinson into the pressure-cooker role of being the always-unreliable Garett Bolles’ bookend.
Fangio essentially admitted that Denver will focus its efforts on containing Mack, using double-team blocks and tight end chips to neutralize his damage. But that does nothing to mitigate Chicago’s other quarterback-harassers. Like Leonard Floyd. And Roquan Smith. And Akiem Hicks. And Danny Trevathan. And Roy Robertson-Harris. And …
“Obviously, those guys are really good accomplished passed rushers,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll give those guys some help at times, but there’s going to be times like in any game they’re going to have to stand up and be able to block without a lot of help. Those are two tough guys to go against on the edges. Two highly drafted guys, two really good competitors and highly talented. Different body types, but still very good. That’s why they play good defense.”
Even Playing Field
Fangio can’t speak for Chicago and head coach/offensive play-caller Matt Nagy, but he’s taking no comfort in his familiarity with the Windy City inhabitants. No comfort, and no competitive advantage for a big interconference tilt.
“It’s not a whole lot, really. I was only there with them one year in their current offensive system,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a tremendous advantage other than knowing the players.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL