SANTA CLARA — They call him The Godfather.
He was the godfather of the 49ers’ great defenses from 2011 to 2014, their defensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh. The guy the 49ers didn’t promote to head coach after Harbaugh left for Michigan. The one they let get away.
Now, he’s coming to Levi’s stadium for vengeance this Sunday.
He is Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and he is a contender for the Associated Press’ NFL Assistant Coach of the Year Award. One of the best defensive minds in the NFL, along with LA Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
Although he’s called The Godfather, there’s nothing flashy about Fangio. He’s quiet, always thinking. Always planning his defense. He is easygoing and approachable and, on a football field, almost impossible to figure out. Harbaugh let Fangio run his defense, no questions asked.
And his players treated him like a godfather, with that kind of respect, above and beyond the normal coach. Players such as Justin Smith and Patrick Willis actually referred to Fangio as The Godfather, meaning he’s the one we want leading us into a gunfight.
Under Fangio, the Bears’ defense has forced a league-high 35 turnovers and currently ranks third out of 32 teams in fewest yards allowed. Fangio is on the verge of his fifth season coaching a top-five defense since 2011. He would tie Carroll for having the most top-five defenses in that time.
“Vic’s unique,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Whatever you think you have on him, he has a counter off it.”
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