Fangio is one of the top defensive coordinators in the game and has learned from some of the best defensive minds, which makes him an intriguing candidate to help fix the Redskins woeful defense.
Fangio got his professional start under Jim Mora Sr. with the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL in 1984. He then followed Mora to the Saints where he served as linebacker coach and really began to make a name for himself. Fangio coached the linebackers from 1986-1994, and in that time he created the Dome Patrol. A group of linebackers that consisted of Ricky Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills and Vaughn Johnson, that is considered by many to be the greatest linebacker group of all time. Combined they went to 15 Pro Bowls while under Fangio’s tutelage with the Saints (Mills went to another one with Carolina under Fangio), including the entire unit being named the starters in 1992.
Fangio moved on from the Saints being named defensive coordinator of the expansion Carolina Panthers under defensive minded head coach Dom Capers. Capers and Fangio worked together as assistants first with the Philadelphia Stars and then for awhile on the Saints. Fangio was responsible for shaping the Panthers expansion defense, and brought in a familiar face in Sam Mills to lead the way. Despite being an expansion team made up of guys who never played together before and a mix of free agents, cast offs and rookies, the Panthers managed a top 10 defensive ranking in both points and yards allowed (8th and 7th respectively), and also finished 5th in turnovers. The Panthers were even more dominant the next season finishing 2nd in points allowed, 10th in yards and 5th in turnovers. That Panthers Defense helped Carolina go 13-3 that season, and set a record for the fewest points allowed in the the 2nd half of games all season.
After two more years with Carolina, Fangio got his first test of the 4-3 as he was hired by Mora to coach the Colts Defense. The Colts Defense wasn’t too strong statistically as most of the resources favored the offense, but they did do one thing extremely well; pressure the quarterback. They had at least 40 sacks every season under Fangio and helped close out games for Peyton Manning.
After the Colts, Fangio took over the defensive coordinator job for another expansion team, again under Dom Capers as he became the Texans first defensive coordinator. Fangio didn’t fare too well in Houston, but considering it was an expansion team, it was thought that he did the best job possible.
After the Texans job Fangio had to take a bit of a step back and accept a job on the Ravens staff with the title, Special Assistant to the HC and a linebackers coach. Fangio worked along side Rex Ryan and Greg Mattison to form one of the top defenses in the league from 2006-2009. In 2006 the Ravens were 1st in yards, and points allowed and 2nd in turnovers. The next year was a drop-off, but they still finished 6th in yards. 2008 and 2009 saw the Ravens back up to their dominance, finishing in the top 5 in yards and points both years and turnovers one year (they were 7th the other year in turnovers).
After his time in Baltimore, Fangio was asked to join the Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford staff as the defensive coordinator. Fangio took a unit that ranked 90th in the nation in 2009 and turned them into a top 25 unit in 2010 in 6 major categories (points allowed, yards allowed, sacks, rushing defense, passing efficiency and interceptions). Stanford quickly began to make a name for themselves defensively and it helped the Cardinal to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech. That was Stanford’s best record since 1940 (and still best record since).
After one year with Stanford, Fangio moved on with Harbaugh to the 49ers where he’s been coaching the defense since. The 49ers Defense has been just dominant under Fangio. They ranked 2nd in points, 4th in yards and 1st in takeaways his first season, they followed that up in year two being 2nd in points again and 3rd in yards. Turnovers fell to 14th that season, but the 49ers won the NFC that year and nearly won the Super Bowl. This year the 49ers finished 3rd in points and 5th in yards, and 6th in turnovers. Under the Harbaugh, Fangio and Roman trio the 49ers are 36-11-1 in three seasons, and have won at least one playoff game every season.
-I like the fact that he’s been apart of some really bad teams and rebuilding (or in some cases building) efforts. The Saints and Colts were really poor teams when Jim Mora took them over, and the Panthers and Texans were expansion teams when Dom Capers took over. The 49ers were maybe slightly better for Jim Harbaugh, but they were still a team that was lacking direction. Fangio is going to have an understanding of how to turn things around, and what it takes to build up a franchise.
-I like that Fangio has been apart of a number of elite defenses. Sure his time with the Colts and Texans didn’t see much of that, but in New Orleans, Carolina, Baltimore, Stanford and now in San Francisco, he’s presided over or been a part of top notch units. In many cases when those teams found success, it was due in large part to their defense.
-I like that Fangio has seen the importance of an elite defense and how it can carry a young quarterback. You hear all the time from Redskins fans that you can’t compare Wilson, Kaepernick, Newton and even Tannehill’s success to Griffin because they have top defenses supporting them, well Fangio would ensure that Griffin has that ASAP.
-I like that Fangio has worked under and with some great defensive minds. You would be hard pressed to find a better group of defensive minds than Jim Mora Sr., Dom Capers and Rex Ryan. There is a lot of defensive knowledge there, and it is pretty clear that Fangio has gotten the most out of it.
-I like the fact that he seems to be fairly adaptable. Fangio may have a preferred style of play, but if the personnel doesn’t fit he makes the most out of it. Coming from Mora/Capers Fangio is a guy who likes to generate pressure (and will do so from anywhere), yet when that isn’t always an option, he doesn’t panic. With Houston they lacked any sort of quailty pass rushers, yet he still made the most of it and finished tenth in pass defense and fifth in interceptions, despite the fact that they couldn’t generate pressure. Also after being one of the top sack teams in 2011, the 49ers fell off some these past two years, and it still hasn’t kept them from being a top 5 unit.
-I like his background with linebackers. If the Redskins want to stay a 3-4, getting this unit right is important. The linebackers he’s worked with in N.O., Carolina, Baltimore, and San Francisco are some of the best to play the game. Fangio will get the most out of Orakpo and Kerrigan and ensure the Redskins find high quality middle linebackers (perhaps his former Stanford pupil Shane Skov as an option).
Fangio would be a very strong candidate for the Redskins and could be a great option to help fix the defensive mess that Mike Shanahan left. He’s a bit older (55) and the Redskins may need to wait for him to become available, but he should be a good option for this team.