Change comes with danger for Bears if DC Vic Fangio does not return

Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks knows it’s not a coincidence he’s blossomed into a Pro Bowl-caiber player in Vic Fangio’s defense.

“Him putting me in this defense and really allowing me to use my skills for the benefit of the team is just awesome for me,” Hicks said, “because I get a chance to show what I’m capable of.

“He has something. If you have all the tools, he orchestrates and gets you to use your tools the proper way. That’s what he’s done for me.”

Hicks is in his ultimate comfort zone in Fangio’s defense, which makes this offseason particularly interesting for him. Hicks just signed a four-year, $48 million contract extension in September — he knows he’ll be back next season. But what about Fangio? In the final year of his contract with the Bears, his future as defensive coordinator is in doubt regardless of what happens to John Fox after this season. At this point, it’s more likely he won’t be back than he will be.

The Bears were 30th in the NFL in total defense in 2014, the season before Vic Fangio arrived. Despite key injuries to several starters, the Bears are 11th in total defense in 2017. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

“That would suck,” Hicks said. “I would love to be in his system for another couple of years. I would love to finish playing this game under his tutelage and being in his sytem.”

While developing quarterback Mitch Trubisky would be the focal point of a coaching change with the Bears, the impact of a Fangio departure can’t be overlooked. The Bears are a step or two away from becoming an elite defense. But they’re heading in the right direction, even with another injury riddled season. Hicks and nose tackle Eddie Goldman, linebacker Danny Trevathan are a solid foundation of the front seven. Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd didn’t blossom into a star in his second season, but made acceptable progress toward eventually getting there before suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Lions in Week 11.

Cornerback Kyle Fuller is having his best season in the NFL. Rookie Eddie Jackson, a fourth-round draft pick, is emerging as a playmaker. Roster-bubble guys like linebacker Christian Jones and Adrian Amos have become more than passable fill-ins as replacements for injured starters.

For the record, Fangio wants to see this thing through after taking the Bears’ defense from rock bottom (30th in the NFL in total yards the year before he arrived) to the fringe of top-10 status in the NFL (11th in total defense).

“Definitely interested in that,” he said.

But it’s not just the potential that is the lure for Fangio, but the make-up of the players on this defense.

“I like the players we’re working with. They’re really a good bunch of guys,” he said. “My favorite part of the day is getting up in front of them and watching tape with them, or putting in the defenses for the week. I really enjoy being around these guys.”

That’s a credit to general manager Ryan…

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