Vic Fangio knows the Bears and Mitch Trubisky…but they also know him, and they remember


Early in Mitch Trubisky’s rookie season, the young quarterback was tasked with running “scout” team against the Bears No. 1 defense under then-coordinator Vic Fangio, running the plays that the Bears scouting operation determined would be what the upcoming opponent would send against their defense. Trubisky ran those plays but he also occasionally went beyond the play-cards with some touches of his own that lit up what would be a top-10 defense in points and yards allowed.

Trubisky did those things to the defense, then trotted back to the huddle sneaking a sly smile at members of the defense, who affectionately dubbed him, “Pretty Boy Assassin.”

During the 2018 offseason and training camp, Trubisky became the Bears starter, all while going against the Bears’ No. 1 defense in practices. That lauded defensive unit got the better of him more than a few times, though, and he remembers their celebrations, including those of Fangio.

 “Yeah, I remember it,” Trubisky said on Wednesday. “Especially in ‘two-minute,’ after practice, he'd, like, jump around and throw his playsheet in the air if they made a play. He's super competitive and we loved that about Vic, but we've got to make sure we're on the right end of it this week. If we go out there and do our jobs, I think we'll be happy with the result.”

All of which means that, while the focus has been on how much Fangio knows about the tendencies and play of Trubisky and head coach Matt Nagy, those two also have a true working knowledge of the former Bears defensive coordinator.

Add to that Denver’s dismal defensive performance against Oakland last Monday, in which the Raiders (who ranked 28th in scoring last year) piled up 24 points behind quarterback Derek Carr, whose 121.0 passer rating was the second-highest of his 10 career games against the Broncos and nearly 30 points above his career average against Denver.

That’s not to guarantee that Trubisky will match Carr’s level of success against Fangio’s Denver defense, but Trubisky and the Bears know things about how Fangio thinks and his defensive schemes.

“We kind of know some of his tendencies, and how he likes to guess our tendencies,” Trubisky said, “so you just try to play that game and where guys are lined up, how he schemes his defense, and where he tells his players and how he instructs them, where they like to be and what they like to do.

“We kind of know both sides of it, and I think it comes down to he's going to try and confuse us on the back end, and we've got to take care of their front, and it's going to be us just in the right place [at the] right time doing our job and controlling the tempo of the game. We've got to make sure that they're reacting to us and we're not reacting to them and we're playing fast. It's still football at the end of the day, so they're going to line up and we're going to line up and we just have to make sure we do our job better than they do.”

Current New York Jets coach Adam Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator in 2015 while Fangio was serving as defensive coordinator, both under coach John Fox. Gase left after that season and went to Miami to coach the Dolphins.

In 2018 the Dolphins handed the Bears a devastating overtime loss in which Miami trampled Fangio’s defense for 161 rushing yards, Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and the Dolphins scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and an overtime field goal to win with 31 points.

A first issue for the Bears offense will be focusing on themselves and fixing the flaws exposed in the Green Bay loss. Then comes matching moves with Fangio without losing their compass.

“When you have somebody that knows you and has kind of been around you like that, you kinda gotta play your hand, play chess with them out there,” said linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was a member of the Denver Broncos when Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy left to become the head coach of the Chargers. McCoy knew the Denver defense and personnel but proceeded to lose six of his eight games vs. Denver, averaging only 16.8 points in those six losses.

“You can’t really show your hand too early. You gotta have fun and execute your call, but you gotta know what’s coming and know that these guys know you. So you gotta do what you don’t do a little bit better and the things that you do great, do it even greater.”

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