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Dolphins set to hire Vic Fangio as next defensive coordinator

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 1/29/2023 Daniel Oyefusi, Miami Herald

The Dolphins have agreed to terms to make Vic Fangio their next defensive coordinator, a league source confirmed to the Miami Herald, ending the franchise’s week-long search to replace Josh Boyer.

According to NFL Network, which first reported Fangio’s hiring, the deal is a three-year contract with a fourth-year team option and makes Fangio the NFL’s highest-paid coordinator.

Fangio, who turns 65 in August, has spent the 2022 season as a defensive consultant for the Eagles but has served as defensive coordinator for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers and Bears in an NFL coaching career that spans over three decades.

Fangio was named 2018 AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year after leading a Chicago defense that ranked first in takeaways and parlayed that into his first head coaching opportunity with the Broncos. He was fired after three seasons, accumulating a 19-30 record.

Four known candidates for Miami’s defensive coordinator opening surfaced after the team fired Boyer on Jan. 19: Fangio, former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai, Saints co-defensive coordinator Kris Richard and Dolphins linebackers coach Anthony Campanile. The team concluded its interview process on Friday but Fangio was always speculated to be Miami’s top choice. Mike McDaniel reportedly sought out Fangio to be his defensive coordinator last year when he arrived as head coach and ultimately retained Boyer, as well as multiple defensive assistants.

Fangio was a coordinator in high demand, also conducting interviews with the Panthers and Falcons.

On the surface, Fangio presents an experienced mind to lead a defense that has a young, promising core but regressed in 2022. The Dolphins ranked 24th in scoring defense (23.5 points per game) and 30th in takeaways (14).

In Fangio’s 22 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator or head coach, his defense has finished top-10 in scoring 10 times and in the top half of the league 13 times.

Fangio’s arrival is expected to come with a philosophical change to Miami’s defense. Under the stewardship of Boyer and former head coach Brian Flores, the Dolphins had one of the most aggressive units in the NFL, relying on high rates of blitzing and man-to-man coverage. Since 2019, the Dolphins have blitzed on 35.8 percent of opposing dropbacks; only the Buccaneers and Cardinals have sent extra rushers at a greater rate.

Fangio’s defenses have typically relied on varying usage of zone coverage with a more measured approach to blitzing. During his three seasons as Broncos head coach, Denver ranked 14th in pressure rate (26.2 percent). In the previous four seasons as Bears defensive coordinator, Chicago ranked 30th in pressure rate (20.1 percent).

In a 2019 sitdown interview with ESPN, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, Rams coach Sean McVay and Packers coach Matt LaFleur all named Fangio as the coach whose defense is hardest to game plan for.

“Just the fronts and the multiple looks you get from him. That’s incredibly difficult,” LaFleur said.

Said Shannahan: “He does so many things with his personnel groupings that he puts you in a bind with protections. He ties a lot of stuff together.”

“I think Fangio and the Bears did an outstanding job of a sound scheme with versatility mixed with great players,” McVay said.

In his first season as Dolphins defensive coordinator, Fangio will have several players to build around, including outside linebackers Jaelan Phillips and Bradley Chubb (he coached Chubb in Denver), defensive linemen Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler, linebacker Jerome Baker, cornerback Xavien Howard and safety Jevon Holland.

Multiple key players, such as cornerback Nik Needham, safety Brandon Jones and defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, are also returning in 2023 after sustaining season-ending injuries.

But the team likely will need to upgrade its linebacker corps and secondary. Among the team’s impending unrestricted free agents are linebackers Andrew Van Ginkel, Elandon Roberts, Duke Riley and Sam Eguavoen. Miami also will likely need to add depth at cornerback given Needham’s recent injury and the uncertain status of Byron Jones, who missed the entire season after undergoing leg surgery last March.

©2023 Miami Herald. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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