LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — As far as Vic Fangio is concerned, nothing has changed when it comes to his future as the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator.
He insisted he still plans to return for a third season.
Fangio's comments on Wednesday basically echoed what he said three weeks ago in the wake of a report that he might be on his way out because of philosophical differences with coach John Fox.
"Nothing's changed," Fangio said.
Does he still plan on returning?
"Yeah," he said.
Fangio's future came up in part because Wednesday's availability with reporters was his final one of the season.
The Bears (3-12) close out a dismal season at Minnesota on Sunday, then can start addressing a long list of issues in just about every area.
The 58-year-old Fangio could be in the running for a head coaching job, considering he is a widely respected coordinator and a defense that ranked among the worst in franchise history before he took over has made a big jump under him.
He insisted his focus this week is on the task at hand and not opportunities that might come his way in the offseason.
"I haven't really thought about it," he said. "When you've had the season we've had, it's not something you usually have on the front burner so haven't really thought about it."
A more immediate concern for him is a strong finish for a defense that has given up a combined 929 yards over the past two games in losses to Green Bay and Washington.
The Bears have dropped from seventh to 13th in total defense during that span. They've had trouble tackling and been hurt repeatedly for big plays. They allowed 478 yards to the Redskins and set a season high for the second straight week.
That's been a big change for a defense that has mostly performed well despite a lengthy list of injuries as well as a four-game suspension for linebacker Jerrell Freeman for violating the NFL policy against performance enhancing drugs.
"I mean, after 13 or 14 games I think it was looking a little bit better than it is now," Fangio said. "I think we've improved in some areas. Obviously not enough. With our record the way it is, we have our fingerprints on it."
A big sticking point for the Bears' defense is turnovers — more accurately, an inability to force them despite improvement up front.
They enter the final game with 37 sacks after finishing with 35 a year ago, thanks to additions such as defensive end Akiem Hicks and first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd. But the increased pressure has not translated into takeaways or plays in the backfield.
With a league-worst 10 takeaways, the Bears are on course to set a franchise low for the second straight season after finishing with 17 last season. And with seven interceptions, they could break the club low of eight last season.
"I think a lot of it's in you or it isn't," Fangio said. "But you can improve things through repetition and experience, but I do think you have to have a makeup, an ability ... to be able to do it."
Clearly, they need more playmakers. And losing Fangio would be a big blow for the Bears.
"I think our guys respect him," Fox said. "I think they respect his knowledge."
Fangio has drawn praise from players for his knowledge and ability to relate.
"Vic's wealth of knowledge of the game and just how he approaches every week," Hicks said. "I feel like he's able to say, 'OK, these are the things we didn't do well. I'm not gonna (dwell on) them. I'm gonna bring them to your attention, but I'm not gonna (dwell on) them and say, this isn't what you shouldn't have done.' He's gonna try to grow his defense and try to make us better."
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