The 49ers’ defensive coordinator opening has gotten spicy

The free agency of former Broncos coach Vic Fangio has officially become a full-blown saga.

It seemed like Fangio to the Dolphins was a done deal, with both the NFL Network and Associated Press reporting over the weekend that he had a deal with Miami to be their defensive coordinator.

Now, though, Fangio leaving the Dolphins at the altar for the 49ers appears to be a very real possibility. (San Francisco has a defensive coordinator opening as of Tuesday afternoon, when DeMeco Ryans agreed to a deal to be the Texans’ head coach.)

Since the Broncos fired him after the 2021 season, Fangio has been a sought-after defensive coordinator. He opted to lay low for the 2022 season, working as a defensive consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles, who just battered the Niners in the NFC title game. 

Though the 64-year-old had reportedly agreed to a lucrative offer to become Miami’s defensive coordinator, pen has yet to hit paper on that deal. As San Francisco sports fans are all too aware, the fact that “the Dolphins agreed to terms with Fangio” means there’s still a chance for late shenanigans.

Almost immediately after Sunday’s report, Fangio cautioned two separate reporter Mikes, Klis and Silver, that there was no done deal yet. After speaking with the veteran coach, Klis tweeted that “nothing is finalized with Miami at this time,” while Fangio told Silver, “Nothing has been decided on my end.”

Silver’s tweet added even more Niners intrigue as he noted, “There is a huge amount of mutual respect between Kyle Shanahan and Fangio, a highly successful Niners DC under Jim Harbaugh.” Fangio was the Niners’ DC from 2011 to 2015 under Harbaugh; his defense led the league in turnovers in 2011.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport added to the smoke Tuesday in an appearance on Pat McAfee’s show. “I wouldn’t be surprised if San Francisco was like, ‘You know what? Nothing’s signed. Maybe we take a run at this,’” he said. Rapoport did say that he thought Fangio would ultimately end up in Miami.

While his time in Denver left a lot to be desired, he’s certainly capable of results one level below the top job. (Fangio’s girlfriend is also apparently “a prominent eye surgeon in the Bay Area.”)

Fangio going full Josh McDaniels on Miami would only enhance the bizarre 49ers-Dolphins beef. The owners of the two teams spent heavily on opposite sides in this fall’s Santa Clara mayoral race, with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ candidate coming out on top. The proxy war between the owners peaked with the 49ers paying for a TV ad attacking Ross for being a Trump supporter. Scooping Fangio away from the Dolphins might be expensive — his first reported deal would make him the highest paid coordinator in the NFL — but to the Niners, it may well be worth it.

This story has been updated.

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