When the Denver Broncos hired Vic Fangio, it went against what the NFL was looking for at the time. The league was into young, offensive-minded head coaches. Fangio was a defensive coach about to turn 61 years old.
In retrospect, maybe it's not a surprise that it didn't work. But, as the Broncos fired Fangio after three losing seasons, it's fair to point out that a bad quarterback situation didn't help him. And it won't help the Broncos' next coach either if it's not fixed.
The Broncos announced the news of Fangio's firing on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the Broncos dropped their season finale to the Kansas City Chiefs. Denver finished the season 7-10. Fangio's record over three seasons was 19-30.
We’ve parted ways with Head Coach Vic Fangio. pic.twitter.com/skaXOvEGBk
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) January 9, 2022
The Broncos also fired offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, according to Mike Klis of 9News.
In the Broncos' announcement, it said general manager George Paton would have full control over picking the next coach.
"This is his decision and his program," Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. "I have complete confidence in George’s ability to lead an exhaustive and successful head coaching search."
The Broncos are on a drought of poor seasons since Peyton Manning retired. Fangio couldn't turn that around. He released a statement after the announcement, praising the organization's staff, players, coaches and fans.
Broncos struggles continue
Fangio got the job, his first head-coaching opportunity, after a couple of successful decades as a defensive coordinator. He got on the head-coaching radar after orchestrating a very good Chicago Bears defense during the 2018 season.
Defense wasn't the Broncos' biggest problem, though it never got to an elite level under Fangio. Offense was a problem. The Broncos' three regular quarterbacks in Fangio's three seasons were Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater. None of them led Denver to the playoffs.
That's why the Broncos' opening might be tough to fill. They haven't made the playoffs since the 2015 season. Their ownership situation is messy since Pat Bowlen died without a firm succession plan in place. And since the Broncos passed on Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the 2021 draft, there's no obvious answer at quarterback either.
Fangio didn't succeed, and he made mistakes. The offensive staff he trusted didn't get the most out of the talent on hand. His defenses were just OK. Fangio made plenty of in-game mistakes that didn't help. But at some point, the organization itself has to be examined, no matter who the head coach is.
Fangio will get interest
Fangio will be fine. He is one of the most respected defensive coordinators in the NFL. If he wants to coach again right away, he'll likely have multiple opportunities to be a defensive coordinator. He has been excellent in that role through the years.
He just didn't get it done as a head coach in Denver, for whatever reason. Broncos fans got impatient and wanted change. Denver is used to competitive teams, but it hasn't made the playoffs in six straight seasons and Fangio finished in last place of the AFC West in each of his final two seasons. It's not easy to repair the quarterback situation, but it is a quick fix to fire the coach.
"Looking ahead, there’s a lot of work to be done for us to take the next step," Paton said in a statement. "Winning is not easy, and we’re going to embrace the opportunity to improve in every single area of our operation.
“Our search to find the next head coach of the Broncos will be a comprehensive, collaborative process. We’re approaching it with an open mind and look forward to spending time with some outstanding candidates. With the foundation in place, the progress that’s been made and the resources we have to get better, I’m excited about the future of our team. We will find an outstanding leader and head coach for the Broncos and our fans.”
Fangio will end up on his feet. The question is if the Broncos will too.