With the rest of the NFL looking for the next young, innovative offensive mind, the Denver Broncos are going the other way.
After leading a tremendous Chicago Bears defense this season, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is finally getting his shot to be a head coach. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the Broncos reached an agreement with Fangio on Wednesday morning. Fangio and Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak were said to be the two finalists.
Fangio, who is 60, has been a respected defensive coach in the NFL for a long time. This will be his first time as a head coach.
Vic Fangio waited a long time for a chance
The Fangio hire is entirely opposite of two of the first three hires made by NFL teams this cycle.
The Green Bay Packers hired Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, even though Tennessee’s offense struggled in LaFleur’s only season calling an offense. The Arizona Cardinals went one step further, hiring Kliff Kingsbury, ignoring that he posted losing seasons in four of his last five years at Texas Tech.
LaFleur and Kingsbury are young and are expected to call creative offenses. Their most recent results didn’t even matter, because those teams were sold on the hope of them becoming the next Sean McVay. Teams are looking for the next McVay, to the point that the Cardinals hilariously made sure to point out in announcing the Kingsbury hire that their new coach was actually friends with McVay.
It’s never bad to zig when everyone else zags. In another time, not long ago, Fangio might have been by far the top candidate available. He has coached for a long time and has a long history of success calling defenses. He has been in the NFL since becoming the Saints’ linebackers coach in 1986, and his first defensive coordinator job was with the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995. His work with the Bears, as they surprised everyone by winning the NFC North with a 12-4 record, was impressive. The Bears will obviously miss him.
The Broncos’ identity in recent years, if there is one, is as a team with some defensive stars. With the candidate pool being thinner than ever, as teams all look for McVay clones, the Broncos leaned on defense.
Broncos job isn’t an easy one
Fangio has a big challenge ahead. The Broncos haven’t been good in a post-Peyton Manning era, yet fans still have championship dreams. Denver’s ownership situation is a mess, since Pat Bowlen is battling Alzheimer’s disease and the family is battling for control. The team’s quarterback situation is still unsettled after Case Keenum didn’t do much in his first season with the Broncos. And general manager John Elway has let the roster fall into disrepair, while showing little patience with his coaches.
That’s the situation Fangio steps into for his first chance as a head coach. There were many indications that Gary Kubiak, who led the Broncos to a win in Super Bowl 50, would have a role coaching the offense, and Schefter reported that Kubiak will run the Broncos’ offense this season. That allows Fangio to take a defense with exciting pieces like cornerback Chris Harris and pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb and shape it into his own.
The Broncos’ job has some obvious drawbacks, despite Denver having a winning history. But Fangio wasn’t going to have a better shot to finally become a head coach, and now he gets his chance.
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