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Grading the Broncos hiring of Vic Fangio

How would you grade the Denver Broncos hiring of Vic Fangio and decision to name Gary Kubiak the offensive coordinator?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos are receiving praise from around the NFL for their hiring of long-time defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as their next head coach. They also moved Gary Kubiak into the offensive coordinator position.

With that praise and 85% of the nearly 10,000 fans voting in our poll yesterday giving the Broncos an A or B grade on the hiring, it looks like John Elway made the right choice to move forward with a defensive minded head coach.


Grade the Broncos head coaching hire

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I reached out to the Mile High Report staff for their analysis this hire and the pairing of Fangio with Kubiak along with their overall grade. Here is where we land on this hiring.

Grade: A

Look, the identity of this team is on its defense and hiring Mike Munchak would not have inspired much confidence that the next defensive coordinator would be able to return the defense to championship form. With Fangio, he has turned two different teams into championship defenses. He had one with the San Francisco 49ers and then built one from scratch with the Chicago Bears. He’ll absolutely find a way to make the talent on that side of the ball be a Top 5 unit in 2019.

The moving of Kubiak into the offensive coordinator position was also a very smart move. First, it provide Fangio a resource who has nearly a decade of head coaching experience. Secondly, it frees Fangio from having to be heavily involved in offensive game planning. He’ll be able to, instead, focus on defensive game planning leading up to game day. It’s the perfect fit on paper. - Tim Lynch

Grade: B+

The hire of Vic Fangio brings in a long-tenured coach who has the respect of players past and present. It’s a given that anyone who spent time with him in Chicago is disappointed he is moving on. He is known for his fierce defenses and getting the most out of the talent available on the roster. With the Broncos already having two premier edge rushers in Bradley Chubb and Von Miller as well as several other quality defenders, Fangio should be able to make a mark early defensively in the Mile High City. I’d expect some upgrades at linebacker and in the secondary to be forthcoming via free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft. Moreover having Kubiak, a multi-Super Bowl winning coach back in the mix should benefit the Broncos in their offensive endeavors and provide much-needed leadership, stability and respect back in the locker room. It’s an old school approach that has some risk but one that should help the franchise reforge and rebound quite quickly. - Chris Hart

Grade: Solid A

Fangio was my top choice all along. Chasing the “Next McVey” will end up getting fired and Munchak while a fine hire, wouldn’t have moved the needle for me. A safe hire with a low ceiling. Meh. Fangio is exactly what the Broncos defense needs and I would expect some development from players on the roster and likely some talent following Fangio to Denver.

As for Kubiak, I like it. I know the offense was iffy with him as a Head Coach, but now that he can focus all of his attention on the offense, I think he can do a good job. The last time we saw Kubes as an OC was with the Ravens and he helped Flacco have a career year and Justin Forsett also had a career year.

Two solid veteran hires who will have the players respect, be leaders, and help this football team improve.

Scotty’s grade: I’m giving it a solid A right now. The remaining coordinator/positional coach additions can push it to an A+. - Scotty Payne

Grade: B+

I like the Fangio hire. He may not have been the first choice for some in the organization, but I think that’s why it’s a good hire. That, and it will enhance an already stout defense. The pairing with Kubiak is less exciting to me. While Kubiak has proven to be a good offensive coordinator in the past, I’m not sure if he can adjust his scheme to fit today’s NFL. That will be the big test, and could be the deciding factor in the success of the franchise moving forward. If Kubiak can modernize his scheme, and Fangio can maximize the talent on defense like he has done in every previous job he’s had, it could be a perfect match.

I have confidence that Kubiak will be able to make adjustments to his offense, so I can see this paying big dividends quickly. The question marks around Fangio’s age and Kubiak’s health and outdated scheme keep my grade a little lower, but overall, not a bad move by Denver. - Adam Malnati

Grade: A-

Fangio gets us back to a defense that will we adjusted to what our players do best ala Wade Phillips. This should pay big dividends in terms of getting our defense back to the elite level we saw in 2015 and 2016 - or at least close to that level. I think if we bring Ed Donatell in as the DC then this will not be great, particularly if we keep Bill Kollar. The return of kubiak to the oc job has me a little worried. I’m not sure that his methods will still work in the modern NFL but I’m also not certain that his health will hold up. That being said, I think Gary is savvy enough to learn a few new tricks even as an old dog. So maybe we’ll get enough out of the offense in 2019 to keep the defense fresh and ready to eat greedy. - Joe Mahoney

Grade: A

Vic Fangio strikes a rare balance of an up and coming head coaching candidate who got the job on the merits of his excellent coordinating, but is also a grizzled NFL vet who has seen everything under the sun.

I think Denver was in need of both after Vance Joseph left town. Fangio has been lauded by former players and coaches across the league, and his fans and former players reaction to him leaving should tell you everything you need to know about what they think of him as a coach.

I’m excited to have our defense elevated with his presence, and watch his scheming up close.

On offense, I was a little nervous about Gary Kubiak coming back, but if he feels like he can handle a coaching role again, I’m not concerned about his offense. He’s been a very good offensive coach for the last several years, and his play action/zone heavy system is actually very similar to what Kyle Shanahan is running in San Francisco. So for those who wished we would’ve hired him, we get a very similar offense and a better coach for the players.

Lastly, with the head coach commanding the defense, and Gary Kubiak not wanting any head coaching position, if this works out, we could have stability on both sides of the ball for years to come, which is something Denver hasn’t had and desperately needs. - Jeff Essary

Grade: Solid A

Fangio was my top candidate from the outset, and I’m excited to see him get the job. This is a great hire, both for reasons historical and for the present and future.

Back in the early days of 2014, the Denver Broncos got decked by an elite defense that utterly dismantled the best offense the NFL has ever seen. In response, John Elway went out that offseason and built just such a defense for his own team. And from 2014 on the identity of the Denver Broncos has been centered on tough, punishing defense. It brought a Super Bowl victory of our own, and even in 2018 the defense was a top 5 unit by DVOA.

Fangio is a great hire because he’ll continue that tradition of defensive excellence. It’s tempting to go out and hire an offensive HC to fix a team with a struggling offense, especially in today’s NFL. But that’s quite a gamble and you run a significant risk of ruining what the team already does well in the pursuit of improving in the areas that are lacking. And if those improvements fail? Congratulations, you just ruined your team.

Fangio means avoiding that trap. Moreover, this is a hire that was made with a canny eye toward the future of the AFC West. Patrick Mahomes won’t have a year like 2018 every year, but he’s still very likely to be a massive pain in the neck for years to come. You have to either be able to limit him & his offense, or you have to be able to outgun them in a shootout. The Broncos’ defense has already proven to be better at limiting Mahomes than pretty much any other unit in the NFL, so doubling down on that route by hiring a defensive mastermind at HC is smart. It means you likely need only a decent offense to have a good shot at beating the Chiefs in any given game (and therefore the same goes for pretty much any other team we face). It’s a move that will keep the Broncos competitive in the AFC West, and that’s a big factor in the playoffs conversation.

That leaves the question of the offense. I understand the worry about too many cooks in the kitchen, etc, but I think the concern is overblown. Kubiak expressly wants to avoid the extra duties that go with being HC and just wants to run an offense. The Fangio hire lets him do that. And for Fangio’s part, he gets a highly experienced OC with a great track record who will allow him to remain relatively hands-off on the side of the roster he hasn’t coached, while allowing him to work his magic on the side of the ball he knows best. It lowers his workload and improves his odds of success.

And make no mistake: Fangio wants Kubiak as his OC. This is a guy who has interviewed for & missed out on HC jobs for literally decades because he’s his own guy & won’t kiss up to GMs. He didn’t suddenly catch a case of cowardice & knuckle under to Elway’s wishes just so he could get this job. No- if he didn’t want Kubes as his OC he’d still be employed by the Bears and we’d be welcoming Mike Munchak to town. - Taylor Kothe

Grade: C+

While Fangio has one of the main qualities I wanted in our next head coach (he’s not a ‘yes man’), he’s also a first time head coach who will be figuring it out on the fly. I’m not about to say that just because Vance Joseph couldn’t do it that automatically means Fangio won’t either, but I was hoping that if we gave a first time head coach a shot, it would be an offensive guru or a hot college coach who we have a realistic shot at drafting his college QB to help make him and our QB search successful.

To even out the “first time” coaching learning curve, apparently Kubiak will be either our offensive coordinator or the “overseer” of offense. BOO!!! This is the part I don’t like the most. Kubiak’s offense is as stale as the sandwich that brought us penicillin. Unlike that moldy bread, Kubiak’s offense won’t save squat. Kubiak turned Petyon Manning into Trent Dilfer for heaven’s sake!!! I’m sorry, but when his tired ass offense can’t produce higher than the mid 20’s in terms of rankings post-Shanahan (with exception of 1 fluke year), well, color me unimpressed and officially worried.

Now, there is rumblings that maybe we get a young innovative offensive coordinator and Gary will assist him. Ok, fine, that’s fine. Maybe Gary can help point things out while watching film, but that’s the extent he should meddle in the offense.

Kubiak seems to have a good eye for talent if we are to believe he helped Elway with the 2018 NFL Draft (our best draft in how many generations?), so stick with that. Stick with that formula and only help the OC when called upon. While I’m glad we have a more authoritative and strong head coach who appears to have the recipe for keeping our defense great, I’m worried as all get out that our offense will still sputter and not get out of second gear.

In the 32 games we had with Vance Joseph, we scored 24 points or more eight times. We went 7-1. that’s how good our defense is. But the horrific part of that is that we only scored 24 points 1/4 of the time. That MUST change for us to actually win games. The scoreboard is what determines the winners and losers, and the last time I checked, you have to SCORE 1 more point than the opponent. The operative word there is SCORE, and ever since Kubiak entered the picture, we’ve done anything but, and that includes the final two years of arguably the all-time best QB in the history of the NFL playing for us. That worries me, and that should worry you too. - Pete Baron

Grade: A

As I said in my column after the hiring was announced, I was hooked at, as Khalil Mack called Fangio, “evil genius.” “He’s a (bleeping) mob boss. He’s the Godfather all the way,” Bears outside linebacker Aaron Lynch told the the Chicago Tribune in early December. The best comparison for the hiring of Fangio is Mike Zimmer with the Minnesota Vikings. Did anyone bring up the “he’s 58, why hasn’t Zimmer been a head coach before?” Everywhere you look, the people who know Fangio, who covered and watched him, rave about this hire.

It’s not just the success of his defenses, it’s how he develops his players. It’s how he consistently puts his players in the best situations to have success and win. That’s the job of a head coach. That’s what his job with the Broncos will be. This is what Denver needs right now. Someone who does it his way, who won’t bend or play PR games. Fangio is the way he is. Take it or leave it.

What lessens the stress is that Kubiak is his offensive coordinator. Kubiak has proven to be a very good offensive coordinator in the NFL. The last time he was in the that role was 2014 for the Baltimore Ravens and they had the best offense the franchise had seen in 17 years, and a few plays away from beating the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs. And if Andy Reid can get his system modernized, Kubiak can. Remember: They both come from the same coaching tree with the San Francisco 49ers (Reid from his time with Mike Holmgren).

Kubiak can also give Fangio tips and tricks or just give advice in his first time as a head coach. What helps Fangio is he won’t have to think about the offense. He can focus on the defense, and, more importantly, being the CEO this team needs. - Ian St. Clair