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Defensive mastermind Vic Fangio is the right choice for the Broncos

The Broncos need a take-no-prisoners, experienced leader, and they have that now with Fangio.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

I was hooked at “evil genius.”

That’s how Vic Fangio was described by Chicago Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack. Now, the guy whom nobody wanted to lose in the Windy City, has become the Denver Broncos’ 17th head coach.

Denver now has a “sports partner” in crime, so to speak.

“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.

John Elway went big and bold by going for an “evil genius” rather than another “leader of men.” No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Elway is an ultra-competitor who knows his job is on the line — going the “safe route” wasn’t enough. Recent media reports indicated Elway was overruled by CEO and president Joe Ellis in moving on from Vance Joseph after one season and bringing back Mike Shanahan. But this time around, it appears this decision was more Elway’s to make. Ellis wasn’t even part of the in-person interview process with Fangio in Chicago, though he was with the other finalist, Mike Munchak.

Of course, questions will linger regarding why Fangio is just now landing a head coaching job at the ripe age of 60, and with 40 years of coaching experience under his belt.

But is it a fair question? Was Mike Zimmer asked the same when he was hired by the Minnesota Vikings as head coach in 2014 at the age of 58? As it stands, Zimmer is the best comparison to Fangio and the Broncos.

Perhaps Fangio’s reputation as a man of few words doesn’t do him any favors during job interviews. How many teams have dug deeper to see that his most powerful statements are made on the field? Often in life, unorthodox personalities make the most brilliant strategists.

“Vic Fangio is a man of few words, who simply prefers to put his players in the right position and let their bone-crushing hits do all the talking,” a story from Sports Illustrated noted about Fangio’s time with the San Francisco 49ers.

The other argument against him may come in the form of: “The Broncos hired a defensive coordinator in Vance Joseph, and that failed.” There’s a huge difference. Joseph was a defensive coordinator for one season before he became a head coach, and the Miami Dolphins defense sucked. Fangio’s been a coach in the NFL for 32 years, 19 as a defensive coordinator. That doesn’t guarantee success, but Fangio has proven to be an elite defensive mind for a long time.

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. He is also known for developing players and putting them in the best situation to have success.

The other reason I love this hire? The Broncos are staring down perhaps a decade or more of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs’ high-octane offense. This team needs a coach who can develop a mean, dominating defense that will make it as tough as possible for the Chiefs quarterback to do to Denver what John Elway did to Kansas City for 16 years.

This hire will also force the Broncos to finally get the elite middle linebacker it’s needed for years. Fangio-coached defenses demand a dominant guy in the middle. Whether Denver gets that guy through free agency or the NFL Draft, rest assured the defense will finally get an elite middle linebacker.

The other big “hire” for this team is Gary Kubiak as offensive coordinator (updated with Klis’ tweet below). He was named to that role after Fangio was announced head coach. As Mike Klis said on Twitter: “OK, I was just told Kubiak will be offensive coordinator. After going through process hoping for younger coach and having Kubiak in broader role, Broncos concluded they feel more comfortable with Kubiak. Fangio did say he liked Kubiak as OC during interview.”

For those who may question the success of Kubiak’s offense, Andrew Mason from Orange & Blue 760 and the Broncos made some great points. As Mase said, after his first season in Houston, all of Kubiak’s offenses were in the top half of the league in total offense, including four in the top 10, and three in the top four. In 2014, his Baltimore Ravens offense was 12th, which is that franchise’s highest total-offense rank in 17 years. In Kubiak’s eight seasons with the Houston Texans, the average rank in total offense was 10th. In the five seasons since Kubiak was dismissed by the Texans, their average total-offense rank is 20th.

From Mase: “You can nitpick the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but if you have to ask ‘Has a Gary Kubiak offense ever been good?’ your memory is as short as a tree stump.”

The hope is Kubiak spent the last two years modernizing his system — ala Andy Reid in Kansas City. The addition of Kubiak, who has head coaching experience, will also help Fangio in his first job in that role. Expect Kubiak to give Fangio tips and tricks as the season progresses.

But the key in all of this is Fangio.

The Broncos need a take-no-prisoners, experienced leader.

Elway did one better with a guy who is also an “evil genius” and a “(bleeping) mob boss.”

Get ready, Denver. The “Godfather” has arrived.


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