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The case for Vic Fangio

It’s not completely crazy to keep Fangio as head coach. But there’s got to be a major caveat...Shurmur is gone.

Denver Broncos v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Hear me out.

I know many (most?) of you here want the entire staff gone yesterday. And I completely understand the frustration. Three losing seasons for a head coach is already pretty tolerant by NFL standards, and allowing another year with a head coach who brought that kind of performance seems crazy.

Except, what if it’s not completely crazy?

Vic Fangio has worked some magic with the defense despite two years of being riddled with injuries and COVID chaos. He has done more with less and still come out with a top NFL defense each year.

This year - despite losing Von Miller in a trade, starting linebackers Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson to season-ending injuries early on, starters Bradley Chubb and Ronald Darby out for several weeks due to injury and various starters/key players such as Mike Purcell, Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Bryce Callahan, Stephen Weatherly missing games for minor injuries and/or COVID - Fangio took the rotating cast of backups, rookies and even some practice squad players and still managed to turn out a No. 3-ranked team defense by season’s end.

For some added perspective, this defense has given up only 294 points, two better than the Super Bowl 50 defense. And by that metric, it’s the best Broncos’ defense in the past 16 years.

Benjamin Allbright noted on Broncos Country Tonight Monday that “changes are coming” to the coaching staff, as every fan anticipates.

And thankfully, the offensive and special teams coordinators are at the top of the list.

“Tom McMahon and Pat Shurmur are going to be let go. That’s going to happen,” Allbright said (to a resounding “Hallelujah” from all of Broncos Country). “But Vic Fangio’s job is still up in the air.”

Allbright noted that George Paton likes Vic Fangio - he gets along with him, likes the collaborative work environment they have and likes what he’s done with the defense.

And unlike Broncos fans, Allbright pointed out, Paton has had just one year with Fangio and can see certain improvements as a coach that fans perhaps can no longer notice because of their disgust over losing.

“Paton likes working with Fangio, so it’s a different lens that he looks through,” Allbright added, noting that fans are at the point where the buck stops with Fangio .

But Paton has a hard choice ahead of him.

“George Paton likes working with Vic Fangio. He likes his work ethic, and his ethos and his defensive acumen,” Allbright said. “The problem George Paton has is he has to weigh that against the in-game management problems that have plagued this team for three years and the regressing offense.”

And there’s good reason to weigh some of that pretty heavily.

No matter how good the defense has been, the fact still remains the Broncos are going to finish with a fifth losing season in a row, the offense hasn’t been able to score more than 13 points the past three games, and the questionable challenges and play calls from Fangio and his staff are still coming.

But as Allbright pointed out, Paton is looking at this team noticing that it’s the best Broncos’ defense since 2005 thanks to Fangio rather than seeing/feeling the accumulated losing seasons that fans have endured.

So what is Paton to do?

It’s important to note that Allbright believes Paton will likely fire Fangio even though he probably doesn’t want to. The last three games have not been good for resume-building as the offense has continued to be stymied, special teams has remained abysmal and the defense hasn’t been able to overcome the obstacles enough to be the team’s savior.

So the future as Denver Broncos’ head coach doesn’t look good for Vic Fangio.

But I’m here to make the case for him anyway.

For one thing, a good GM-head coach relationship shouldn’t be underestimated. Trust in each other’s ability to do their jobs while also having good collaboration where necessary - primarily in bringing in players who can help the team - is crucial to a solid franchise. And especially until the Broncos have a new owner in place, that GM-coach relationship is an important foundation to build around so that when the new owner arrives, the house doesn’t fall (*see Jaguars).

And that leads me to a second reason to keep Fangio - let the new owner see what he has with Fangio first rather than firing him, bringing in another head coach and strapping the owner with a new coaching contract he didn’t make (and for the record, this is not even close to my top defense for keeping Fangio, but I do believe the benefit is real).

In fact, my main defense for keeping Fangio on board is for the defense (see what I did there?) It is no small feat to have a defense that involves a lot of moving pieces and disguise work seamlessly together to disrupt the play/drive/game. And though Fangio’s defense hasn’t always been seamless, it has been consistently good, even great and sometimes amazing, without any consistency whatsoever in the players on the field - making it an even more impressive accomplishment.

I realize Fangio is not the only defensive mastermind out there, but changing to a new defensive guru doesn’t necessarily - or likely - keep the same continuity. So what has been built here with Justin Simmons and Bradley Chubb and Shelby Harris would be reinvented. Maybe it would be better, maybe not.

The one absolute, cannot be argued caveat that Fangio would have to agree to in order to stay for at least another year - and any future beyond that to be determined - would be getting rid of Pat Shurmur and Tom McMahon and letting Paton decide the direction of the offense with a new coordinator.

Fangio’s choice to get rid of the young and inexperienced Rich Scangarello had some logic to it at the time (after all, Scangs made his share of dumb moves as a first-time coordinator), but McMahon has been an embarrassment as ST coordinator and Shurmur has been horrendous as OC. Both need to go, and it can’t be negotiable for Fangio.

There has been a point made that Fangio has to be fired because no coordinator of any value would want to come to Denver knowing the head coach is on a one-year trial and they may be looking for another job next season.

But Allbright and Ryan Edwards also debunked that notion, saying any new offensive coordinator coming in would negotiate a multi-year contract that the organization would either have to honor in payment or employment regardless, so there’s no real danger of that. Besides, there’s always a hungry up-and-comer willing to take a chance (maybe even this guy).

Stating “what ifs” is a dangerous business in sports, but I believe Fangio would have been a much more successful head coach with a consistently good quarterback. And a big part of that would have come with a consistently good offensive coordinator.

So as Edwards pointed out, chalk up the Scangarello firing/Shurmur hiring to a mistake. Then give Fangio a good QB - not just a serviceable one - and hire an offensive coordinator smart enough to not just know football but to understand when and in what situations to make the right calls.

Then let’s see if Fangio can stop dying by inches and gain some yards.

Poll

Would you be OK with giving Vic Fangio another year as HC, assuming of course he has no say in the new OC?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Sure.
    (1196 votes)
  • 39%
    No way.
    (768 votes)
1964 votes total Vote Now