Broncos fire head coach Vic Fangio after three seasons, 19-30 record

By Doug Farrar

On Saturday, the Broncos lost to the Chiefs, 28-24. And thus, Denver’s 2021 season ended with a 7-10 record, and the franchise out of the playoff picture for the sixth straight season. It wasn’t all Fangio’s fault, but when general manager George Paton made the decision, as first reported by Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, it did not come as a surprise.

“I have tremendous respect for Vic and all he’s accomplished in the NFL,” Paton said in a Sunday morning statement. “Over the past year, I appreciate his partnership, friendship and the tireless work-ethic he demonstrated as our head coach. Vic will continue to have great success in this league, and I thank him for everything he did for the Broncos as well as me personally.

“Looking ahead, there’s a lot of work to be done for us to take the next step. 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.”

One of Fangio’s more interesting decisions in that Chiefs game was to kick a field goal with 4:41 remaining. That put the score at Chiefs 28, Broncos 24, and the Broncos never got the ball back to get back in the game.

“It’s fourth-and-9 and your odds are very low, through analytics and all that,” Fangio said after the game. “There was enough time left that gave us a chance to get a stop and even if we gave up a field goal, we’d have a chance. If we go for it and don’t get it and they get that same field goal, then we’re down two scores with not enough time. I understand the second-guessing there but on fourth-and-9, your chances are not great.”

Not a great look that Fangio didn’t go out swinging when his players were playing hard for him in another lost season.

It could have been that Fangio didn’t have confidence in quarterback Drew Lock, which would make sense, as Lock completed 12 of 24 passes for 162 yards in the game and didn’t present a threat as anything but a runner. The quarterback position has been the Broncos’ problem since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 Super Bowl season, and the crazy quilt of signal-callers thrown in the mix since then was going to doom any head coach to ultimate failure.

“Well, those other three teams have top-shelf quarterbacks–which is obvious to everybody,” Fangio said postgame, when asked why the Broncos couldn’t keep up with the Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders in the AFC West. “We just need to get a little bit better. A lot of the games—we had a good game against the Chargers here the first time, last week was the COVID-19 game. We had a tough day. Close game with the Raiders the second time; obviously both games with the Chiefs, I think were tight. We’re not quite there yet, but we’re close. I think the foundation is there for this franchise to close the gap and become more of a factor in this division.”

The 2021 Broncos started off 3-0 with wins over the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets, but things got more complicated when it was time to face teams that could present more of a challenge. They then rattled off four straight losses, and were basically out of the picture with a 5-5 record when it was time for their Week 11 bye.

Fangio has long been one of the NFL’s best defensive coordinators, and he’ll have no shortage of offers at that level. As for the Broncos, they’re still in the hunt for a competent franchise quarterback, and now, Paton’s first hire at the head coach position.

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