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DENVER — Vic Fangio’s third season with the Denver Broncos concluded on Saturday with a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Will the close loss be Fangio’s last game as head coach of the Denver Broncos?
George Paton will make that decision over the next 36 hours. Here’s what Paton will be weighing and the case for Fangio to stay for a fourth season and the reasons why the Broncos would move in a different direction.
THE CASE FOR FANGIO
- Top-notch defense — In 2019, when the Broncos hired Fangio to be the team’s 17th head coach in franchise history, John Elway made it very clear the long-time defense coordinator was brought in to keep the defense great. At the end of his third season, he’s done exactly that. Entering Sunday, the Broncos’ defense is the NFL’s fourth-best scoring defense, giving up less than 19 points per game. On top of that, throughout much of the season, Fangio was playing without multiple starters on the defense and was still putting up terrific results. If Fangio is fired, he will likely be the most sought after defensive coordinator in the league. Losing that type of coach could be too much to pass up on.
- Dude, where’s my QB? — Whether you like it or not, Fangio was incredibly honest after Saturday’s loss when asked what separates the Broncos from the other three teams in the AFC West. “Well those other three teams have top-shelf quarterbacks—which is obvious to everybody,” Fangio stated bluntly. He’s not wrong. In his three years in Denver, Fangio hasn’t been given a quarterback close to the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert or Derek Carr. In the NFL, having a top-12 quarterback is almost a must. Fangio just simply hasn’t had that in his three years. How could he possibly succeed without having quality play from the most important position in sports?
- Offensive offense — As mentioned above, Fangio was brought in to keep the defense great. For the most part, he’s done that. But the offense has been offensive. In his first two years as head coach, Denver’s offense finished as the fifth-worst scoring offense in the NFL. This year, it improved, but was still the 10th-worst scoring offense in the league. Although the head coach is responsible for the entire team, Paton could put the blame on Pat Shurmur and move on from him, not Fangio.
- QB killer — The Broncos sit in a daunting spot in the AFC West facing the likes of Mahomes, Herbert and even Carr for many years to come. For the most part, Fangio has done an excellent job containing all three top-tier quarterbacks. In Mahomes’ final six games of the season, he posted a passer rating above 100 in four games. The two games he didn’t? Against Fangio’s defense. In fact, in Mahomes’ previous three games against Fangio, the All-Pro quarterback has a passer rating below 100 in every single one, including Saturday. Much like Mahomes, Fangio has held Herbert in check. In three of his four games against Denver, Herbert has a sub-100 passer rating. And it’s the same story with Carr, who only has two games with passer ratings above 100 in his six against Fangio with the Broncos.
- Ownership uncertainty — The only thing certain about the Broncos’ ownership situation is the uncertainty. Before the season, Joe Ellis vowed that Denver will have a new owner—whether the teams stays in the Bowlen family or is sold—after this season. With such a large decision looming, Ellis may decide it’s best to stick with Fangio for one final year and allow the new owner to hire his own head coach next year.
THE CASE AGAINST FANGIO
- 19-30 — Fangio’s record as head coach speaks for itself.
- Not one winning season — In three years, Denver doesn’t have a single winning season under Fangio. In his first year, the Broncos went 7-9. He followed that up with a disappointing 5-11 season in 2020. This past year, with the extra game, Denver improved to 7-10. The Broncos now have five-straight losing seasons and six-straight seasons without making the playoffs.
- Playoffs?! — The Broncos haven’t made the playoffs since Peyton Manning was wearing Orange & Blue. That’s not all on Fangio, but the past three seasons have been.
- Bad and boring offense — Although Fangio clearly hasn’t been leading Denver’s offense, the unit has struggled mightily in his tenure. As head coach, he is responsible for all sides of the ball. Fangio has had two offensive coordinators and still hasn’t finished with an offense that wasn’t in the bottom-third in the league. In a league where offense is king, Denver has come up short three-straight seasons.
- 2-10 — That’s Fangio’s dismal record against the AFC West the past two seasons. On top of that, the Broncos are 0-4 over the past two years against the Raiders and the Chiefs. After going 3-3 against the AFC West his first year as head coach, Fangio has struggled mightily within the division the past two seasons. It’s difficult to have success in the NFL without taking care of business within the division.
- Challenging challenges — Game management has been an issue for Fangio throughout his tenure in Denver. From questionable uses of timeouts to challenges, it seems that at times Fangio is too focused on the defense to manage the game. His 1-for-8 record on challenges this past year highlights this perfectly.
- No-good no-shows — Broncos Country has made their opinion on the state of the team very clear with their attendance, or absence, at home games this year. In the final six homes games this season, the Broncos averaged over 10,000 no-shows a game, including 14,571 on Saturday against the Chiefs. A new head coach, along with other changes, could certainly reinvigorate Broncos Country moving forward.