The Broncos have fired head coach Vic Fangio, per Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link). Fangio lasted three seasons in his post but failed to get his club to the playoffs in that time, so GM George Paton felt compelled to make a move. Mike Klis of 9News.com reports (via Twitter) that the team will also part ways with OC Pat Shurmur.
Denver lost its 2021 finale to the Chiefs last night, and in his postgame presser, Fangio lamented the fact that the other three clubs in the AFC West boast a top-flight quarterback, something the Broncos did not have during his tenure. Denver did select Drew Lock in the second round of the 2019 draft, Fangio’s first as a head coach, and while Lock presently looks like another QB misstep in the John Elway-as-GM era, the inability of Fangio and his staff to develop the Missouri passer certainly contributed to Fangio’s demise.
Offensive ineptitude was, unfortunately, a hallmark of the Fangio regime. As Ryan O’Halloran of the Denver Post observes, the Broncos failed to score 20 points in a game 29 times in Fangio’s 49 games as head coach, and after a bottom-five showing in terms of both total offense and points per game in 2019, Fangio fired then-OC Rich Scangarello and replaced him with Shurmur, who had just been axed as head coach of the Giants.
The Broncos’ offensive output marginally improved during Shurmur’s time as OC, but it was simply not enough for either him or Fangio to keep their jobs (Shurmur’s contract was reportedly for two years, so Denver will simply let his deal expire). Fangio’s refusal to pull play-calling duties from Shurmur caused some locker room tension earlier this year, and while Shurmur was a hot offensive coordinator candidate before he accepted the post with the Broncos, his stock has likely dropped quite a bit.
Fangio, though, should land on his feet. We previously heard that the acclaimed defensive mind, who has served as DC of the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers, and Bears, would be in high demand for a defensive coordinator position if he were to be fired by the Broncos, so he can probably expect a few interview requests in short order. The Broncos finished the 2021 campaign with a top-three defense in terms of points allowed per game.
Paton will have full authority to select the next head coach, as team president/CEO Joe Ellis confirmed in a statement. Paton’s reputation, along with the Broncos’ history and a roster that appears to be just a quarterback away from legitimate contention — something that Paton will try to rectify this offseason — should allow the club to attract any number of top-tier candidates. Albert Breer of SI.com identifies Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett and Cowboys DC Dan Quinn as possible targets, and Quinn and Paton do have a history that dates back to their days with the Dolphins in 2005.
However, Paton may elect to move forward with an offensive-minded candidate, which could give the edge to Hackett or someone like Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich. Though the Broncos could be sold as soon as the spring (per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports), the imminent prospect of new ownership is not likely to deter candidates for the HC job.