Vic Fangio

49ers DC DeMeco Ryans To Be Top HC Candidate In 2023

49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is expected to be one of the top head coaching candidates in the 2023 hiring cycle, as Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports writes. Citing multiple league sources, Jones says it would be a surprise if Ryans does not land an HC post next year.

Ryans, 38, has earned plenty of recognition for his work with the Niners’ defense. After his playing career ended in 2015, the Alabama product joined San Francisco as a defensive quality control coach in 2017, served as inside linebackers coach from 2018-20, and succeeded Robert Saleh as DC when Saleh left to become head coach of the Jets in 2021.

In his first year in his current role, Ryans’ unit ranked third in the league in total defense — a performance that helped San Francisco reach the NFC title game — and through the first five contests of the current campaign, the 49ers are tops in the NFL in that category. The team is presently yielding a meager 12.2 PPG and has not surrendered more than 19 points in any game this season.

Said one personnel executive, “DeMeco sees it differently. There’s something different when a middle linebacker is calling the defense. He has to know what’s going on in front of him and behind him. The structure of the scheme was already in place, but he took some of the nuance out of it so guys could just line up and play.”

Indeed, Ryans was a successful middle linebacker during his playing days, serving as a full-time starter for the Texans from 2006-11 and the Eagles from 2012-15. He posted over 100 tackles in six different seasons, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2006 and Pro Bowl acclaim in 2007 and 2009. Per Jones, Ryans’ relationship with 49ers star ILB Fred Warner and his role in Warner’s development have been key to his success as DC.

Head coaching interviews will not be new territory for Ryans, who garnered notable attention in the 2022 cycle. He interviewed for the Vikings’ head coaching post and had a chance for a second summit with Minnesota brass but ultimately declined the opportunity, citing his desire to “further his development in San Francisco.” He was also mentioned as a candidate for the Raiders’ HC gig that ultimately went to Josh McDaniels.

Assuming Ryans does get an HC opportunity in 2023, Vic Fangio would be a leading candidate to replace him as San Francisco’s DC, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required). Barrows does not elaborate on that point, so it’s unclear if he has a bead on the team’s thinking or if he is merely acknowledging the fact that Fangio may well be the top defensive coordinator on the market.

Fangio’s three-year tenure as the Broncos’ head coach from 2019-21 did not go as planned, but he remains one of the most influential and respected defensive minds in the game. He declined multiple offers for DC positions this year, though he indicated in August he would be open to another coordinator role in the future. Of course, he previously operated as the 49ers’ DC under then-head coach Jim Harbaugh from 2011-14, and it seems a reunion could be in the cards.

Vic Fangio: NFL Return Would Probably Be As Coordinator

Ousted from his three-year gig as Broncos head coach, Vic Fangio said early this offseason he would take the 2022 season off. But the longtime NFL defensive coordinator is keeping the door open to a return down the line.

Fangio interviewed for the Jaguars’ HC job in January — a job that went to Doug Pederson, who took the 2021 season off — but was not connected to other top gigs during an offseason that featured 10 HC changes. Prior to Fangio’s Denver role, he resided as one of the NFL’s premier defensive coordinators. A return to the league would likely be in a DC post.

We’ll see where things stand and develop and what’s available to see if I’m a good match for somebody, but it’s definitely a possibility — probably as a coordinator,” Fangio said of a coaching return, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (on Twitter).

Not unlike Mike Zimmer becoming a head coach at nearly 60, Fangio, 63, did not see his DC chops lead to a top sideline position until 2019. The Broncos’ quarterback problems and injury issues — particularly at edge rusher, where Von Miller and Bradley Chubb barely played together during three Fangio seasons — largely undercut Fangio’s defenses. Denver still ranked as a top-10 scoring defense twice during Fangio’s tenure (in 2019 and ’21), though DVOA was less bullish on those teams’ defensive capabilities.

Nevertheless, Fangio’s defensive blueprints are all over the league presently. It would seemingly not be difficult for him to land another DC gig in 2023. Such a job would be his sixth in that position. A pro assistant dating back to USFL 1.0 in the mid-1980s, Fangio — after a successful run guiding Pro Bowler-laden Saints linebacking units — has worked as a coordinator for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers and Bears. The latter two stops, respectively, produced three straight NFC championship game berths, a Super Bowl XLVII appearance and an Assistant Coach of the Year nod in 2018.

Former Broncos’ HC Fangio Won’t Coach In 2022

Despite lots of interest and multiple offers for defensive coordinator jobs, former head coach of the Broncos Vic Fangio has decided against taking any of the opportunities offered to him for next season, according to league sources of ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

In three years as the Broncos’ head coach, Fangio failed to accomplish a winning season, coming closest in 2019 with a 7-9 record that was good for 2nd place in the AFC West. The next two seasons saw the Broncos finish 4th in the AFC West. This past season, Fangio’s Broncos started strong with a 3-0 start. Finishing the season 4-10 the rest of the way led to the end of Fangio’s tenure in Denver.

Denver was Fangio’s first head coaching job at any level of football. Before that, Fangio had several successful stints as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. Since 1995, Fangio has served as the defensive coordinator for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers, and Bears. In his last year in Chicago, Fangio was awarded the AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award.

It’s no surprise, then, that Fangio was so sought after following his departure from the Broncos. Schefter asserts that it’s likely Fangio will take the 2022 season off from coaching and return next year as a highly coveted candidate for open defensive coordinator positions.

Jaguars Interview Vic Fangio For Head Coach

While the head coaching headlines have been dominated by the two hires made this morning, another interesting piece of news has come out. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (via Twitter) that Vic Fangio has interviewed with the Jaguars for their HC vacancy. 

This is the first time Fangio’s name is being mentioned as a HC candidate. He was fired after the Broncos’ regular season ended. His three year tenure didn’t include a return to the postseason, or even an end to the streak of what has now become five consecutive losing seasons.

While his first HC stint was certainly unsuccessful, Fangio has DC roles with five different teams on his resume. That background certainly differs from the comparative lack of experience that Urban Meyer had at the NFL level prior to his disastrous time in Duval County.

Things may change very soon with respect to the Jag’s HC search, but for now, here’s where things stand:

 

Latest On Broncos’ HC Search

A bit more clarity has emerged with regards to the finalists for the Broncos’ head coaching position. In an update on Good Morning Football, NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported that the job will come down to three candidates: Dan Quinn, Kevin O’Connell and Nathaniel Hackett

[Related: Broncos Down To “A Few” HC Finalists]

Quinn was the only coach listed by name as a frontrunner when it was reported yesterday that the search was coming down to a small number of candidates. The current Cowboys defensive coordinator has been linked to six of the seven HC vacancies this year, which should presumably give him multiple options to consider.

O’Connell was among the first set of interview requests the Broncos made following Vic Fangio‘s dismissal. In two years as the offensive coordinator for the Rams, the 36-year-old has been impressive. The unit’s 2021 numbers are down slightly due injuries hampering the running game, but he has overseen Matt Stafford‘s first year in L.A., which included Cooper Kupp‘s incredible production. O’Connell has also been linked to the open positions in Houston and Minnesota.

Hackett represents another offensive-minded candidate, something which would differ from the defense-oriented Fangio and Quinn. He has been an offensive coordinator in Buffalo, Jacksonville and, most recently, Green Bay. In three seasons there, he has helped the team win 13 games each time, including a highly efficient year in 2020. The Bears, Jaguars and Vikings have also interviewed the 42-year-old.

According to 9News’ Mike Klis, Quinn is coming to the Broncos’ headquarters sometime this week (Twitter link). The other two are expected to also interview in person, although nothing has been officially scheduled yet. Be sure to check in on our HC Search Tracker for the latest updates.

 

Coaching Searches Starting To Come Into Focus

As the playoffs begin, some teams are narrowing in on their preferred targets. Some teams don’t need to worry about the playoffs because their candidate isn’t participating, while others may just be waiting until their candidate’s season is over.

Jason La Canfora, of CBS Sports, reported that former Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores is considered the favorite to get the Texans’ open head coaching position. He suggests that firing David Culley may have been a reaction to Flores’s surprising availability. Both firings came as a shock to NFL media, so it’s not outrageous to assume that the Texans saw Flores get cut loose and decided to make a bold move of their own.

Flores and Texans’ general manager Nick Caserio worked together as scouts in the Patriots’ system. Flores won eight of his final nine games in Miami this year, showing a promising potential. Not to mention that Flores was a factor in Deshaun Watson waiving his no-trade clause for the Dolphins earlier this year, before that deal fell through. The Texans have other candidates, but Flores has interviewed with the Bears and will continue to be a target for other teams, so Houston will likely want to secure their target sooner, rather than later.

Tom Pelissero, of NFL Network, reported that Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is looking like the favorite to replace Vic Fangio in Denver. This situation is a little more fraught. The connections aren’t quite clear. Obviously Quinn’s resume speaks for itself as he made it to the Super Bowl with Atlanta and has helped develop an impressive, young Cowboys’ defense, but the Broncos just fired a defensive-minded coach in Fangio and it’s a bit surprising to see them double-down on that philosophy.

There’s also the issue that, unlike Flores, Quinn isn’t currently available. He hasn’t even interviewed with any teams. Even when he does, it seems those teams may be in competition with his current employer. La Canfora put out a report that Dallas holds Quinn in such high regard that they might be willing to move on from current head coach Mike McCarthy in order to secure Quinn as his successor.

There’s plenty of moves to be had and plenty of time for it all to play out. Be sure to follow all our updates on the 2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker.

Coaching Notes: Broncos, Fangio, Jags, Lions

Ten candidates have emerged in the Broncos‘ coaching search. Despite the team going back-to-back with defensive coaches, Dan Quinn is believed to be one of the early frontrunners, per ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler (ESPN+ link). Despite being fired early in the 2020 season, the ex-Falcons HC has become a hot name in the 2022 interview cycle. The interest in Quinn puts him in position to be picky, as the current Cowboys DC has raised his stock after turning around the NFC East champions’ defense this season. He has yet to interview for the Broncos job yet. Quinn and Denver GM George Paton worked together in Miami under Nick Saban from 2005-06. Quinn, 51, was the Dolphins’ defensive line coach in those seasons. The Broncos have also done extensive work on Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, Fowler adds. Both Hackett and Green Bay QBs coach Luke Getsy are on Denver’s HC interview list.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • Bill O’Brien interestingly finds himself in the mix for NFL jobs on two tiers, with the Panthers eyeing him as an offensive coordinator and the Jaguars are set to interview him for their head coach job. O’Brien’s ignominious Texans exit notwithstanding, he has become a candidate to watch for the Jacksonville job, Fowler notes. O’Brien just finished his first season as Alabama’s OC.
  • Should O’Brien land the Jags gig, Vic Fangio will be a DC target, per Fowler. Given Fangio’s history of DC success, and the Broncos sporting an above-average unit during his tenure despite major injuries to Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, the recently fired coach will likely have a few options. The Jags are prepared to be patient this time around, with Sports Talk 790’s Aaron Wilson noting this process could last for an additional two weeks (Twitter link). Second interviews are expected here. The Jaguars being thorough should not surprise, given their rash decision to hire Urban Meyer last January.
  • The Lions are considering hiring their next OC from within. After parting ways with one-and-done Anthony Lynn, Detroit is examining tight ends coach Ben Johnson for that role, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Dan Campbell took over play-calling duties from Lynn midseason, but Johnson’s responsibilities expanded as well. Johnson joined the Lions as a quality control coach in 2019. GM Brad Holmes is also leaving the door open to Campbell remaining the team’s play-caller.
  • Seahawks assistant head coach Clint Hurtt is on the University of Miami’s radar, with Fowler tweeting the Hurricanes are eyeing him for their defensive coordinator job. A Miami alum, Hurtt has spent the past five years as Pete Carroll’s defensive line coach.
  • Joe Judge‘s Giants staff will likely splinter soon. One of Big Blue’s position coaches, D-line coach Sean Spencer, will land on his feet. Duke is hiring Spencer to be a co-defensive coordinator, USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets. Spencer was set to leave regardless of Judge’s status. Spencer’s pre-Giants coaching resume unfolded entirely at the college level. The 51-year-old assistant spent six years at Penn State prior to his short Giants stay under Judge.
  • Second-year Browns assistant Jeremy Garrett is expected to leave Cleveland and become the Liberty D-line coach, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman tweets.

Broncos Fire HC Vic Fangio, Will Not Retain OC Pat Shurmur

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.

Fangio’s statement on his dismissal can be found here, and Paton’s can be found here.

Latest On HC Vic Fangio’s Future With Broncos

We heard earlier this week that Vic Fangio‘s future with the Broncos was in doubt, and it sounds like the head coach will be hard press to keep his job. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Tom Pelissero, and James Palmer report that “Fangio’s future remains up in the air” heading into tonight’s season finale against the Chiefs.

According to the report, Fangio met with general manager George Paton this week to discuss “his plans and make his case to stay for a fourth season as head coach.” Multiple sources believe the organization will ultimately fire their head coach, and at the very least, staff changes will be made. Fangio, a former defensive coordinator, has struggled to put together a capable offense during his three seasons in Denver, and the report from earlier this week was that Paton was hoping his head coach would put together a compelling plan for the future of the offense.

While Paton, who is finishing his first year on the job, didn’t hire Fangio, the two reportedly have a “strong relationship.” However, we heard earlier this week that team brass had internal discussions about the possibility of moving on from Fangio and has done background work on potential HC candidates. Further, Fangio’s refusal to pull play-calling duties from OC Pat Shurmur caused some locker room tension earlier this year (and potentially hurting his chances of retaining his job).

If Fangio does get the ax, he may not be without work for long. The 63-year-old defensive guru will be high atop the wish lists of clubs in need of a DC, especially if such a club hires a first-year, offensive-minded head coach. It was Fangio’s work as the Bears’ defensive coordinator that landed him the Broncos’ HC job to begin with. He also served in that capacity with the Panthers, Colts, Texans, and 49ers.

The Broncos have gone 19-29 during Fangio’s two-plus seasons at the helm.

Vic Fangio Facing Uncertain Future With Broncos

Thanks to COVID-19, the Broncos will be without seven starters for their Week 17 battle against the Chargers this afternoon, a reality that could make it more difficult for head coach Vic Fangio to stick around for a fourth season. As Troy Renck of Denver 7 observes, Fangio may need to win the final two games of the 2021 campaign to keep his job (video link).

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com writes that Fangio’s status is indeed up in the air, and in addition to a strong showing over the next two games, GM George Paton might require his head coach to lay out a compelling strategy to improve the team’s offense. Obviously, Paton himself will have a significant say in that, as Denver could once again be in the market for a high-profile quarterback like Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson. But after Fangio’s refusal to pull play-calling duties from OC Pat Shurmur caused some locker room tension earlier this year, Paton would undoubtedly like some reassurance that any QB he acquires will be well-positioned to succeed.

Paton and Fangio do have a strong working relationship, and we heard earlier this year that the first-year GM is not necessarily looking to bring in his own leader. He is, however, doing his due diligence. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, team brass has had internal discussions about the possibility of moving on from Fangio and has done background work on potential HC candidates. Fangio’s staffers, meanwhile, are preparing to seek new employment.

If Fangio does get the ax, he may not be without work for long. As La Canfora writes in a separate piece, the 63-year-old defensive guru will be high atop the wish lists of clubs in need of a DC, especially if such a club hires a first-year, offensive-minded head coach. That coach would love to have Fangio aboard not only for his defensive acumen, but because he could be entrusted to run half of the team while the HC focuses on building relationships and developing the offense.

It was Fangio’s work as the Bears’ defensive coordinator that landed him the Broncos’ HC job to begin with. He also served in that capacity with the Panthers, Colts, Texans, and 49ers.