Vic Fangio

Poll: Who Will Be First Head Coach To Lose Their Job?

We know, we know…it’s probably a bit early to speculate about the job security of NFL head coaches. However, let’s not forget Bum Phillips‘ famous (supposed) quote: “There’s two kinds of coaches, them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired.”

[RELATED: The Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL]

Even with the start of the NFL season more than a month away, a handful of head coaches already find themselves on the hot seat. Nowadays, it isn’t all that hard to determine which head coaches are at risk of losing their jobs. You can pretty much remove the 12 first- and second-year coaches, and you can definitely remove the successful, long-term coaches (the likes of Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, etc.).

That leaves about 15 coaches with at least two years of tenure but fewer than eight years of tenure (yes, we chose eight to shoehorn Andy Reid into the “definitively safe” section but not the likes of Mike Zimmer). Have those coaches had successful teams? You can remove them from the list. Have those coaches continually shown improvement? You can probably remove them from the list, too. Have those coaches’ teams disappointed or underwhelmed, especially recently? Ding ding ding…those are the coaches on the hot seat.

As we all know, those on the hot seat either redeem themselves and save their jobs or…ultimately get canned. So, that brings us to today’s question: which head coach will be fired first? We used Bovada’s top-three options below, but we’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Matt Nagy, Bears

Following a 12-4 campaign to begin his coaching career, Nagy found his seat getting a bit warm following a disappointing 8-8 campaign in 2019. The former Chiefs offensive coordinator didn’t do a whole lot to inspire confidence in 2020. The team finished 8-8 for a second-straight season, and the former QB whisperer found his passing offense ranking in the bottom-half of the NFL in most categories.

The Bears finally bailed on Mitchell Trubisky this past offseason, and they added a pair of QBs to replace him: veteran Andy Dalton and first-round pick Justin Fields. With a solid defense that’s in win-now mode, Nagy will have to get something out of one of these signal-callers if he hopes to retain his job. Considering Dalton’s recent play and Fields’ inexperience, things are looking bleak.

Zac Taylor, Bengals

It’s easy to put an asterisk on the Bengals’ 2020 campaign following the season-ending injury to Joe Burrow, but there’s no denying that Taylor’s staff has now collected an ugly 6-25-1 record through two seasons. There’s really nowhere to go but up for the head coach, but even if the Bengals improve their record in 2021, the team would still have to pass the smell test. Specifically, we should expect the offensive guru to guide Burrow and the rest of the offense to at least an above-average performance, and it’d be encouraging if the defense was able to show some progress after finishing as one of the worst units in the league in 2020.

As we saw with Marvin Lewis, the Bengals organization values continuity. It’s hard to envision the team not giving Taylor at least another full season, but if the team is unable to show any improvement over 2020, then the 38-year-old could find himself without a job.

Vic Fangio, Broncos

There are a number of things working against Fangio and his future in Denver. For starters, he hasn’t done a whole lot during his two seasons at the helm, leading the team to a 12-20 record. Making it worse, the team took a clear step back in 2020, and with a questionable roster on paper, it’s hard to envision the Broncos getting a whole lot better in 2021.

Next, GM George Paton was only recently hired, so he surely won’t be feeling pressure throughout the 2021 season. However, a disappointing campaign could change things. In that hypothetical, you can bet the executive would be looking to right the ship immediately, and that would probably start with the head coach.

The final factor is the uncertain status of Broncos ownership. If the team is ultimately sold, the new owners would presumably be looking to clean house, at least from an on-field perspective. That means Fangio would surely be handed his walking papers, even if the team did show some progress in 2021.

For reference, the next four head coaches listed by Bovada are Jon Gruden (Raiders), Mike Zimmer (Vikings), Matt LaFleur (Packers), and Mike McCarthy (Cowboys). Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Broncos To Split QB Reps 50-50 Between Lock, Bridgewater

As of now, the Broncos have not traded for Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers. Unless and until Rodgers is dealt to Denver, 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock and new trade acquisition Teddy Bridgewater will engage in an open competition for the team’s starting QB job.

Head coach Vic Fangio confirmed as much in an interview with Mike Klis of 9News.com. Although Fangio conceded he wasn’t sure which of Lock or Bridgewater would get the first set of reps in OTAs or training camp, he said, “it will be something that at the end of the day, maybe not at the end of every day, but over the course of OTAs and training camp, it’ll be 50-50.”

Lock only has 18 career starts to his credit, but he is already being mentioned as one of a number of failed QBs that led to John Elway‘s loss of decision-making power. In 13 games last season, the Missouri product threw 16 TD passes against a league-worst 15 picks, leading to a poor 75.4 quarterback rating.

Bridgewater was a a little better in his lone season in Carolina, but his 2020 campaign can fairly be characterized as disappointing as well, especially when measured against the three-year, $63MM contract he signed with the Panthers last offseason. He offers the experience and accuracy that Lock does not have at this point, though Lock’s ceiling is higher.

Fangio, predictably, had good things to say about both passers. “I think Drew’s had a helluva offseason up to this point, albeit we haven’t been on the field,” he said. “I think Drew is going to look good here in the offseason when we do hit the field. And I’ve been an admirer of Teddy Bridgewater for many years. … He’s a good football player. A good quarterback. He’s got deceptive scramble ability. He’s got really good pocket feel. He’s got great leadership abilities. I think he’s an accurate passer and processes very well so we’re happy.”

Regardless of which player wins the job, the Broncos currently have the least desirable QB situation in the AFC West. But new GM George Paton passed on the opportunity to draft a quarterback like Ohio State’s Justin Fields, so he obviously feels good enough about where things stand right now. However, the rest of Denver’s roster looks pretty strong, and the team could be one elite QB away from making serious noise in the AFC. As such, a Rodgers pursuit could still be in the cards.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

GM/Staff Notes: Staley, Schoen, Jets, Eagles

The Falcons have secured an interview with Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (on Twitter). This will be Schoen’s second GM interview this offseason. He met with the Panthers earlier this week. Schoen has been on the rise for a bit now, moving from Dolphins player personnel director (2014-17) to the assistant GM of a Bills franchise that has raised its profile considerably during his tenure under Brandon Beane. Under Beane, Schoen and Sean McDermott, the Bills have made three playoff berths in four years. They were 0-for-17 in the 21st century previously.

Here is the latest from the GM and coaching carousels:

  • Brandon Staley‘s Rams defense ranked first in scoring defense this season, and that could allow him to continue a meteoric NFL rise. In addition to the Jets requesting an interview with Staley, the Chargers are interested in speaking with the first-year coordinator, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets. Staley spent the 2018 season as the Bears’ outside linebackers coach before following Vic Fangio to Denver and working in the same capacity there. But he has become a hot coaching commodity who could end up in a leading role soon.
  • The assistant leading the charge against Staley’s defense Saturday may be competing with him for the Jets‘ top coaching job. Seahawks OC Brian Schottenheimer is expected to be on the Jets’ radar to replace Adam Gase, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Schottenheimer has been Seattle’s OC for three seasons but served in that role in New York longer, working as offensive coordinator under Eric Mangini and Rex Ryan from 2006-11.
  • While the Eagles are retaining Doug Pederson, they will lose DC Jim Schwartz and part ways with two offensive assistants. Marty Mornhinweg and Rich Scangarello will not be back in Philly next season, Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com tweets. Despite both joining the Eagles last season, each was on an expiring contract. This marks another offseason of shakeups to Pederson’s offensive staff. Both Frank Reich and John DeFilippo departed in 2018, while the Eagles fired OC Mike Groh last year. Both Mornhinweg and Scangarello held non-position-coaching titles; the former worked as a senior consultant and the latter functioned as a senior assistant. Mornhinweg is a veteran NFL OC who served as Lions HC from 2001-02, while Scangarello was the Broncos’ OC last season.
  • The Washington GM search is beginning to take shape. In addition to ex-GMs Marty Hurney, Martin Mayhew and Rick Smith, Washington is expected to show interest in ex-Panthers exec Ryan Cowden, per La Canfora. While Cowden worked with Ron Rivera in Carolina, he has been with the Titans since 2016. He currently works as their VP of player personnel.

Broncos To Retain Vic Fangio

The Broncos will not be one of the teams looking for a new head coach in 2021. As Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports, Denver will bring back HC Vic Fangio for his third season with the team.

As the Broncos went 7-9 in 2019 and are just 5-9 this season, Fangio’s return was not a sure thing. But we had not heard any real speculation that his job could be in jeopardy, so Schefter’s report does not come as much of a surprise.

Fangio hardly fits the mold of the young, offensive genius that many teams are looking for in head coaches these days. The longtime defensive assistant was 60 when the Broncos hired him in January 2019, but as Troy Renck of Denver 7 ABC tweets, he has strong relationships with GM John Elway and CEO Joe Ellis, and Schefter says the organization not only recognizes the importance of stability, it also believes in Fangio and respects his approach (though Broncos fans will rightfully tell you that he needs to improve his in-game decision-making).

The club feels that injuries to key players like Courtland Sutton and Von Miller, along with COVID-19 issues, have conspired to undermine Fangio in 2020. Plus, the quarterback situation has been far from ideal, as the Broncos have had to use six different QBs in the past two seasons, and 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock is still very much a work in progress.

Another losing season in 2021 will likely spell the end of Fangio’s tenure in Denver, but he will get at least one more shot to get the franchise moving in the right direction.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Conflict Between Vic Fangio, Coaching Staff?

The Broncos hoped that they would be competing for a playoff spot this year, but they are 3-6, are in last place in the AFC West, and their starting QB, Brandon Allen, just played his first regular season game two weeks ago (though he did win it).

As such, Denver’s playoff hopes are quite slim, and apparently head coach Vic Fangio isn’t helping matters. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, there has been consistent conflict between Fangio and his staff, and even between Fangio and some of his players (like veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders, who was traded to the 49ers last month).

La Canfora’s sources say that the relationship between Fangio and his offensive assistants is particularly troubling, with Fangio quick to dispute offensive play calls. The 61-year-old, who is in his first season as a head coach, can reportedly come across as overbearing on the headsets, and one source said, “[t]here is a negative reaction to almost every offensive play call.” Another source was more blunt, saying, “[p]retty much everyone gets treated like crap.”

Of course, the roster that GM John Elway has put together is deeply flawed, and Fangio cannot be held entirely culpable for the lack of production he has gotten from the quarterback position and the offensive line. La Canfora does not offer any speculation as to whether Elway will consider firing Fangio after the 2019 season, but the fact that Elway stuck by former HC Vance Joseph — who was clearly in over his head — for two seasons suggests that Fangio may get a chance to right the ship and work on his people skills in 2020.

That is especially true given that the team’s defense has generally performed well, which reflects well on the defensive-minded Fangio. But if the team can’t get its QB situation figured out — and Elway has not shown that he is capable of finding a franchise signal-caller — 2020 may not go much better than 2019 has.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Dareus, Broncos, Green, Chiefs, Darnold

Marcell Dareus will undergo surgery today to repair a core muscle injury, sources tell Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The defensive lineman is expected to miss 4-6 weeks for Jaguars.

Here’s more around the AFC:

  • Broncos coach Vic Fangio said it was “possible” that CB Bryce Callahan will miss the rest of the season, Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic tweets. Callaham underwent stem cell treatment on his foot last month and the original projection was 4-to-6 weeks.
  • A.J. Green did not practice today for the Bengals and isn’t expected to play against the Rams in London, Ben Baby of ESPN.com tweets. LT Cordy Glenn will also not play in the contest.
  • DE Frank Clark (neck), DT Chris Jones (groin), LB Darron Lee (illness) and CB Kendall Fuller (thumb) all missed practice for the Chiefs today, Herbie Teope of Kansas City.com tweets. Patrick Mahomes is practicing again for the second-straight day.
  • Sam Darnold was limited in practice today, Brian Costello of the New York Post relays (Twitter link). Darnold was a non-participant for the Jets on Wednesday because of a toe ailment.

Poll: Which Team Made Best HC Hire?

With the NFL now in the two-week waiting period until its final meaningful game, 30 of the 32 teams are going through offseason motions. And some of those teams are still deciding on coordinators.

Unless another Patriots assistant reneges on an agreement post-Super Bowl, or Zac Taylor makes an 11th-hour decision to remain in Los Angeles rather than taking over in Cincinnati, the eight NFL teams in need of head coaches made their choices.

So, which franchise best positioned itself for long-term success?

The trend being offensive innovation to keep up with some of the ahead-of-the-curve offenses, six of the eight teams hired offensively oriented coaches.

By a substantial margin, the Cardinals won the outside-the-box trophy. After washing out as an NFL quarterback in the mid-2000s, Kliff Kingsbury spent more than a decade as a college coach. The 39-year-old groomed some sought-after NFL talent in Patrick Mahomes, Case Keenum and Davis Webb, while also bringing Baker Mayfield to Texas Tech for a short stay. But he finished his stay in Lubbock, Texas, with a sub-.500 record. The Cards added Vance Joseph and Tom Clements to be his top assistants. Because of their unconventional hire, the Cardinals will be one of the most interesting teams in 2019.

Bruce Arians‘ CBS stay lasting one year will bring one of the more interesting coaches in modern NFL history back to the sideline. Tampa Bay’s new coach is the oldest ever hired, at 66 years old. Arians will be tethered to Jameis Winston, and it does not sound like he has issues with that. Arians hired several former Cardinals assistants to help him attempt to snap the NFC’s longest active playoff drought. Arians led the Cardinals to their best season, record-wise (13-3 in 2015), since the franchise has been in Arizona but is also barely a year removed from retiring.

The Packers and Browns opted for OCs, the former seeing a major difference in Matt LaFleur‘s vision than those of the other coaches that interviewed. Cleveland made the biggest continuity move of this year’s HC-seeking octet,promoting Freddie Kitchens over candidates with more experience.

LaFleur’s Titans offense regressed from Mike Mularkey‘s final unit, with Tennessee ranking 27th in points scored last season. But the 39-year-old coach, who will be working with ex-Jaguars assistant Nathaniel Hackett in overseeing the back end of Aaron Rodgers‘ prime, trained under Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. Kitchens rose from position coach to head coach in less than three months, but Mayfield’s performance in the second half of the season was obviously different from his play under Hue Jackson and Todd Haley.

Taylor and Adam Gase round out the offensively geared hires, the former being perhaps the highest-variance candidate among the non-Kingsbury wing.

Although Taylor was the Dolphins’ interim OC in 2015 and McVay’s quarterbacks coach this season, he spent 2016 running a Cincinnati Bearcats offense that ranked 123rd (out of 128 Division I-FBS teams) with 19.3 points per game for a 4-8 team and was the Rams’ assistant wideouts coach as recently as 2017. Gase led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016, but Ryan Tannehill‘s issues staying healthy and living up to his draft slot limited the former Broncos and Bears OC. The Jets saw enough to add the formerly in-demand assistant, who may be ready to bring longtime coworker Dowell Loggains with him to the Big Apple.

Denver and Miami went with defense, with the Broncos having no competition for 2018’s assistant coach of the year and, arguably, this decade’s top DC.

The Dolphins cancelled their Vic Fangio summit, and he will be in charge of elevating a Broncos team that finished with back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since the early 1970s. John Elway‘s plan to reinstall Gary Kubiak as OC also hit a snag, with the longtime friends’ disagreement on staffing leading to the Broncos hiring 49ers QBs coach Rich Scangarello. The Dolphins will become the fifth franchise to hire a Bill Belichick-era Patriots defensive coordinator (or de facto DC, in Brian Flores‘ case), following the Browns (Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini), Jets (Mangini), Chiefs (Crennel) and Lions (Matt Patricia). Flores helped the Patriots to yet another top-10 ranking in points allowed — their 15th in the past 18 seasons — and another Super Bowl berth.

Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Coaching Notes: Bengals, Browns, Broncos

When the Rams’ postseason run comes to a close, the Bengals are expected to offer quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor their head coaching position. With the expected move, Cincinnati cleaned house on Friday, dismissing the previous staff of Marvin Lewis, including offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, ESPN’s Katherine Terrell writes. Among the other assistants let go include running backs coach Kyle Caskey and tight ends coach Jonathan Hayes.

This move, of course, is not unexpected. Most head coaches will bring in their own guys and Taylor — or whoever ends up with the job — is no exception.

A longtime NFL assistant, Lazor began his tenure with the Falcons as an offensive quality control coach in 2003 before moving to the Redskins as an offensive assistant in 2004. After a handful of other jobs, including a stint in the college ranks with Virginia, Lazor landed the offensive coordinator role with the Dolphins in 2014. After serving there two seasons, he joined the Bengals as quarterbacks coach in 2016 and was promoted to offensive coordinator the following season. In two seasons running the show in Cincinnati, Lazor ranked in the bottom 10 in yards and bottom half in points both seasons.

Here’s more from the AFC’s coaching carousel:

  • Sticking in the AFC North, Browns new head coach Freddie Kitchens cleaned house after getting the job. Once person he didn’t let go, however, was Ryan Lindley, who will serve as his quarterbacks coach next season, AZCardinals.com’s Mike Jurecki tweets. Lindley, who played in the NFL from 2012-15 as a quarterback, served as the Browns running backs coach in 2018.
  • Also with the Browns, the team added former Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer as its special teams coordinator, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero [Twitter link]. Priefer filled the same role in Minnesota from 2011-18, but declined to re-sign with the team after his contract expired after this past season. Priefer was born in Cleveland and coached two seasons at nearby Youngstown State in the 1990s.
  • New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is bringing back special teams coordinator Tom McMahon, News9 in Denver’s Mike Klis tweets. McMahon concluded his 12th season in the NFL this past season, his first as special teams coordinator with the Broncos. He previously held the same position with the Colts, Chiefs and Rams.

Broncos Hire Vic Fangio As HC

The Broncos have a new head coach. On Wednesday, Denver reached agreement with Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, sources tell Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano of ESPN (on Twitter). As is the usual standard, the deal will be a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth year. 

[RELATED: PFR’s 2019 Head Coaching Search Tracker]

On Thursday, the Broncos made it official.

Vic really impressed us with his attention to detail — His focus is on teaching the fundamentals, technique and playing disciplined football,” GM John Elway said. “Going through this process and talking to many qualified candidates, it became clear that Vic was the best choice to lead our team. There are few things that Vic has not seen in 40 years of coaching. He’s been great on the defensive side of the ball for a number of years with a simple, detailed approach that gets results. With his intelligence and experience, Vic is as good of a football coach as you can find. He’s the perfect fit and exactly what we need as head coach of the Denver Broncos.”

The Broncos are hoping that Fangio will help restore the defense to its former glory. Meanwhile, they’ll have to pay special attention to how they fill out the rest of their staff.

Fangio is experienced, but the 60-year-old has never served as a head coach at any level. And, despite all of his defensive acumen, they’ll need a sharp and seasoned offensive team to handle the other side of the ball. Shortly after agreeing to terms with Fangio, the Broncos took a big step in that direction by appointing Gary Kubiak as the team’s offensive coordinator.

Fangio was largely overlooked in last year’s cycle, but the Bears’ success in 2018 vaulted him to the top of Denver’s list. Despite their early playoff exit against the Eagles, the Bears’ D thrived – they ranked No. 1 in scoring defense and allowed just 17.7 points per game.

Fangio has spent the last four year as the Bears’ DC. Before that, he had four years as the 49ers’ DC and also had DC stints with the Panthers, Colts, and Texans.

The hiring leaves the Bears with a DC vacancy of their own. This also means that runner-up Mike Munchak will have to evaluate other options. Munchak interviewed for the Broncos, Packers, and Browns’ head coaching jobs, but they have all been filled. The Dolphins reached out to Munchak, but he turned down their interview request earlier this month.

The hiring of Fangio coupled with the Browns’ hiring of Freddie Kitchens on Wednesday leaves the Dolphins, Bengals and Jets as the only teams with head coaching vacancies.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.