Why Broncos Fans Should Be Grateful for Vic Fangio

  • Broncos
  • NFL
By Collin McKenna January 24, 2021 3 Comment
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A Case for the Broncos Coach

Vic Fangio has quickly become a divisive figure in Broncos Country. His first two seasons as head coach resulted in two losing records, and now many fans want him gone. However, the former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator has shown many flashes of potential and brilliance during his short tenure as well. Denver recently decided to bring him back for a third season; what follows are the reasons they were absolutely right to do so.

A Trip to the Past

Vic Fangio took over as the Broncos’ head man in January of 2019, after the team fired Vance Joseph due to his disastrous two-year run. In order to fully understand exactly what Fangio has accomplished, it is necessary to compare the trends of the Vance Joseph-led Denver teams to those of the recent Fangio-led squads.

When Fangio arrived in Denver shortly after being hired, he garnered lots of local media attention for promising a disciplined team. He used the phrase “death by inches” to describe his philosophy when it comes to team discipline and avoiding penalties. Some became thrilled by this attitude. Others questioned whether or not it would work. Long story short: it worked!

According to The Football Database, the Denver Broncos were one of the most penalized teams in the NFL in the two years under Vance Joseph. In 2017, they had the 9th-most in the league with 113 calls against. The next year, in 2018, the team regressed even further and had the 2nd-most with 125 calls against.

Things changed rapidly once Fangio took the reins. While the total number of penalties in 2019 is similar to 2017, their league-wide ranking was not. Fangio’s Broncos went from the second-worst to right in the middle of the pack in the league standings in his first year as coach. Not a bad improvement over the course of one year.

In 2020, the team was tied for the 5th-least amount of calls against, at just a mere 81. That is a true testament to the “death by inches” philosophy that Fangio preached from day one.

Beyond the Box Score

Anyone who has been around the game of football for a long time will tell you that the box score does not always tell the full story.

Fangio’s impact goes beyond the strides made in terms of penalties committed; he has also done a lot to build a winning culture in Denver. This culture can be seen merely by watching the games, instead of just looking at the box scores.

There were times during the Vance Joseph years when watching the team was a dismal experience. The team seemed to just give up, sometimes at the half, if they were down big early. They played very uninspired football. That’s not the Vic Fangio’s Broncos we are seeing.

Fangio came in and immediately lit a fire under the players. The games became closer. True leaders emerged in the locker room. As a result, the team looked like it was having fun competing again. Because of Fangio and the players he helped draft, a breath of life appeared within the organization that hadn’t been there in years.

Fangio’s Broncos fight to stay in games, no matter the circumstance. In 2020, a year that saw Von Miller, Courtland Sutton, Drew Lock, Phillip Lindsay, and many other week-1 starters miss multiple games due to injury, the team still scraped together 5 wins in gritty fashion.

Denver had to play the Saints in week-12, a divisional-round playoff team, without a real quarterback active for the game due to Covid-19. Fangio had that team fighting to win rather than rolling over. The box score didn’t show it because they lost 31-3. They should have lost by 50. But they powered through.

With this Fangio team, anything is possible. But one thing is certain: the players no longer give up. And that is a welcome improvement from previous years.

A Defensive Wizard

Vic Fangio took a depleted Denver team to Arrowhead and called an amazing game, holding the Chiefs to just 22 points. In week 1, his defense held the Titans to just 16 points. In week 11, Fangio orchestrated a game that flustered a young Tua Tagovailoa and only allowed 13 points.

Fangio’s defense this past year was ranked 25th in the NFL according to Pro Football Reference but carried both a struggling offense and dealt with the weight of a barrage of injuries as well. The defense was the reason the team was even in position to win many of the games this last year. Another factor that led to such a low rank is the fact that the defense faced the 3rd toughest slate of opposing offenses in the league, according to Football Outsiders.

In 2019, though, Fangio’s defense was ranked 10th in the league. His time in Denver continues a recent trend of good defenses, and that will continue as long as he is the head coach.
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He Deserves a Chance

Vic Fangio has a record of 12-20 as a head coach. Not great by any means, but not atrocious either. Many want him gone due to the lack of wins in his first two years. There are two main problems with this thinking. He hasn’t yet coached a season with a relatively healthy roster. On top of that, he has one of the youngest teams in the NFL.

Young teams need continuity and stability, and firing Fangio would hurt the team at this time in this regard.

A popular comparison for Coach Fangio is Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers. Both are highly regarded as gurus of their respective side of the ball, and both are currently in their first stint as a head coach. Many Broncos fans look to San Francisco’s 13-3 Super Bowl season and ask why they have not seen that success in Denver. However, they neglect to look at circumstances.

That was Shanahan’s lone winning season as head coach. Shanahan still has a losing record as a head coach; he’s 29-35 as opposed to Fangio’s 12-20. Shanahan has also been hindered by injured rosters, though. He went 10-22 in his first two years with San Francisco; had they given up on him then, it’s unlikely that the 49ers ever make it to the Super Bowl in 2019.

Shanahan got to prove his worth with a fully healthy roster for the first time in his third season, and the 49ers dominated. What’s to say the Broncos can’t make the same jump with a healthy team and a third-year coach next year?

Final Thoughts

Vic Fangio is far from a perfect coach. He has made some mind-boggling game management and time management decisions over the course of the last two years. No one denies that. But he has started to transform the Denver franchise back into one that wins, even if that has not yet been reflected in the team’s record. It is a death by inches league, and Fangio is bringing the Broncos back to life.
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I cover and write about the Denver Broncos and have been a fan my entire life. I grew up in Colorado and currently attend Colorado Mesa University.

3 Comments

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Marje Swearingen

January 25, 2021

This is great writing. You’re a talented young man. I’ll keep looking for things you write. Keep up the fine skilled and accurate reporting.

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SM

January 25, 2021

Great article, well thought out

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Suzie

January 24, 2021

Well thought out. You make good points

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