DENVER — This isn't really about Vic Fangio.
Oh, he’s the 60-year-old football lifer from Pennsylvania at the center of a Broncos news conference on Thursday. He’s the old-school new head coach here. But this isn’t really about him.
Sorry, it's not.
This is about the Broncos being honest with themselves. By hiring the grizzled Bears defensive coordinator on Monday as their next head coach, the Broncos voted in their candidate for the next four years — the length of Fangio's contract — with an agenda to win now. Not from now on. Now.
No tanking for Tua. No bomb for Fromm. No revamp, remodel, rebuild. If anything, it's more of a rerun.
It’s the wrong way to go — not with Fangio, who's going to be just fine as the 17th coach in team history — but for the Broncos. They're 17-28 over most of three seasons, and that doesn't add up to a team that's close. It's a team that's holding onto the past without acknowledging how much time has passed since the past.
But unless The Gazette knows something I don’t know, I’m also not nearing the end of my career with retirement just over those hills. So it’s easy to understand why the Broncos are doing what they’re doing: John Elway hired Fangio to squeeze the last bits of juice from the defense that won Super Bowl 50. Hey, chase your dreams. There’s no time like the present.
Plus, it’s not like a guy who’s been in the coaching biz for 40 years is going to come in and not know what he’s doing. Forty years, from Dunmore (Pa.) High to Stanford to the Ravens and film rooms in between. He was so good at what he was doing, in fact, that even when he failed another team hired him right away. If all of us could crash into another job, what a world.
But since Elway believes the Broncos are a lot closer to a parade than most of us do, let’s not do that thing where we remember the beach vacations with an ex and ignore the time she launched the TV through a window. The Broncos offense stunk then, and it stinks worse now.
If Fangio is a success in the job of a lifetime, literally, the Broncos must evolve in an area that he will have absolutely zero control of: offense. They need an updated offense and an updated quarterback within the next eight months.
Don't hang from the ledge with a pinkie. Use both hands.
With the news that Gary Kubiak is returning as the offensive coordinator, here's hoping Kubiak and the Broncos are open to change on that side of the ball. No one's going to find me typing a bad word about Gary Kubiak, head coach, after his work through Super Bowl 50 was the most impressive coaching job I’ve seen at any level. Telling you, it was witchcraft. The good kind.
But when you think about the 2015 Broncos, or the year after, or the two years after that, you don’t think about the offense. You try to forget it. The issues around here began long before Vance Joseph left a crick in our necks from shaking our heads so many times. The Broncos haven’t placed among the top half of scoring offenses the past four seasons, and Vance Joseph was only here for two of them.
(Joseph had no say in the offense, and neither will Fangio. If we're being real, the Broncos just hired two head coaches, though "Fangiak" sounds more like dangerous street meat.)
Two of those seasons were with Kubiak, who has three championship rings earned with the Broncos. But Phil Jackson also has nine NBA rings, and no one's running the same Triangle anymore. And all of those seasons were with an offensive line MacGyver’ed together with Duct tape, thoughts and prayers. And all of those seasons were with quarterbacks past their prime or still in search of it.
Maybe the Broncos have been working on a 2.0 version of the offense while nobody's been looking. That's totally possible, too, because there's a bunch of innovative examples still in the postseason worth watching. Maybe they’ve got a quarterback in the works that's not Case Keenum. With the way they’re putting together the coaching staff, the Broncos are making it clear they want nothing to do with the 49ers’ route of starting from scratch. But whether the coach is Vic, Vance or Vince (Lombardi), the coach won’t matter if the Broncos don't find a quarterback and evolve on offense.
No more braving the stormy seas with a rowboat. Folks here are exhausted from treading water.
Funny how football works, isn’t it? The hottest names in the game lately are 30-somethings Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur and Kyle Shanahan. Guess where each of them learned the tricks of the trade as assistants? With Mike Shanahan's Washington Redskins, tweaking the same offense Kubiak perfected, a while ago.
Now the Broncos' offense and offensive personnel must evolve like theirs did.
Don't worry about Vic Fangio. Anyone who's survived four decades in the same profession deserves a "well done" and a cold beer. From Ray Lewis to Khalil Mack, the gifted defenders who carried his gameplans onto the field swear by Fangio’s tactics. Hear that, Bradley Chubb? It’s the clink of a cash register. Even Von Miller’s mother should be ecstatic with Elway’s hire.
When Fangio's had stars, his defense roars.
And no one stays on-brand like the Broncos stay on-brand. This is what they do. They hire who and what they know. They draft quarterbacks who remind them of them. They go for it, every season, just like Pat Bowlen would want. Worked back in the day, so it should work again.