DENVER — The Vic Fangio era is over.

The Broncos have fired Fangio after three seasons as the team's head coach, The Gazette confirmed Sunday and the team later announced. 

Fangio finished his tenure 19-30, missing the playoffs all three seasons and going 7-9 in year one, 5-11 in year two and 7-10 in year three. He was 5-13 against AFC West opponents, including 1-5 against the Raiders and 0-6 against the Chiefs, most recently losing 28-24 to Kansas City Saturday at home. Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis and General Manager George Paton informed Fangio of their decision to part ways Sunday morning.

"I want to thank Vic Fangio for the work that he did over these last three seasons," Ellis said. "Vic said when he got here, that he would give us maximum effort to do everything he could to be successful. As I said in my statement earlier this morning, he put his heart and his soul into this job. I’ve never seen a coach work harder. Unfortunately, the results weren’t there. At the end of the day, we’re judged on one thing, and that’s winning. It’s about results, and for the last five years, the results have not been there."

The fate of Fangio's coaching staff will be decided by the new head coach, according to Paton. 

Fangio, 63, was hired by the Broncos in 2019 as the organization’s 17th head coach, after spending over 30 years as an assistant coach in the NFL with stops at the Saints (1986-94), Panthers (1995-98), Colts (1999-01), Texans (2002-05), Ravens (2006-09), 49ers (2011-14) and Bears (2015-18). For Fangio, becoming the head coach of the Broncos was a dream come true, finally getting his opportunity to lead a team.

A football lifer, Fangio desperately wanted to be the coach that led a historic franchise back to glory. 

“It was an honor and privilege to serve as head coach of the Denver Broncos,” Fangio said in a statement. “I want to thank John Elway and Joe Ellis for giving me the opportunity to be part of this storied franchise and special community when they hired me three seasons ago.”

Regarded as one of the best defensive minds in the NFL, the Broncos hired Fangio hoping he could get the organization back to the postseason. He replaced Vance Joseph, who served as the Broncos head coach for two seasons (2017-18), posting an 11-21 record.

In his first year with the Broncos, Fangio opened the season with four consecutive losses but was able to salvage his inaugural season winning four of the last five games and finishing tied for second in the AFC West with a 7-9 record. Following the 2019 season, he fired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and replaced him with veteran play-caller and former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur.

In year two, many expected the Broncos to compete for a playoff spot. But after several costly injuries — including season-ending injuries for stars Von Miller and Courtland Sutton — and multiple COVID-19 issues throughout the season, the Broncos finished 5-11 and last in the division, making 2020 arguably Fangio’s most disappointing season.

And heading into his third season, it felt like a make-or-break year for Fangio as the Broncos again looked poised to make a playoff push with one of the easiest schedules in the league. With a strong rookie class and a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, Denver got off to a good start, winning in September for the first time under Fangio and going 3-0 to begin the year. The Broncos then lost four in a row, but stayed in the playoff hunt in the following weeks with big wins over the Cowboys and Chargers. And it was in Week 15 against the Bengals that everything fell apart for Fangio and the Broncos.

Holding a 7-6 record with the playoffs in reach, the Broncos lost their final four games of the season. They were eliminated from the postseason for the sixth-straight season and finished with a losing record for a fifth-consecutive year — the franchise’s longest losing streak since 1963-1972.

Fangio’s only saving grace, and why some believed he might have gotten a fourth year, was his defense. During his three years, the Broncos were one of the better defensive units in the league. This season the Broncos finished ranked third in scoring defense, their highest ranking since 2016. Fangio is expected to be a leading candidate for several defensive coordinator openings this offseason.

But as good as the defense was during Fangio's tenure, the offense was equally as bad. A large part was likely due to the ongoing quarterback carousel, which included seven different starting quarterbacks over three seasons: Bridgewater, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel and Phillip Lindsay (the COVID-19 game versus the Saints in 2020). Shurmur, who spent two seasons in Denver, also shouldered a good amount of the blame for the Broncos' lack of offensive success. Obtaining a top quarterback and offensive coordinator will be two of Paton’s top priorities this offseason.

In the end, Fangio was unable to keep his job after too many poor performances over a three-year stretch. His loyalty to Shurmur and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon was not well-received by fans, while his game mismanagement was too much to overlook.

“To the players, coaches and staff: Thank you for the fight and character you showed each and every week,” Fangio said. “No matter the adversity, circumstances or challenges we faced, you never backed down. I am proud to be associated with this group of fighters and competitors. I appreciate you all.

"To Broncos fans: Thank you for your support, passion and how much you care about the Broncos. You are the reason Denver is one of the NFL’s best football towns. The foundation is in place for this team to accomplish great things. The future is bright for the Denver Broncos, and I wish the organization nothing but the best.”

But Fangio did help create a foundation in Denver. Players said this year’s team was the most close-knit it had been in years – that the future felt bright. Fangio’s hard-nosed, old-school approach was well-received by most players, especially on defense where many players had their best individual seasons under Fangio.

So while Fangio’s time in Denver may have not equaled the results anyone wanted, maybe the old ball coach’s legacy is that he pointed the Broncos back in the right direction. Now it’s about who will build on that foundation.

“He left this place a lot better off than when he arrived," Paton said. "He steadied the ship. The three years he was here — they weren’t easy. The first two years, a lot of things were going on here: injuries, COVID-19, you name it. Then this year, we had a little more stability. Obviously, we had some injuries, but Vic never wavered. He worked his butt off. Our guys played their ass off every game, and that’s a tribute to his leadership. I can’t thank him enough for what he’s done."

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