As English poet John Gower would suggest, V.J. and V.J. are as dissimilar as cheese and chalk.
Their first head coaching appointments have been with the Broncos, but Victor John (Fangio) and Vance Joseph are worlds and wisdom separated.
Think the late Robert Miller and Josh McDaniels, who became first-time leaders of football men in Denver. Red guided the Broncos to their inaugural Super Bowl with a 14-3 record in the regular and postseason; the latter, in his brief visit before being brusquely fired, lost 17 of his final 22 games. Vic Fangio has proven to be no-nonsense, pragmatic and professional in his first OTAs (organized team activities) after Vance Joseph ran a disorganized, nonsensical and extended series of offseasons.
Jim Harbaugh once said of Fangio: “He will be remembered as one of the all-time great defensive coordinators,’’ as Joe Collier and Wade Phillips before him. Joseph, who is with the Cardinals now, won’t be remembered.
The firing of Joseph and the hiring of Fangio are a difference-maker and a game-changer.
It’s easy to see the contrast at Dove Valley and felt throughout Colorado.
Fangio shows up at an Aurora fire station, Nuggets and Rockies games, speaking events for high school coaches and casual breakfasts at Snooze with longtime lady friend Kathy.
Joseph was basically a no-show during his two years. He already had brought a checkered past from his stay in Boulder and kept the lowest profile in Denver for a variety of reasons. The last of Joseph’s rare public appearances occurred after he was dumped. A video of Vance and “Johnny Be Bad’’ Bowlen at a downtown “adult’’ club revealed the pair acting as juveniles.
Fangio is the guy in cargo shorts and a gray T-shirt you’d invite to the neighborhood Memorial Day picnic. “Vic, would you flip the burgers? How ‘bout the Broncos?’’ He’d fix your garage door as he has 49ers and Bears defenses. Vic is as comfortable in his skin and his role as he is during practices and in his coaching outfit that looks like he had nothing else left to wear in the closet. The late Vic Sr., who owned a tailor shop in Scranton, Pa., would be so proud of his son, except for his clothing choices.
Joseph always arrived at games in the most recent, most fashionable Broncos’ gear after declaring: “We had a great week of practice.’’ He compiled an 11-21 record.
Vance had been a defensive coordinator for one average season with the Dolphins. Vic has been an NFL coordinator since 1995.
Miller had served as a career assistant until finally getting a head job when he believed there was no chance. Fangio had the same belief when he was a failed finalist for the Chargers’ head coaching position. Only 23 more seasons as an assistant were required. He will turn 61 in August.
Memorial Monday will be Fangio’s 138th day in office. His on the west side of the second floor of the franchise headquarters overlooks the fields and the massive indoor facility from the second floor on the west side of the headquarters. On a clear day Vic can view snow-capped mountains and his vision of a bright future for the Broncos. He didn’t come here to lose.
Which may be one of the reasons the coach doesn’t mind saying out loud that the team’s best player, can do better, or offering a negative review of a recently signed free agent from a defunct league or a former Broncos’ player just reacquired in a trade.
Yet, every — yes — every player who takes the interview podium praises Fangio and his defensive schemes, coaching style and business approach to training. No time or motions are wasted as Vic strides from defensive position group to quarterback drills. As someone who has covered the Broncos since 1974, the serious Fangio workouts remind me of Miller, Mike Shanahan, John Fox, Gary Kubiak and a somewhat surly Dan Reeves. The Broncos reached Super Bowls with all five.
There’s no dancing or irrational behavior by a wide receiver, circa Brandon Marshall 2009, swatting away a pass and kicking a football during practice.
One Arizona mediarite (or wrong) characterized Vance Joseph as “a perfect fit for the Cardinals” because of his intensity. Good luck and good riddance.
This V.J. is vastly superior to that V.J.