John Elway has a new Plan A.
If Elway’s interview Monday in Chicago with Vic Fangio goes well, the Bears’ defensive coordinator is expected to become the Broncos’ head coach, and Gary Kubiak will be named the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator.
Two well-informed league sources told me Wednesday morning that the 60-year-old Fangio — who has been a coordinator with five NFL teams and Stanford, and turned the Bears into the most dominating defense in the league — is Elway’s top choice as the 15th coach in the franchise’s history. So, if Fangio agrees to work with Kubiak, Elway and Joe Ellis, keep several assistants, and is amenable to terms of a four-year contract, then he would be next man up in Denver, replacing Vance Joseph.
Interestingly, Fangio was an assistant under John Fox in Chicago; he was on the defensive staff in Indianapolis when a young Peyton Manning led the Colts to the playoffs; he was with Jim Harbaugh in Stanford, then in San Francisco when the 49ers reached the Super Bowl, and he also was employed for three years by John Harbaugh.
Fangio’s defenses have ranked among the elite 10 in more than half his seasons as a coordinator or special defensive assistant to head coach (Baltimore). In this year’s regular season the Bears were third overall defensively, first in points allowed and second in takeaways.
He also has won two professional championships — in the United States Football League (1984-85).
Fangio never played in the NFL or in college at East Stroudsburg (Pa.). He was born Aug. 22, 1958 in Dunmore, Pa., was a safety on the Dunmore High School team and later was a defensive assistant at his school. He joined the NFL with the Saints in 1986, the same season Elway went to his first Super Bowl. Of course, Elway had played at Stanford long before Fangio was defensive coordinator in 2010.
Fangio was with the 49ers when they had a young quarterback named Colin Kaepernick, who Elway once tried to trade for.
Fangio was the defensive coordinator with the Texans from 2002-2005 under Dom Capers. Kubiak became the coach in his Houston hometown the next year. Kubiak and Fangio have never coached together, although both have been Ravens and 49ers assistants at different times.
Fangio is credited with raising both the 49ers’ and Bears’ defenses from the dead and standing them on their heads. He was a candidate for the San Francisco job when Jim Harbaugh left for the University of Michigan. Adam Gase also was a candidate, but 49ers ownership ended up choosing defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and Fangio bolted for the Bears.
When Fox was fired after the 2017 season, Fangio interviewed for the vacancy. He was beat out by Matt Nagy, offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, but both Nagy and the front office asked Fangio to stay. He signed a three-year contract in January.
Fangio, in his 40th year as a coach, has sought a head coaching position for more than 20 years, but generally has been considered a lifetime assistant because he is a quiet, witty, introspective man away from the field and a smart and innovative defensive coach at practices and games and with his game plans and schemes. He and Jim Harbaugh respected each other but argued often.
Fangio was called “Lord Fangio” at Stanford and, by famed mouthy cornerback Richard Sherman who he coached, “Evil Genius.”
Does he sound like Wade Phillips, once the head coach here and the architect of the Broncos’ defense leading to the Super Bowl 50 title?
Fangio gave up playing after high school, but always knew he wanted to coach. In college he took a course taught by the football coach, and bothered him with a barrage of questions until he was finally given a volunteer job with the team. Players and coaches always have loved being around Fangio. Two years after the Colts went 13-3 with Manning they struggled, and general manager Bill Polian told coach Jim Mora to fire Fangio. He refused. Polian fired both.
Fangio’s best childhood friend was Joe Marciano, the Lions’ special teams coordinator. And one of his closest pals, even though Fangio is a Phillies’ fanatic, is Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who played on the same baseball field with Fangio when they were boys.
Elway said he seeks one of the best in the business on one side of the ball to be the Broncos’ coach.
Monday it could be Plan A — Victor Fangio — for the Broncos Boss.