Vic Fangio will survive the Broncos’ Curse of the Second-Season Coaches.
He won’t be branded indelibly in franchise folklore as the sixth coach, and third consecutive, to fade away before the third year in Denver.
Although the locals are the only team in the NFL without a permanent owner, the Broncos’ chief custodians Joe Ellis and John Elway have not announced publicly if the 62-year-old Fangio will be back in 2021. However, ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a former Denver sportswriter, tweeted Sunday morning that the coach would be retained, and Fangio appeared to anoint himself with oil in his Monday press briefing. Asked if he had indications from management he would return, Vic replied: “That’s been the indication all along. Yes.’’
Despite grumblings from beyond the unoccupied seats and the empty suits, it was presumed that Fangio would get another chance after the pandemic misfortunes, mistakes and malarkey of 2020.
Fangio was not totally to blame, but he owned a conspicuous share in the accountability.
The Broncos are last in the league with 23 interceptions and nine fumbles and a minus-20 turnover difference (with eight picks and four recoveries), which is at the bottom by 10.
That’s a gross national product.
Fangio cobbled together a rather reasonable defense considering all the injuries — to Von Miller, to begin with significantly, and Bradley Chubb on occasion and to practically every cornerback. Yet, the Broncos are 25th in points allowed per game (27.6) and still failed to average 20 points a game (19.5) on offense.
At 5-10, the Broncos have regressed from last season’s 7-9 mark.
These are the same old same young Broncos of four straight seasons of wretchedness.
Surely, they can’t be as bad again in 2021. Or can they?
Fangio has two years remaining on his contract — with a team option for 2023 — but losing coaches rarely endure through four seasons, and the contracts for Elway and Ellis expire after the 2021 season. Who knows where this hot mess goes?
Vic will outlast three of the past four coaches.
Josh McDaniels’ Reign of Terrible reached only 28 games in 2009-2010. Hired and fired by Ellis, Kid McHoodie won only 11 of 28 games amid a Patriots-like Spygate scandal and with a team that collapsed twice like a chair at a church social.
After John Fox resigned and was forced out by Elway at the conclusion of his fourth successful season in 2014, Gary Kubiak came back to town and guided the Broncos to the Super Bowl 50 victory. The next season Kubiak suffered with health matters and internal organization issues. He quit with a 21-11 record, and the decline and fall actually began.
Along came Vance Joseph, who Elway favored over Kyle Shanahan. Before the end of that first season in 2017, Elway was contemplating dumping Joseph and luring Mike Shanahan back to the Broncos. Ellis and Elway couldn’t agree on that premise, and Joseph increased his victory total from five to six. His overall record was 11-21.
Fangio is 12-19 with the Raiders left. The Josh-Vance-Vic winning percentage of 37.4 has been objectionable, but original Broncos coach Frank Filchock produced a 7-20-1 record (26.8 percent) in two seasons before being fired. His successor Jack Faulkner made it to the third season — for four games. Mac Speedie took over for 25 games (six victories).
As new coach in 1993, Wade Phillips took the Broncos to the playoffs with a 9-7 record, but dipped to 7-9 the following season and was out.
Fangio deserves to be given another season to succeed, but he needs fresh assistance and assistants. Vic was signaling Sunday for the Broncos to go for a 2-point conversion when they were trailing by four.
He should hire Phil Galiano, the veteran assistant special teams coach for the Saints (ranked first in the NFL) as coordinator and name an assistant head coach — Joe Bleymaier, who has been with the Chiefs for five seasons and serves as passing game analyst and assistant quarterbacks coach. Prior to his time in Kansas City, Bleymaier, who has a law degree, served as director of quality control for the Colorado Buffs.
Fangio told me last year he’d like to retire one day as Broncos coach.
First, Vic will have to make the playoffs next season.