In 2018, the Denver Broncos were outplayed and outclassed en route to a 6-10 finish. If former head coach Vance Joseph’s first year was any indication, the team was plunging to the depths of the AFC. Fans questioned general manager John Elway’s decision to retain him for another season. However, there was optimism surrounding the team after quarterback Case Keenum signed a two-year deal in March. The Broncos were hoping that the Keenum who led the Minnesota Vikings to an appearance in the NFC Championship would stabilize their quarterback quandary. Even though he was more productive than former quarterback Trevor Siemian, questions still remain in regard to his future as a Bronco. There is a chance that new head coach Vic Fangio, who reached an agreement to become Denver’s 17th head coach on January 10, will help Keenum and the Broncos enjoy the success that has eluded them lately.
Victor Fangio began his coaching career at Pennsylvania’s Dunmore High School in 1979. At the high school he attended, he served as both the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach until 1981. His first NFL experience was coaching the New Orleans Saints’ linebackers from 1986-1994. During Fangio’s stint in the “Big Easy,” he oversaw the progression of the Dome Patrol. Led by Hall of Fame inductee Rickey Jackson, this linebacker corps is considered to be one of the most formidable defensive units in NFL history. Collectively, Jackson, Vaughan Johnson, Sam Mills, and Pat Swilling made 18 Pro Bowls. Additionally, all four linebackers were invited to the 1992 Pro Bowl which marked the first time that four linebackers from one team made the Pro Bowl.
Following his time in New Orleans, Fangio became the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers during their inaugural season in 1995. During three seasons on the Panthers’ staff, he led a defensive unit that enjoyed their greatest success in 1996. During Carolina’s second season, they went 12-4 en route to their first division crown. After consecutive losing seasons in 1997-1998, head coach Dom Capers was fired and Fangio’s time in Charlotte came to an end. He then went on to serve as defensive coordinator for the Colts and Texans. In 2010, he teamed up with current University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. When Harbaugh was hired to become the next head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011, Fangio followed and served as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator from 2011-2014. During his first season in the Bay Area, he quickly turned the 49ers’ defense into a force to be reckoned with. San Francisco led the league in takeaways with 35 during the 2011 season.
When Jim Harbaugh left the 49ers in 2015, Fangio agreed to become the new defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears. When he took over as defensive coordinator, the Bears’ defense was ranked 30th in the league. Within a year, Fangio oversaw a defense who ranked 14th overall. Over four seasons under his tutelage, the Bears went from having one of the league’s worst defenses to a unit who led the league in scoring defense this season. His ability to field tough defenses was a selling point for John Elway and company. A defensive-minded coach such as Fangio is what the Broncos have been lacking since the dismissal of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in 2016. Since being hired by the Saints as the linebackers coach, he has been on an NFL staff every season with the exception of his stint at Stanford. His experience should bode well for the Broncos as they seek their first playoff berth since 2015. With Vic Fangio at the helm in the Mile High City, the Broncos’ playoff drought may be over sooner than expected.