Fangio out as head coach, frustrations are a mile high for Broncos

7 min. read
Fangio (center) is introduced as head coach in 2019 with team president Joe Ellis (left) and general then-manager John Elway (right).
David Zalubowski/AP

The Broncos are once again looking for a new head coach after missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year and completing their fifth consecutive losing season.

"Frustration levels have reached an all time high for everyone," said Broncos President Joe Ellis during a press conference Sunday. "And I'm not just talking about me, I'm talking about fans, the disappointment is the same thing. It's sort of become systemic here, what's been happening to us. We can't figure out ways to win games and that's gotta change (...) We've gotta figure out how to win, not figure out how to lose, figure out how to win."

General Manager George Paton fired Vic Fangio after another disappointing loss at home capped off another disappointing year, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs 24-28. It was Denver's 13th straight loss to the division rival.

"I think the failures on all of us, everyone in the organization (...) we need to look in the mirror and fix it," Paton said during a press conference Sunday.

Paton, who is in his first year with the Broncos, will now begin a search for a new head coach with complete support from Ellis.

"George will have full authority to select the next head coach of the Broncos. This is his decision and his program. I have complete confidence in George's ability to lead an exhaustive and successful head coaching search," Ellis said.

It was three and out for the head coach. Fangio was in his third season and now leaves with a 19-30 record. He was hired by former general manager John Elway in 2019.

"What's been happening to us. We can't figure out ways to win games and that's gotta change. And somehow it's gotta, and I can sit up here, here and talk about it, but that's just cheap that doesn't get anywhere. It's just gotta happen," said a frustrated Ellis. "And we're gonna have to come in with a fresh start with a new coach."

This will be the Broncos fifth coach in just nine seasons, a stint of inconsistency and turnover for a franchise many consider to be one of the most popular in the NFL.

"I'm one of hundreds of thousands or millions of citizens in Bronco's country that is just tired of it. And it's gotta stop," Ellis said.

Though frustrated with the team's struggles, both Ellis and Paton praised the effort and dedication of Fangio. It just didn't translate into wins.

"For the last three seasons, Vic put his heart and soul into coaching the Broncos. I want to thank Coach Fangio for giving his maximum effort to our organization since the day he was hired," Ellis said.

In a goodbye statement released by the team, Fangio thanked Broncos fans, calling it an "honor and privilege" to be Denver's head coach. He also praised Paton specifically.

"Over the past year, I am grateful to have been able to work with George Paton, one of-in my opinion-our league's best General Managers. Broncos fans, you have a great one in George."

Paton did not tip his hand as to what kind of coach (offensive or defensive) he might look to hire. The Broncos have averaged less than 20 points per game since the departure of Payton Manning six years ago.

"Offense is obviously a priority, but we don't want to take a step back on deep defense and we also need to elevate special teams," Paton said.

He also didn't say head coaching experience was a prerequisite for this job.

"We're wide open. I think we're gonna have an open book," Paton said.

When asked what he's looking for in a coach, Paton emphasized "leadership."

What now?

The Broncos don't necessarily need a full rebuild. There are many pieces in place to build upon, including the defense, and Paton acknowledged that.

"With the foundation in place, the progress that's been made and the resources we have to get better, I'm excited about the future of our team. We will find an outstanding leader and head coach for the Broncos and our fans," Paton said.

However, the Bronco's have been turning the metaphorical corner for years now, to no avail.

"At the end of the day. Yeah, we're judged on one thing and that's winning and you know, it's about results. Our fans, our players, our team, our entire Front Range region deserves a winning team," Ellis said.

And troubles with the Broncos extend well past the head coach. Finding a franchise quarterback (in a coach-QB dominated league) has also been a struggle. Paton deflected questions about the quarterback position, saying picking a coach would come first.

Meanwhile, the state of Broncos ownership is in question while the courts decide a "right of first refusal case between deceased former owner Edgar Kaiser and the estate of Pat Boland, who passed away in 2019.

Ellis refused to answer questions on the future of Bronco's ownership until the court has decided the case. However, he insisted the uncertainty in ownership would not affect the search for a new coach.

"George is going to be in tandem with [the new coach], gonna have to raise the expectations and the energy level and the inspiration so that our fans will get inspired by the team."

Critics worry the unresolved ownership dispute is holding the team back. That includes Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, a notorious Broncos fan, who weighed in on the team's poor performance last week.

"The mayor is one of many unsatisfied customers and a disgruntled former employee," Ellis said. "Just like people weigh in on his city, people are weighing in on our team."

Who's next? (A way too early guess)

Dan Quinn, the former head coach for the Atlanta Falcons is the oft mentioned next man due to his connection to Paton. The two coached together for the Miami Dolphins and, according to USA Today, Quinn desire to work with Paton dates back to their stints with the Seahawks and Vikings, respectively.

Quinn made his mark in the NFL when he coached Seattle's Legion of Boom as defensive coordinator to Pete Carroll. As the HC for the Falcons, Quinn led the team to a Super Bowl birth against the Patriots in 2017. After blowing a 28-3 lead and losing Super Bowl LI, the Falcons were never quite the same and Quinn was shown the door in 2020. Now, as the defensive coordinator for a strong Dallas Cowboys team, many expect Quinn will wear the the HC headset again soon. Could it be in Denver?

Michigan's Jim Harbaugh is another rumored name. (Though if you ask this reporter, I doubt the Michigan Man will leave his alma matter.) Michigan's football program seemed irredeemable until Harbaugh's revival and a College Football Playoff birth this year. On top of that, Harbaugh is a proven NFL head coach, having lead the San Francisco 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII against the Ravens and, his brother, John Harbaugh. Come to think of it, brotherly rivalries can go a long way... and knowing John has a Super Bowl ring could just bring Jim back to the NFL and possibly to Mile High. Could we have a Harbaugh Bowl in Denver?

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