After three years in the Broncos leadership, Vic Fangio is away as Denver’s coach.
The Broncos announced on Sunday that they had “split up” with Fangie. The decision came less than 24 hours after Denver’s 28:24 defeat with the Chiefs on Saturday afternoon, which reduced the team to 7:10 a season.
“For the past three years, Vic has put his heart and soul into training the Broncos,” the team president Joe Ellis said in a statement. “I want to thank Coach Fangi for putting the effort into the organization since the day he was involved.”
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Fangio recorded a 19-30 record over three years with the Broncos. He never had a winning season and was unable to bring the team to the playoffs. His defenses often played well, finishing twice as the top 10 scoring unit, but the team’s attack erupted as a carousel of seven different quarterbacks began during Fangio’s tenure. That’s one of the main reasons Denver fired him.
As such, the Broncos will begin their search for a new coach and should be an attractive place to land. They have a strong roster and just need to find a quarterback to become potential candidates in the AFC. Below are some coaching candidates who could help Denver do just that.
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Eric Bieniemy, Offensive Coordinator, Chiefs
Bieniemy has long been one of the hottest names on the coaching market, and it can be Finally be the year he is hired as head coach. The 52-year-old has served as Chiefs ‘offensive coordinator since Matt Nagy took over coaching at Bears four years ago and the Chiefs’ attack machine is constantly buzzing.
The Kansas City offensive, under Bieniemy’s supervision, is consistently among the top five units. They achieved two Super Bowls, won one, and Patrick Mahomes quickly became the NFL’s best quarterback in collaboration with Bieniemy and Andy Reid.
The Broncos can get a smart, offensive coach in Bieniemy while poaching a valuable resource from the divisional rival. That should make him a top candidate for the position.
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Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, Michigan
Harbaugh, 58, reportedly is investigating a return to the NFL after leading Michigan to his first appearance in the College Football playoffs. He has four years of experience as an NFL coach and his victory rate of 0.695 (record 44-19-1) is the fifth best in NFL history behind Guy Chamberlain, John Madden, Vince Lombardi and George Allen.
During his four years at the 49ers, Harbaugh led the team to the Super Bowl with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick as quarterback. He helped turn Smith from a crash into a solid starter, while Kaepernick recorded his two best seasons under Harbaugh.
Harbaugh’s experience in quarterback development is strong and he himself has 14 years of experience as an NFL quarterback. Denver would certainly appreciate both of these elements when considering Harbaugh. The only complication here could be his relationship with Fangie, who served as his defensive coordinator during his final year at Stanford and for four years with the 49ers.
Dan Quinn, Defense Coordinator, Cowboys
The Broncos are not guaranteed to look for an offensive-minded coach. It could be their slim, but they could also decide to bring another coach to the defense to keep their team’s strength in order.
Quinn might be in such a situation. He has extensive experience as a defensive coordinator and head coach at the NFL level. He was one of the architects of the “Legion of Boom” for the Seahawks Super Bowl teams in 2013 and ’14. He then coached the Falcons and led them to perform in the Super Bowl during the NFL playoffs in 2017. His performance has declined over the last two seasons in Atlanta, but he still has a career record of 43-42 as a coach and reappeared with the Cowboys.
Quinn, 51, defended the Cowboys defense in 2020, which placed at the very end of the most defensive categories in 2020, and turned it into a defense with a top score of 10. He helped incorporate Micah Parsons into the stop unit and coached Randy Gregory and Trebon Diggs to created a strong defense. Denver could count on him to keep their defenses in good condition, while he hoped the change of offensive coordinator could provoke an attack.
When the Falcons were doing the Super Bowl under Quinn, Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur, Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel were in the staff. If Quinn can replicate this type of offensive personnel, the Broncos could be sold if you bring him on board.
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Bill O’Brien, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama
The end of O’Brien’s work with the Texans was not nice, but after spending time with Nick Saban in Alabama, he won the pair as a potential coaching candidate. O’Brien, 52, continues to prove that he is a good offensive spirit and has good results with quarterbacks. He helped turn Deshaun Watson into a strong starter and recorded a winning balance in five of the seven seasons with the Texans.
O’Brien’s big mistakes in Houston came when he was in charge of the staff. In Denver, George Paton will continue to have the last word on the roster, so this could mitigate some of the risks associated with adding a guy like O’Brien. It would certainly help the team’s offensive and perhaps sell the disgruntled Watson in exchange for Denver during the offseason.
Nathaniel Hackett, Offensive Coordinator, Packers
So you want to improve your quarterback hold, huh? Why not look at Nathaniel Hackett? The Packers Offensive Coordinator has been with the NFL since 2013, with stops in Buffalo, Jacksonville and Green Bay. At each stop, he improved the team’s starting game.
With Bills, Hackett, 42, helped Kyle Orton look like a capable quarterback. In Jacksonville, Blake Bortles put together his best season under Hackett in 2017. With the Packers, Hackett helped steer Aaron Rodgers to revitalize his career as he won the NFL 2020 MVP (and can win the award again in 2021).
Hackett’s connection to Rodgers could also be interesting, given the uncertainty surrounding his future with the Packers. If Rodgers requested an exchange from the Packers, Denver would certainly be interested in his services, and having Hackett could help them compete to win him over.
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Mike Zimmer, head coach, Vikings
Sixty-five-year-old Zimmer may seem strange on paper. He is very similar to Fangio in terms of his old-school thinking, especially defense, so it would not be a big change from the now former Broncos coach.
This means that Zimmer has a connection with Paton, who worked with the Vikings for 14 years before joining the Broncos. So Paton could question him to see if he would be a potential fit in Denver. Zimmer has a career record of 71-56-1 and has never finished a season with less than seven wins.
The Broncos’ defenses would play at a high level even under Zimmer, but questions would remain about the state of the offensive. For this reason, his name is not such a strong choice for the Broncos, but don’t be surprised when he gets an interview.