Bron­cos pick Vic Fan­gio as new head coach

The Star Democrat - - SPORTS -

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) — For­get RPOs. John El­way is go­ing with AARP.

The Chicago Bears de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Vic Fan­gio, 60, has ac­cepted El­way’s of­fer to be­come the Den­ver Bron­cos’ next head coach, a per­son with knowl­edge of the agree­ment told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day.

The per­son spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the Bron­cos didn’t an­nounce the hir­ing, some­thing the team won’t do un­til Fan­gio signs his con­tract. He’s ex­pected to be in­tro­duced as the club’s 17th head coach on Thurs­day.

Fan­gio re­places Vance Joseph, who was fired on New Year’s Eve af­ter post­ing the fran­chise’s first back-to­back los­ing sea­sons since the early 1970s.

Fan­gio and El­way, who turns 59 this sum­mer, will make up one of the old­est coach-GM duos in the NFL in 2019.

Although Fan­gio, who turns 61 in Au­gust, has no NFL head coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, he has been an as­sis­tant for 32 years in the NFL and 34 sea­sons over­all, be­gin­ning with the Philadel­phia Stars of the old USFL in 1984.

Just like for­mer Den­ver de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Wade Phillips, Fan­gio re­lates to play­ers less than half his age and com­mands a deep re­spect in the locker room.

“You’re talk­ing about one of the best coaches in foot­ball,” Bears star edge rusher Khalil Mack said re­cently, dub­bing Fan­gio “the evil ge­nius him­self.”

El­way said when he be­gan his search for his fourth head coach in six sea­sons that he val­ues ex­pe­ri­ence but also rec­og­nizes the need to mod­ern­ize the Bron­cos’ of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive schemes to keep up with the run-pass op­tion craze that has swept through the NFL and ren­dered tra­di­tional sys­tems an­ti­quated.

El­way didn’t be­lieve that in­no­va­tion ne­ces­si­tated a young, up-and-com­ing head coach, how­ever. So, in­stead of go­ing with a fresh-faced of­fen­sive-minded novice in the mold of the Rams’ Sean McVay, he ze­roed in on the griz­zled grid­iron lifer who’s more like his first head coach­ing hire, John Fox, or even the Chiefs’ Andy Reid.

Joseph was also a first­time head coach with deep de­fen­sive roots, but he lacked the lengthy re­sume Fan­gio brings. Whereas Joseph had just one year of ex­pe­ri­ence as a co­or­di­na­tor, Fan­gio brings 19 years of co­or­di­nat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the Pan­thers, Colts, Tex­ans, 49ers and Bears.

He’s built dom­i­nant de­fenses in dif­fer­ent eras, suc­cess­fully adapt­ing to changes in per­son­nel, philoso­phies and style.

The 2018 sea­son was his best as Fan­gio guided a Bears de­fense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL, al­lowed a league-low 17.7 points per game and led the Bears into the playof fs for the first time in eight years.

In ad­di­tion to Mack, who joined the Bears in a trade from Oak­land, three other Bears de­fend­ers were se­lected to the Pro Bowl un­der Fan­gio’s watch in 2018: safety Ed­die Jack­son, line­man Akiem Hicks and cor­ner­back Kyle Fuller.

Fan­gio was avail­able to take over in Den­ver sooner than ex­pected be­cause of the Bears’ stun­ning 16-15 loss to the Philadel­phia Ea­gles in the wild-card round last week­end. Ea­gles de­fen­sive line­man Treyvon Hester tipped Cody Parkey’s last-se­cond field-goal at­tempt that clanked off the left up­right and the cross­bar.

Sev­eral Bears play­ers were hop­ing the Bron­cos would choose one of El­way’s other can­di­dates — Steel­ers Oline coach Mike Mun­chak, ex-Colts coach Chuck Pagano, Pa­tri­ots lineback­ers coach Brian Flores or Rams QBs coach Zac Tay­lor.

When word got out that El­way had cho­sen Fan­gio, Bears cor­ner­back Prince Amuka­mar a tweeted the hash­tag “curse words” and Chicago wide re­ceiver Allen Robin­son II tweeted the bro­ken heart emoji.

Fan­gio in­her­its a Bron­cos team that’s com­ing off backto-back los­ing sea­sons for the first time since 1971-72, a hard fall for a fran­chise that was hoist­ing the Lom­bardi Tro­phy just three years ago thanks to Von Miller’s MVP per­for­mance in Su­per Bowl 50.

Pey­ton Man­ning re­tired a month later and the Bron­cos have cy­cled through four start­ing quar­ter­backs since, in­clud­ing free agent Case Keenum, who was un­der­whelm­ing dur­ing Den­ver’s 6-10 sea­son that in­cluded two four-game skids.

El­way said last week that per­son­nel as­sis­tant and for­mer Bron­cos head coach Gary Ku­biak will move back into an of­fen­sive as­sis­tant coach­ing role in Den­ver in 2019. Ku­biak stepped aside over health con­cerns a year af­ter guid­ing Den­ver to its third Su­per Bowl vic­tory.

Last month, Miller suggested that a de­fense can still lead a team to a ti­tle like Den­ver’s did three years ago even in this age of po­tent of fenses in­cor­po­rat­ing col­lege con­cepts and run­ning up scores.

“The Bears have been do­ing it right. They get take­aways, they play tight cov­er­age and they got a great run de­fense,” Miller said. “I feel like the Bears def­i­nitely got a de­fense that can go all the way.”

In­stead, the Bears’ sea­son ended ear­lier than ex­pected, and now the man Mack dubbed an “evil ge­nius” will join Miller in Den­ver.

AP PHOTO

Vic Fan­gio in­her­its a Bron­cos team that’s com­ing off back-to-back los­ing sea­sons for the first time since 1971-72, a hard fall for a fran­chise that was hoist­ing the Lom­bardi Tro­phy just three years.

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