When Vic Fangio first got into coaching in his native northeast Pennsylvania in 1979, all he wanted to do “was be a teacher, a high school coach, and a head high school coach, eventually.”
Even when his career took off and ended up in the NFL, he still didn’t have dreams of becoming a head coach.
“I was happy enough with being a defensive coordinator in the NFL for close to 20 years,” Fangio said. “If a good situation ever arised, and I matched what a certain team was looking for, I’d be all in.”
Fangio believes he’s found it and he’s all in as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos.
The former Bears defensive coordinator is now the 17th coach in Broncos history. He takes over a team with a storied past and a struggling present.You can credit the 60-year-old Fangio with one thing, he’s no shrinking violet.
“Only one other franchise in this league has won more Super Bowls and been to more Super Bowls, and I accept the responsibility of leading us to more,” he told the assembled crowd and his introduction at Dove Valley, Broncos team headquarters.
Fangio has been coaching NFL defenses since 1986. The Chicago Bears defense, even before they landed Khalil Mack, improved every year under his leadership. The Bears had one of the best records in the league this year, largely due to defense.
Broncos General Manager John Elway described Fangio as an old school coach, and credited his success to a fundamentals-first mentality. Even as the rest of the game changes to embrace an offensive mentality.
“I believe that football is still built from the ground up,” Elway said. “And I believe Vic coaches from the ground up: discipline, accountability, he holds his team to high standards, emphasis on teaching, technique, fundamentals, blocking, tackling.”
Fangio has a lot of work to do to turn around a slumped franchise. After the 2016 Super Bowl victory, Denver enters its third offseason in a row without a playoff appearance. The team just wrapped up its first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971 and 1972.
“My determination of success ultimately — and everyone will look to the win-loss record — but it’s my goal and purpose is to make every individual improve and get better,” Fangio said. “If we do that, within his position group, that position group will get better. If we do that, that side of the ball, whether it be offense, special teams or defense, will be better. And ultimately we’ll have a better team, which will result in a better record.”
“You gotta start from the ground up, so we’re looking to get better every day.”
Former Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak — the winner of that 2016 Super Bowl — is expected to return as the team’s offensive coordinator for next season. Fangio didn’t confirm Kubiak will return, but said, “If Gary’s interested, I’m interested.”
Fangio did say that “right now”, Case Keenum will remain the Broncos starting quarterback. He struggled in his first in a Broncos uniform. In Chicago, Fangio saw up close the type of player Keenum can be, when he was the divisional rival Minnesota QB two seasons ago.
“So I know what he’s capable of and we’re gonna try to get that out of him.”
Fangio was reminded by a reporter that baseball teams in the cities where he’s coached get better upon his arrival. The Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year World Series drought shortly after he took a job coaching the Bears defense, for example.
“Things might be looking up for the Rockies,” he quipped.