By Chad Jensen
(247 SPORTS) – While the seven other NFL teams with head-coaching vacancies all hired offensive-minded coaches, the Denver Broncos went against the grain and hired a defensive guy. Vic Fangio was named the 17th head coach in Broncos’ history last month, and if the NFL Honors for 2018 are any indication, it was not only a bold move by GM John Elway, it was the right one.
It was announced on Saturday that Fangio won the AP’s coveted Assistant Coach of the Year award — which is the first time in his 33-year coaching career he’s ever earned such recognition. Many of the coaches who win these awards each year bring the sizzle, but often fizzle out. Fangio brings the steak, too.
PHOTO GALLERY: Broncos At NFL Honors Awards Show
The work he did last season with the Chicago Bears was almost unfathomable. The Bears led the NFL in scoring defense (17.7 ppg), rushing defense (80.0 ypg), yards per play (4.8), takeaways (35), interceptions (27), three-and-outs (26.8%) and 20+yard plays (46).
That’s impressive enough in it’s own right. What truly makes Fangio’s defense rise to even more admirable heights was the fact that the Bears defense was the second-least penalized in the NFL.
The “wizard of football” walked the razor’s edge as a teacher and a tactician, implementing and calling a defense that not only created chaos and suffocated opposing offenses, but also did so cleanly — without drawing the yellow laundry.
It’s unbelievable, to be honest. Fangio steps into his first job as a head coach with some legitimate bona-fides to present to the Broncos’ locker room. Not only is Fangio the reigning Assistant Coach of the Year, but he enters his 20th season as a defensive play-caller at the NFL level.
Fangio’s work in Chicago was phenomenal, but Broncos’ players are old enough to remember his defensive brainchildren in San Francisco under Jim Harbaugh. Players like Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Justin Smith and Aldon Smith all flourished under Fangio, similarly to Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith, Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson and Danny Trevathan did in Chicago.
Just two years removed from the Broncos’ players being asked to buy into a young head coach in his 40’s, with just one year of coordinator experience under his belt — this time around will be a far cry. Fangio brings a proven track record, and for those who doubt his resume, it shouldn’t take long for the proof to come out in the pudding.
The reason I’m so optimistic in Vic Fangio is because he’s such a passionate teacher, and he’s a detail-oriented leader. Accountability is key, as Fangio will not suffer a ‘death by inches’ in Denver.
Fangio’s Assistant Coach of the Year award would seem to further validate Elway’s decision to hire him in the face of some resistance in Dove Valley. Fangio wasn’t the unanimous choice among Denver’s hiring committee, but as team President Joe Ellis said on Black Monday, Elway would have sole veto power and make the final decision.
So far, it would seem that Elway’s gut and intuition, coupled with his research, was right on. Fangio’s subsequent coaching hires himself add to the sense of encouragement and excitement running through Broncos Country that things are on the right track again at Dove Valley.