Now that the Denver Broncos have moved on from Vic Fangio, fans will have their ears perked in anticipation of any news of his successor. A plethora of names have been scheduled for interviews, while other big names like Jim Harbaugh and Doug Pederson are just speculation for now.
Whomever the Broncos decide to hire as the 18th head coach in club history, the team doesn't want to take a step back on the defensive side of the ball. Fangio excelled on defense but struggled to eliminate explosive games from the dynamic quarterbacks in Denver's own division.
As alien as it might sound to some fans, there's a good chance the Broncos could feel Fangio's absence come next season. Here's what Fangio did well as head coach and what the Broncos risk losing by letting him go and not hiring the right replacement.
Maximized Defensive Talent
Fangio has an excellent reputation for getting the most out of his defensive players. His most recent case came with Denver's revolving door at linebacker, as the team's corps started dropping like flies this season.
Relatively unknown players like Kenny Young, Jonas Griffith, and Steven Weatherly would get their chance in Fangio's system and thrive, playing the best ball of their respective careers. Fangio has also excelled at getting the best out of his secondary.
Two names that jump to the front of the line are safety Justin Simmons and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan. Simmons was a third-round selection in 2016 with loads of potential but was still wet behind the ears when Fangio arrived in 2019.
However, Fangio was able to take the relatively unknown player and put him in a system that Simmons could excel in all the way to becoming the highest-paid safety in the league when he garnered his multi-year extension last year. As for Callahan, Fangio was able to groom a young undrafted player into one of the NFL's best slot corners.
Red Zone Defense
The Broncos possessed a bend-don't-break defense as the defense would have trouble getting off the field on third down, but always came up big with its stingy red-zone execution. This stingy defense was vital to propping up Denver's low-scoring offense.
Fangio's red-zone dominance allowed the Broncos to stay in games they had no business being in. If Denver's offense could have clawed up to middle-of-the-pack ranking, maybe Fangio wouldn't be packing and signing a contract extension instead.
Kept Mahomes in Check
Fangio's defense did a fantastic job of keeping Patrick Mahomes from getting into the end zone. In 2020, Mahomes barely threw for 200 yards, and one touchdown threw the air in Denver's first meeting with Kansas City.
In the next matchup, Mahomes threw for a respectable 318 yards, but ultimately only scraped out one passing touchdown. In 2021, Mahomes didn't fare any better in his first matchup vs. Denver with an abysmal 184 yards and zero passing touchdowns.
In his final game against Fangio, Mahomes produced his only above-par performance of the past two seasons with 270 passing yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Fangio showed that he was more than capable of putting a premier defense on the field no matter what players he had suiting up on Sunday. But, unfortunately, he was dreadful in every other department of being a head coach.
One potential solution to keeping the defense thriving is retaining Fangio's long-trusted lieutenant in Ed Donatell. Donatell knows Fangio's scheme and could be vital in keeping Denver's defense performing at an elevated level.
However, the same could have been said for Joe Woods following the departure of Wade Phillips, and we all know how that turned out. Either way, the Broncos will need to bring in or retain a defensive guru to maximize the performance of this talented roster, or fans might be seeing Mahomes and Justin Herbert hanging 40 points on Denver in future matchups.
Follow Kenneth on Twitter @KennethMHH.
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