On Monday, NBC Sports' Patrick Daugherty unveiled his 2021 NFL Head Coach (Power?) Rankings. The results confirmed an uncomfortable truth residing in the hearts and minds of Denver Broncos fans the world over.
As a direct consequence of back-to-back losing seasons, there is real merit to the argument that in head coach Vic Fangio, the Broncos lack a leader who has proven he can cut the mustard, especially when juxtaposed among the league’s elite coaches.
While Daugherty was entirely correct to note the quality of coaching depth in the top NFL jobs, it came as a concern to see that only Cincinnati's Zac Taylor ranked lower than Fangio. Fangio checked in No. 24 out of the current crop of 25 head coaches (seven newly-hired head coaches didn't qualify).
24. Vic Fangio, Broncos
Career Record: 12-20 (.375)
With The Broncos Since: 2019
Last Year’s Ranking: 22
There hasn’t been much Vic Fangio could do about the past two seasons. And much he has not done, limping to a 12-20 record as he waits on reinforcements from the front office. They arrived in the skill groups last season, just not under center, wasting the replenishing of the pass-catching coffers. On his own side of the ball, Fangio has had some players to work with, but they are under unrelenting pressure from the lack of production on offense. They’ve also been hurt, with Bradley Chubb missing most of 2019 and Von Miller missing all of 2020. With a healthy Miller and Chubb joining forces with an overhauled secondary, Fangio will be in defensive business for Year 3. Whether he gets a Year 4 is entirely dependent on Teddy Bridgewater finding another gear or Drew Lock making a third-year leap. Neither development is terribly likely. 62-year-old Fangio’s first head coaching gig is having the feel of the wrong place at the wrong time, though he is a good enough defensive mind that he could change his own fortunes with even slightly improved quarterback play.
Fangio’s 12-20 record in the Mile High City speaks for itself. After being ranked a No. 22 on last year’s list, Fangio's slide further down sets off alarm bells regarding his job security should he fail to deliver a plus-.500 season for the Broncos.
As condemning as this lowly ranking is for Fangio, the epidemic of injuries to key players like Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, and Von Miller over his two seasons in charge have been unfortunate. Daugherty acknowledged that poor quarterback play has also blighted Fangio's time at the helm, but with the less-than-ideal, but well-traveled, Teddy Bridgewater now battling incumbent starter Drew Lock, that bothersome trend might well continue.
Barring a fantasy football-type trade for disgruntled NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers, chances are, Fangio will have to call on all his defensive wizardry to coax the utmost out of a talented bunch of defenders that new GM George Paton has put together for him.
While the Broncos' rookie GM has assembled perhaps the league's deepest and most talented cornerback unit, much will still depend on Fangio activating a plan that allows the team to dominate on defense.
That being said, failing to deliver on such potential, even if the QB inconsistencies persist, may well see the 62-year-old back in the assistant coaching ranks in 2022, especially if injuries to key players once again torment the Broncos.
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithC_NFL.
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