Vic Fangio explains why Broncos discontinued 'rookie haircuts' hazing tradition
There's a new sheriff in the Mile High City.
Some call him 'Don Fangio', others know him as 'the Godfather' or 'the Wizard' of football.
The Denver Broncos call him Vic Fangio — the 17th head coach in team history. Fangio was hired this past January to replace Vance Joseph, who had been fired by GM John Elway on the Monday following the 2018 season finale.
Fangio arrived to a football culture in a shambles. Under the Joseph regime, the Broncos had plummeted to depths unseen in Denver since the early 1970's.
In his two full seasons as head coach, Joseph presided over back-to-back losing seasons, dropping 21 of 32 possible games. The depredations led to a botched and broken team with the culture in severe need of uplifting and rebranding.
Fangio has already began the process of reviving the Broncos and so far, the proof has been in the pudding. Fangio's 'death by inches' ethos has permeated every aspect of the team's football operations.
The Broncos are now a team that will not cut any corners, or let the little things slide. One aspect of Denver's locker room tradition that Fangio saw no merit or utility in was the yearly 'rookie haircuts' hazing ritual, in which the veterans would line up to carve up the hairdo of their new, young teammates, leading to humiliating results, even if temporary.
Tim Tebow's 'Friar Tuck' haircut procured via the ritual back in 2010 is a good example of how hazing can go awry.
With the Broncos completing their 17th practice of training camp, Fangio explained the logic behind his decision to put the kybosh on the 'rookie haircuts' hazing.
“I just don’t think it’s right. I just don’t believe in hazing," Fangio said on Tuesday. "There are traditions that stay put. Guys are getting up in front of the team and doing a little skit every night. Maybe a rookie’s carrying somebody’s pads off the field and so on or bringing in the donuts or the breakfast, but nothing physical.”
Only time will tell how much of a difference this particular change will make on the product on the field. America's view on hazing rituals has changed in recent years, but listening to Fangio, he's never been a fan of it.
It's not difficult to understand why. In terms of breeding camaraderie and unity, eliminating the physical humiliation of rookies should only bolster the positive aspects of team building. Or at least, I'm sure, that's the thought.
Hazing is for college. This is the NFL.
The league is full of grown men, not college kids, with bills to pay, families to support and contracts to fulfill. Dispensing with a meaningless hazing ritual is a good thing.
Fangio understands optics and symbolism and what that can mean in terms of outside perception. On the final day in which fans could attend training camp, Fangio joined Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in the pre-practice claps. A player-fan ritual.
“I just said, ‘Hey, let’s go do it," Fangio said on Tuesday.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.