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  • As nearly every other NFL team makes young, offensive-minded hires at head coach, Denver goes the opposite, hiring a longtime defensive coordinator (most recently for Chicago) in Fangio.
By Jonathan Jones
January 09, 2019

As the NFL head coaches get younger, the Denver Broncos decided to get older. And maybe that’s not a bad thing, after all.

Current Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has been hired as next head coach of the Broncos. At 60 years old and after serving as a defensive coordinator in the league for 19 years, he will be the oldest first-time head coach roaming the sidelines when the 2019 season kicks off.

The age thing doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter. Sure, he’s old enough to be Matt LaFleur or Kliff Kingsbury’s dad, but that’s not the reason this is an interesting hire. Fangio represents the first defensive-minded coach to get a head-coaching job during this hiring cycle after one-fourth of the league canned their coaches and mostly started looking for ‘The Next Sean McVay.’

Zigging while everyone else zags, the Broncos sought a general in Fangio who could run his defense, leaving the offense to Gary Kubiak and everything else up to John Elway as Denver looks to snap its three-season playoff-less streak.

Fangio beat out Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak for the job on Wednesday, reinforcing the belief that Elway very much wants total control over getting this team’s offense back on track. Kubiak, the former Broncos coach who led them to Super Bowl 50 before retiring, was likely always going to be forced upon the next Denver head coach (and for good reason). It also seems likely that Fangio will call the defensive plays in at least his first year, with whomever he names as defensive coordinator getting the title in name only.

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Elway has famously been unable to figure out his franchise’s quarterback since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season. His offenses have ranked in the bottom half of the league in each of the past three seasons, and in 2018 the 6–10 Broncos were 24th in points scored. Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum were all next in a line of quarterbacks not named Manning that Elway failed to win with, and the inability to get the position right factored into Vance Joseph’s firing after just two years as head coach.

Fangio gets the job after his Bears finished tops in the league in points allowed and third in yards allowed in 2018. He took over a Chicago defense that was 31st in points allowed in 2014, the year before his arrival, and in three years turned the Bears into the ninth-best scoring defense in the league.

Since 2011, Fangio has never had a defense rank in the bottom half of the league in points or yards allowed. In six of his past nine seasons as coordinator for the 49ers and Bears, Fangio has seen his defenses finish in the top 10 in both of those categories.

Expect the Broncos to stick with their 3-4 defense. Kubiak and Elway will spend the next two months figuring out if they can endure another season with Keenum or go back to the land of free agency.

And if the Broncos can’t eventually get back on track with Fangio in charge, Elway, having taken the road less traveled in the 2019 coaching cycle and in total control, should start to worry about his own job security.

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