It was perhaps the soundbite of the week. During Vic Fangio’s weekly press conference he faced a barrage of questions focusing on his future as the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
For the most part, he did an admirable job of deflecting the big issue of his job security. His insistence that he’s not concerned about his direct job status and only about the task at-hand of trying to beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
“I don’t [worry], and I know you think that’s a standard answer, but for a lot of reasons I do not worry about it,” Fangio said. “Those reasons are personal for me, but do I acknowledge that it’s certainly out there and could happen—absolutely. Do I worry about it? I absolutely do not worry about it for many, many reasons.”
That’s when Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press asked the question that made everyone within earshot pause at what they heard.
Stapleton asked Fangio if he thought he and his staff deserved a fourth year in Denver. With an arrogance that has been unjustified time and time again from Fangio, the head coach didn’t hesitate when giving his answer.
“Absolutely, just the direct short answer there—absolutely,” he said.
History doesn’t really agree with him. A look at NFL coaches since 2000, reveals that Fangio’s numbers are not in line with coaches that traditionally get a shot at a fourth season. Instead, they’re in line with 16 coaches in the last 20 or so years that have been fired after just three seasons with their teams.
The two most important figures to look at in this situation is overall wins and losses as well as third-year wins and losses. Seeing where Fangio compares to the averages of coaches who lasted just three years is a solid way to predict whether or not Fangio will be retained after this season.
To further gauge his chances of coming back, coaches who returned for a fourth (and only a fourth) season were also looked at.
Fangio’s time with the Broncos has been less than stellar. His 7-9 record his first season was thanks in part to a solid five-game debut stretch of quarterback Drew Lock. The rookie threw for 1,020 yards, seven touchdowns and just three interceptions in that time and gave hope for fans moving forward.
Fangio’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello and hire Pat Shurmur in 2020 has turned out to be a disastrous season. The offense has been uninspired and wins have been tough to come by since then. Despite a move to Teddy Bridgewater to start the 2021, Fangio’s resumé just hasn’t been one that Broncos fans have been happy with. The front office shouldn’t be happy either.
|WINS||LOSSES||3RD YEAR WINS||3RD YEAR LOSSES|
Research of each NFL team going back to the 2000 season has shown 16 coaches that have lasted three seasons before getting fired before their fourth. This paints a clear picture of the odds Fangio is facing at receiving a fourth season.
|TEAM||COACH||WINS||LOSSES||FINAL YEAR WINS||FINAL YEAR LOSSES||PLAYOFF APPERANCES|
|Arizona Cardinals||David McGinnis||16||32||4||12||0|
|Atlanta Falcons||Jim Mora Jr.||26||22||7||9||1|
|Buffalo Bills||Chan Gailey||16||32||6||10||0|
|Carolina Panthers||George Seifert||16||32||1||15||0|
|Chicago Bears||John Fox||14||34||5||11||0|
|Dallas Cowboys||Dave Campo||15||33||5||11||0|
|Indianapolis Colts||Jim Caldwell||26||22||2||14||2|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Herm Edwards||15||33||2||14||1|
|Las Vegas Raiders||Jack Del Rio||25||23||6||10||1|
|Los Angeles Rams||Steve Spagnuolo||10||38||2||14||0|
|Miami Dolphins||Adam Gase||23||25||7||9||1|
|Minnesota Vikings||Leslie Frazier||18||29||5||10||1|
|New York Jets||Eric Mangini||23||25||9||7||1|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Chip Kelly||26||21||6||9||1|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Dirk Koetter||19||29||5||11||0|
|Tennessee Titans||Mike Munchak||22||26||7||9||0|
|AVG WINS||AVG LOSSES||AVG 3RD YEAR WINS||AVG 3RD YEAR LOSSES||TOTAL PLAYOFF APPEARANCES|
Of these 16 coaches, four of them finished with overall winning records with their teams. Fangio has no shot of finishing with a career coaching record over .500 after this season and will fall at least seven games shy of that mark.
It’s clear that Fangio is not the best head coach of this bunch, but he’s not the worst either. Steve Spagnuolo and Dave Campo were atrocious in their three years with their respective teams.
The one thing Fangio does have going for him his seven wins this season. Of the 16 coaches listed, only four of them were fired after winning more than six games. The average win/loss record of a coach fired after three years is 5-11 so there is certainly hope for Fangio in that regard.
But the bigger issue is that his cumulative win/loss record is hovering right around the average of these 16 coaches who get canned after three years. If looking at the bigger sample size, it’s likely the overall numbers won’t save Fangio’s job. Especially when factoring in that half of these coaches made it to the playoffs at least once, something Fangio has yet to do.
The numbers aren’t any more in his favor when looking at coaches that have been retained for a fourth season, only to sputter out. In the same timeline as analyzed above, eight coaches have been retained for a fourth season. The results don’t get a whole lot better as embattled coaches go an average of 4-9 in that fourth year, meaning teams realize their mistake all too often and move on from those coaches mid-season.
|TEAM||COACH||3-YEAR WINS||3-YEAR LOSSES||3RD YEAR WINS||3RD YEAR LOSSES||4TH YEAR WINS||4TH YEAR LOSSES||PLAYOFF APPEARANCES|
|Cleveland Browns||Romeo Crennel||20||28||10||6||4||12||0|
|Dallas Cowboys||Wade Phillips||33||15||11||5||1||7||2|
|Los Angeles Chargers||Anthony Lynn||26||22||5||11||7||9||1|
|Miami Dolphins||Joe Phiilbin||23||25||8||8||1||3||0|
|Minnesota Vikings||Mike Tice||23||25||8||8||9||7||1|
|New York Jets||Todd Bowles||20||28||5||11||4||12||0|
|San Francisco 49ers||Mike Nolan||16||32||5||11||2||5||0|
|Washington Football Team||Mike Shanahan||21||27||10||6||3||13||1|
|AVG 3-YEAR WINS||AVG 3-YEAR LOSSES||AVG 3RD YEAR WINS||AVG 3RD YEAR LOSSES||AVG 4TH YEAR WINS||AVG 4TH YEAR LOSSES||TOTAL PLAYOFF APPEARANCES|
Only one coach who gets a fourth year in this group can have more losses than Fangio and that’s Mike Nolan and the 49ers would probably say it was a mistake to not move on from him after his third year.
If the Broncos win the last two games of the season, Fangio will total 21 wins which still puts him under the average of number of wins a coach needs to come back for a fourth year.
There are several things that fans and scribes can point to as reasons to move on and go another direction. He manages games poorly. Fans groan in unison when he tosses a challenge flag on the field.
But the Fangio tenure can come down to one simple fact: He doesn’t win enough. His career totals as a coach are right on line with coaches that get fired after just three seasons.
So while Fangio has no problem saying that he has “absolutely” done enough to warrant a fourth season, history is stepping in and saying absolutely not.