Indefensible: The Broncos are running out of reasons to keep Vic Fangio around

Jan 2, 2022; Inglewood, California, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio reacts before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re one of the rare individuals still somehow trying to find a reason that Vic Fangio should remain the Broncos head coach, it feels as if your six shooter just ran out of bullets.

If there was a reason – and that’s a big if – that Vic Fangio should keep an office down at Dove Valley, it was defense. In Denver, Colorado, defense has been valued since 1977. The Orange Crush started it. The late, great Dan Reeves built teams around it. And even Peyton Manning, who was no longer able to sling it like a younger version of The Sheriff, hoisted the Lombardi for a second time because of it.

It makes sense, in Denver, to appreciate a good defense.

And since Fangio is a defensive guy, and because statistically his defense this season has been solid, it’s been reasonable (sort of) to believe that perhaps Fangio has earned the right to stick around.

His offensive coordinator, Pat Shurmur? Gone. No question. Shurmur has been awful. The Broncos offense is a recipe for a Sunday afternoon nap. In fairness to both Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater, Shurmur’s offense might make Aaron Rodgers look like Case Keenum. Shurmur is inept; even when he tries to be creative – as he did when, on fourth-and-goal on Sunday, he drew up a flea-flicker that your average sixth-grade, sandlot quarterback would have squashed – he’s a bumbling idiot.

Fangio’s special teams coordinator, Tom McMahon? Gone. Should have been gone 18 months ago, really. Nobody’s arguing that. McMahon confirmed our beliefs against the Chargers with a muffed punt and then giving up 101-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. McMahon may not be qualified to coach Valor Christian High School’s special teams, much less the Broncos. Fear not, he’ll be gone by the start of the 2022 season; even the most understanding of GMs couldn’t allow his return.

Forget for a moment that Fangio hired both Shurmur and McMahon. Forget, too, that he’s refused to fire either one; as a head coach, that’s well within his rights.

Forget – if you can close your eyes and simply imagine – that Fangio doesn’t botch a timeout or a challenge call every, single week.

Forget that Fangio handed Teddy Bridgewater – and not Drew Lock – a starting job despite being a bona fide, NFL journeyman. Lock isn’t the answer, but to suggest that he’s “worse” than Bridgewater is silly.

Instead, think about that latest iteration of the Orange Crush – the vaunted Vic Fangio defense.

Fangio has gotten so good at throwing anyone and everyone – other than his defense – under the bus, that there are those who believe that Fangio a winning head coach if he just had a better offensive coordinator, a better quarterback, a better special teams coordinator, a better COVID-19 tester guy, a better…

…everything but his defense.

And you know, they probably spend too much time on the field anyway, because that darn offense can’t stay on the field.

“I thought (Drew Lock) had some good throws and made some good reads,” Fangio squirmed following the game. “We cannot seem to find a rhythm and a consistency in our offense to keep our drives sustained, or make first downs to eventually get us touchdowns.”

Translation: Lock, who ironically had a respectable rating of 116.3, wasn’t good enough to help out Ol’ Uncle Vic’s D; Pat Shurmur, who Fangio hired, was even worse. It’s never really Fangio’s fault; just ask him.

Still, against the Chargers, a good but not great offense, Fangio’s defense wasn’t worth a darn anyway. Oh, don’t be fooled – that 34 points isn’t really “accurate” because McMahon’s special teams gave up that kick return. Okay, call it 27. And then there was that muffed punt that resulted in another easy touchdown. Call it 20. Well, they could have held them to a field goal; call it 23.

Plus, the Broncos only scored 13. C’mon, Pat.

If only Vic Fangio could catch a break.

Yes, the Chargers weren’t dynamic, opting for field goals instead of touchdowns – well knowing Shurmur couldn’t overcome a 10-point lead if his life depended on it. Besides, the Chargers won the time of possession battle by about 30 seconds. If all things are even – your offense, their offense, your defense, their defense – that’s fine. But, that’s not the case. The Broncos are “better” in zero areas, generally speaking – except maybe defense.

Fangio’s defense is not that much better, thought. In fact, it’s good but not great. And that’s not good enough.

Fangio is so inept as a head coach, that his defense would have to be beyond special in order to justify retaining him as the CEO of the Broncos messy organization. If his defense was truly great, it would mask the shortcomings of everything else – his offense, his game and clock management, his terrible hires.

It’s not. Not even close.

Perhaps the “rest” of the Broncos put the defense in a tough spot against the Chargers. But 34 points is 34 points. The ’85 Bears surrendered that only once (they moved from 12-0 to 12-1 when they lost 38-24 to a Dan Marino-led Dolphins). The 2000 Ravens gave up 36 in Week 2 to the Jags and still managed to win. The 2015 Broncos allowed 34 against the Steelers in December, just a few weeks before winning the Super Bowl.

Fangio’s defense has given up plenty of big numbers: 27 to the aging Steelers in Week 5; 34 to the Raiders – in Denver – in Week 6; 30 to the (9-7) Eagles in Week 10; and now 34 to Chargers who aren’t yet a lock for the postseason.

Despite the fact that George Paton opened up the checkbook, allowing Fangio to buy whatever defensive toy he deemed necessary, the Broncos defense is anything but special. It’s a bend-but-don’t-break unit that bends too much and breaks when Denver can afford it least.

And because that’s the case, there’s absolutely no reason to keep Fangio around.

At 7-9 and going nowhere, hanging onto Vic Fangio is indefensible.

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