Broncos head coach Vic Fangio isn’t the only one in “win now” mode
12-20. That’s the Broncos record during the Vic Fangio era. In two seasons, Fangio has never led his team to a victory in the month of September, either. He’s 0-7 in the opening month of the season. This time, it’s put up or shut up for Vic Fangio and his staff.
John Elway and the Broncos front office decided to hire a new general manager after Elway got a promotion. Denver then hired George Paton to take over the reins of the Broncos to hopefully lead Denver back to the promised land.
Usually when a general manager gets hired, he has the ability to bring in his own head coach. But this time, the head coach was part of the general manager search. Once the Broncos hired Paton, it was clear Fangio was going to get another season to remain as the head coach of the Broncos. Now, Fangio must find a way to win and it has to happen this year.
Last season, Fangio’s Broncos finished with a 5-11 record, but had many obstacles to overcome during the pandemic. Fangio brought in a new offensive coordinator for his young quarterback. Fangio was also forced to play three different quarterbacks, plus by a wide receiver in Kendall Hinton because of COVID-19 rules. Denver also didn’t have a very deep roster for Fangio and his defense.
Last year, the Broncos had zero depth in their secondary in which they were forced to sign players off other teams’ practice squads to then start on Sundays. Fangio also lost his top pass rusher in Von Miller and top wide receiver in Courtland Sutton due to season-ending injuries. Bryce Callahan also missed six games last season.
Paton went ahead and added needed depth to the secondary by signing Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby at the cornerback position. Paton also re-signed Justin Simmons as one of the top-paid safeties in football and brought back Kareem Jackson on a one-year, reduced-salary deal. Then in the draft, Paton selected the best cornerback available in Patrick Surtain to add to the Denver secondary.
Entering the 2021 season, Fangio’s team is back and healthy with an improved offensive line, a rebuilt secondary, and a new quarterback that he approves after a quarterback battle. If Fangio wants to remain as the head coach of the Broncos for the long-term, he needs to win now because of what’s going to happen next year.
Many people believe this Broncos roster can win double-digit games and possibly surprise the world by making the playoffs. The issue after the season, however, is that many players on this roster are going to be headed to free agency.
If this team doesn’t win this season, players that are going to be free agents are not going to want to stay. On defense, Von Miller, Malik Reed, Kyle Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson, Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell are all expected to become free agents. That leaves just six starters who are guaranteed to be on the roster in a year – Bradley Chubb, Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones, Ronald Darby, Justin Simmons and Mike Purcell.
Just like that, Denver would lose both of their starting linebackers, two of their best pass rushers and the secondary will be cut in half.
On the offensive side of the ball, Teddy Bridgewater, Melvin Gordon, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Bobby Massie, and Calvin Anderson could all become free agents. Guard Graham Glasgow has an option and could be a free agent next offseason, as well.
This means, Denver could lose the quarterback who is going to be this year’s Week 1 starter, along with their Week 1 running back. With young wide receivers in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler, Denver could let Sutton walk, depending on how he plays this season. Tim Patrick might be the No. 4 wide receiver on this roster and could sign somewhere else to get more playing time. Once again, Denver could be looking for another right tackle and right guard depending on how the season goes.
Paton didn’t have a chance to make a head-coach decision this season, but if this team doesn’t win enough this season, players are not going to want to re-sign with the Denver organization. Next year, John Elway and Joe Ellis won’t be breathing down Paton’s neck with their contracts expiring and likely won’t be back. Next season, Paton will continue to rebuild this roster and might be looking for another quarterback.
It’s pretty simple for Vic Fangio. He’s been given a healthy and talented roster that can win now. If he doesn’t, he’s going to be packing his bags looking for another coaching job in the NFL.
If that happens, a lot of other Broncos could be leaving town with him.