Vic Fangio is saving his scapegoats for the end of the Broncos season
It was supposed to be “playoffs or bust” this season for the Broncos. Anything short of that goal would mean a move to rebuild mode, as George Paton would then be given the opportunity to start fresh, bringing in his own people.
The Broncos general manager gave Vic Fangio and Company everything they needed to save their hides. He provided the defensive-minded head coach with the most-expensive defense in the NFL. He let him play a veteran quarterback instead of having to try to develop a young QB. And he provided him with a host of solid newcomers through a solid draft, key free-agent acquisitions and savvy trades.
Most likely, the results are going to be just short. After Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, the Broncos appear destined to finish 8-9 or 9-8, on the outside looking in for a postseason berth.
That will put them squarely in no man’s land. They will have improved from last year’s 5-11 debacle, but they will also have missed the playoffs in each of Fangio’s three seasons.
The fan base will be screaming for change. They’ll be demanding that something be done to end the streak of missing the postseason.
Broncos Country already is asking for heads to roll. After another disappointing effort in a critical game, where many of the problems that have plagued the team during the Fangio era once again reared their ugly head, they’re begging for accountability.
None has come. No one has been fired or reassigned. No one has been benched or released. It’s just business as usual at Dove Valley.
All of which begs a question: Why?
Think what you will of Fangio, but he isn’t dumb. And he isn’t blind.
He’s actually the opposite. He’s calculated. He’s conniving. He’s a survivor.
Fangio can see the handwriting on the wall. He knows that he’s about to become a head coach who hasn’t made the playoffs in his first three seasons at the helm. He know that he’ll be asked for an explanation.
The head coach is plotting his defense. One of the all-time greats at pointing the finger of blame is readying himself to chuck others under the bus.
A clue of this emerged on Monday. Mike Klis of 9News posted a tweet that sheds light on how the Broncos are going to position things at the end of the season.
Say what you want about Fangio but, goodness he hasn't had a chance.
Broncos point totals vs. KC since start of 2019:
6, 3, 16, 16, 9.
Fewest points vs KC among AFC West since 2019:
— Mike Klis (@mikeklis) December 7, 2021
Of course, this ignores the fact that Fangio is responsible for more than just the defense. He’s the Broncos head coach. He’s ultimately in charge of the offense and special teams, as well.
But that won’t be the storyline. That won’t be the spin at the end of the season.
Instead, it will be all about how Fangio’s defense did their job. They played their part well. It was everyone else that let the team down.
That will allow Fangio to make others the scapegoat. Or scapegoats.
Pat Shurmur will be relieved of his duties. The offensive coordinator will be blamed for the Broncos ineptitude on offense.
Tom McMahon will be sent packing. The special teams coordinator will be held responsible for Denver’s repeated failures in that phase of the game.
And Teddy Bridgewater will probably be shown the door. The quarterback will be offered as a primary reason why the Broncos couldn’t get over the hump.
They’ll all be sacrificed. All in the name of saving Fangio’s job.
The team will point out to their strong defensive performances against the Cowboys, Chargers and Chiefs as evidence that they should stay the course on that side of the ball. They’ll argue that keeping the defensive mastermind who stymied Dak Prescott, Justin Herbert and Patrick Mahomes is the prudent course of action.
The spin will be in. Fangio wasn’t the problem. In fact, he was the one thing that prevented the season from being a total disaster. Without his defense, the Broncos woeful offense and special teams units would’ve led to a 4- or 5-win season.
Why haven’t there been any changes at Dove Valley? Because sacrificing them now would mean there’d be no one to blame later.
Vic Fangio is saving his scapegoats for Jan. 10. That’s when he’ll point the finger of blame.