The Denver Broncos fired head coach Vic Fangio on Sunday.
Denver Broncos @Broncos
“George will have full authority to select the next head coach of the Broncos. This is his decision and his program.”<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Broncos?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Broncos</a> Pres./CEO Joe Ellis on parting ways with Vic Fangio: <a href="https://t.co/a6rgUrqFof">pic.twitter.com/a6rgUrqFof</a>
Denver Broncos @Broncos
“With the foundation in place, the progress that’s been made and the resources we have to get better, I’m excited about the future of our team. We will find an outstanding leader and head coach for the Broncos and our fans.”<br><br>GM George Paton on parting ways with Vic Fangio: <a href="https://t.co/P8Ztj3PUBm">pic.twitter.com/P8Ztj3PUBm</a>
Mike Klis of 9News reported offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was also fired.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero first reported the news.
Tom Pelissero @TomPelissero
The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Broncos?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Broncos</a> become the third team with a head coach vacancy, and it's an attractive one, with <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cowboys?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cowboys</a> DC Dan Quinn, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Patriots?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Patriots</a> ILB coach Jerod Mayo and <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Packers?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Packers</a> OC Nathaniel Hackett among names to watch.<br><br>Meanwhile, Vic Fangio immediately becomes a hot DC candidate.
The dismissals come after Denver lost 28-24 to the Kansas City Chiefs in its 2021 season finale. At 7-10, the Broncos missed the playoffs for the sixth straight year.
On Jan. 2, Rapoport reported that Denver hadn't yet decided on Fangio's status for 2022 but that it was "safe to say his future is firmly up in the air."
Fangio said in December he "absolutely" deserved to stay at his post for at least another season. The Broncos made some progress in 2021, especially on offense as it improved from 30th to 15th in offensive efficiency, per Football Outsiders.
Although Rapoport added that Fangio "has the respect of the building," any NFL coach with a losing record in three successive years is bound to be on shaky ground. Fans could raise legitimate questions as to his general fit as a head coach as well.
Steven Kriz @skrizPO
If Vic Fangio were only the defensive coordinator he’d be doing a pretty good job. However, he’s in charge of all 3 phases. He picked the bad OC. He’s stuck with the horrid ST coordinator. He chose the limited veteran QB and still failed to make the playoffs. He’s not it as a HC!
Fangio wasn't hired by general manager George Paton, either, so the front office may not have felt too wedded to his fate one way or the other. If Paton was willing to trade Von Miller, a Broncos icon, then a coaching change was clearly in play.
Looking forward, hiring a new head coach will almost certainly go in tandem with identifying a new starting quarterback.
Teddy Bridgewater was an improvement over Drew Lock, throwing for 3,052 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 14 starts. But the 2015 Pro Bowler has a clear ceiling as a starter, and the Lock experiment appears for all intents and purposes to be over.
Denver hasn't found a true franchise quarterback since John Elway retired after the 1998 season. Jay Cutler was the closest they came to a long-term solution, and the Broncos shipped him to the Chicago Bears in 2009.
The Athletic's Nick Kosmider posited in December that the most likely outcome is targeting a quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. A trade for an established star—much like the Broncos did with Peyton Manning in 2012—isn't out of the question, though:
"The Broncos have the draft capital and salary-cap space necessary to acquire an elite quarterback and fit his contract into the team’s financial picture. If an All-Pro talent is available, Denver will be interested. That much is a near certainty. Less certain is the availability of the quarterbacks themselves."
The fanbase will obviously be following Denver's coaching search closely, but final judgments about Fangio's replacement might be withheld until it becomes clear who will be lining up under center in the Mile High City.
For Fangio, an immediate return to the head coaching ranks is probably out of the question. His lengthy resume suggests he may not have to wait long for his next gig, though.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported Jan. 2 he is a hot commodity as a possible defensive coordinator:
"Fangio is high atop the wish list of several of the top head coaching candidates who are about to start making the rounds for interviews, league sources said, and is also coveted by several teams who do not anticipate making a head coaching change but would like to upgrade at their defensive coordinator spot if possible."
The ball might be firmly in Fangio's court as to whether he wants to take some time off or remain on an NFL coaching staff in 2022.