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Denver Broncos hire Vic Fangio as head coach

Denver Broncos GM John Elway bucked the league trend of hiring a hot, young coordinator by selecting a hot, mature coordinator.
Credit: KUSA
Vic Fangio introduced as the 17th head coach in Broncos history on Thursday, January 10, 2019 in Englewood, Colo.

KUSA – The Broncos are hiring Vic Fangio to become their next head coach, team sources told 9NEWS.

The Broncos and Fangio have reached agreement on a four-year contract with a fifth-year option. Fangio flew in from Chicago to Denver and arrived at the Broncos' UCHealth Training Center headquarters around 3:30 p.m. His introduction press conference with local media will occur Thursday.

Fangio, who finished his 32nd season as an NFL coach and 19th as defensive coordinator, is getting his first chance as a head coach at the age of 60.

Credit: KUSA
Vic Fangio introduced as the 17th head coach in Broncos history on Thursday, January 10, 2019 in Englewood, Colo.

Elway considered Fangio an ideal fit for the Broncos because of his attention to detail, disciplined coaching approach and flat-out, high-caliber expertise. It was clear Elway wanted an experienced coach to lead his team. Fangio is also considered a superior Xs and Os defensive coach both in terms of scheme and play calling and is coming off a season as Chicago Bears’ defensive coordinator in which his unit ranked No. 1 in scoring with 17.7 points allowed per game.

He beat out Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line coach Mike Munchak and three other candidates for the right to succeed Vance Joseph as the Broncos’ head coach.

Joseph was fired last week after posting an 11-21 record the previous two seasons with the Broncos.

Fangio will become the fourth head coach Elway has hired since he became the Broncos’ general manager in 2011. Elway’s head coaches: John Fox (2011), Gary Kubiak (2015), Joseph (2017) and now Fangio.

Kubiak resigned as head coach following the 2016 season because of health reasons but he will return this season as offensive coordinator, a team source confirmed to 9NEWS. Team sources had said through the head coach interview process Kubiak would take on a broader offensive coaching role, but would not become coordinator because of his past health problems with debilitating headaches. 

However, Kubiak has assured Fangio and Elway that he will be fine.

Elway organized his search around five candidates: Chuck Pagano, the Boulder native who served as the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach from 2012-17; Los Angeles Rams’ quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor; New England defensive play-caller Brian Flores; Munchak and Fangio.

9NEWS reported Tuesday morning that Munchak and Fangio were the two finalists. Elway took his time to deliberate between the two before picking Dunmore over Scranton – the Northeastern, Pennsylvania hometowns of Fangio and Munchak, respectively, that are 3 miles apart.

In Fangio, Elway went with maturity, experience and someone known as one of the NFL’s best 3-4 defensive coaches. As a head coach, though, Fangio is a 60-year-old rookie.

Not even back in 1979 with Dunmore High School in Pennsylvania (Fangio's high school head coach, Jack Henzes, is still Dunmore's head coach, although Henzes recently missed his 52nd season to recover from a heart procedure) or 1982 with Milford Academy in Connecticut did Fangio get a chance to run the show.

Fangio has been in charge of several defensive units over the years, including his current job with the Bears, who just suffered a heartbreaking, 16-15 defeat to Philadelphia in a first-round NFC playoff game Sunday when Cody Parkey’s mid-range field goal attempt clanked off two goal posts.

Credit: KUSA
Denver Broncos CEO Joe Ellis introduces Vic Fangio as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos on January 10, 2019 in Englewood, Colo.

Fangio has also been a defensive coordinator for the expansion Carolina Panthers, the Indianapolis Colts, the expansion Houston Texans, Stanford – where a certain Broncos’ GM is an alum – the San Francisco 49ers and Bears. Fangio also worked two years with Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh, who has a close working relationship with Kubiak.

So why did it take Fangio 40 years in the coaching business before he finally got his chance at head coach? The perception grew that he while he was a great football coach, he did not have the type of personality to handle the extracurricular activities that come being a head coach.

Elway disagrees. Sources told 9NEWS the Broncos will not retain offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and Joe Woods will not be the team's defensive coordinator. Woods received permission Wednesday to interview with other teams. Former Broncos' offensive line coach Sean Kugler has already taken a job with Tampa Bay.

Joseph is awaiting word from the Cincinnati Bengals on their head coach opening and he may have a couple options to become a defensive coordinator.

Broncos' special teams coordinator Tom McMahon would seem to be safe although Fangio is tight with Joe Marciano, a longtime special teams coorindator who was just let go by the Detroit Lions. Marciano is from Fangio's hometown of Dunmore.

Kubiak has long been tied to Rick Dennison, who has been a longtime offensive line coach and run-game coordinator.

But the big news among coaching assistants is after all those years as one of the league's best, Fangio finally found a man to give him a chance at the top job in Elway. 

The Broncos’ search committee of Elway, his right-hand man Matt Russell, public relations boss Patrick Smyth and administrative director Mark Thewes waited 48 hours on the road to interview Fangio -- between Flores’ interview Saturday morning in Providence. R.I. and their session Monday morning with the Bears’ defensive coordinator.

Credit: KUSA
Denver Broncos General Manager John Elway introduces Vic Fangio as Broncos head coach on January 10, 2019 in Englewood, Colo.

Fangio may not look at it this way, but it probably didn't hurt that his Bears lost a tough one to Philly in the playoff opener Sunday night. That made Fangio immediately available for hire as head coach. Had the Bears won, the Broncos would not have been able to hire Fangio for at least another week – a delay that might have cost them invaluable time in putting together an assistant coaching staff.

After interviewing with the Broncos in Lake Forest, Ill. on Monday morning, Fangio returned to the Bears’ Halas Hall headquarters to conduct his annual exit interviews with his players – as all NFL coaches do the day after the season.

Elway, though, was waiting around until Fangio completed his daily work with the Bears before making dinner plans to get to know his candidate better. Elway and Fangio broke bread at an Italian restaurant in Lake Forest. Elway and his committee then flew back to Centennial on Monday evening and he spent all day Tuesday deliberating before deciding late Tuesday night he would give Fangio his first head coaching job.

In all of Elway's head coach searches, the final candidate interviewed got the job: Fox in 2011, Kubiak in 2015 and Joseph in 2017 and Fangio in 2019.

For all the talk about the NFL moving toward the new-age offense and innovative young minds, the two most consistently successful head coaches are Bill Belichick, 66, and Pete Carroll, 67. Andy Reid, of the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, is 60. And now Fangio, who will turn 61 about the time the Broncos play their third preseason game this year, gets his chance.