KUSA – It took him more than 60 years on earth, 40 years as a football coach and 32 years as an NFL assistant, but Vic Fangio is getting his best chance yet to become a head coach.
It’s the Denver Broncos who are giving Fangio a serious look after giving him a formal interview Monday morning with the John Elway-led head coach search committee near the Chicago Bears’ headquarters in Lake Forest, Ill. Fangio will also have a private dinner with Elway on Monday night in the Chicagoland area.
Not even back in 1979 with Dunmore High School in Pennsylvania or 1982 with Milford Academy in Connecticut did Fangio get a chance to run the show. He’s been in charge of defensive units plenty of years, including his current job with the Chicago 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 tumbled on the wrong side of victory.
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 was a candidate for 49ers' head coach in 2015, but the job surprisingly went to offensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who was fired after one season. Fangio's top competition this time may also be an offensive line coach -- Mike Munchak.
Fangio has also worked two years with Baltimore Ravens’ head coach John Harbaugh, who has a close working relationship with Gary Kubiak, who will become a Broncos’ top offensive coach this year, if not its coordinator.
After all those years as a top assistant, Fangio is getting a legitimate look as a head man now. His dinner today with Elway may be the most important bread-breaking event of his career.
There are signs pointing to Fangio emerging as a possible favorite ahead of four other candidates the Broncos have already interviewed – former Indianapolis Colts’ head coach and Boulder-native Chuck Pagano; Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor; Muchak, Steelers’ offensive line coach; and Patriots’ defensive play-caller Brian Flores.
First, 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.
The Broncos’ committee spent one night in Boston, and the next in Chicagoland area. After slamming through four interviews in four days while travelling from coast-to-coast, Elway and his committee members took a break to gather their thoughts, discuss the candidates and compare notes, stats and resumes.
Still, the committee would not have gone through the prolonged business trip if it didn't think Fangio was a serious candidate.
Secondly, when the Bears lost a tough one to Philly in the playoff opener Sunday night, it made Fangio immediately available for hire. 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.
Third, the Miami Dolphins cancelled their interview Monday with Fangio. It was Broncos-or-bust for Fangio.
Fourth, the Broncos’ private plane, initially scheduled to leave the Wheeling, Ill. airport at noon, was pushed back to a 5:30 p.m. Chicago time takeoff. After his interview with the Broncos on Monday morning, Fangio had to return 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 also had private dinners with Pagano and Munchak following their formal interviews at Broncos’ headquarters. (Munchak is considered another candidate drawing serious consideration).
Fangio is the only “road interview” who will get to break bread with Elway but then again Taylor, who interviewed with the Broncos near Van Nuys, Calif., and Flores had playoff constraints. Taylor’s Rams and Flores’ Pats are both hosting second-round playoff games this weekend.
Fangio was not planning to fly back to Denver with Elway and the Broncos’ search committee on Monday evening, but dinner could change things.
One more sign pointing toward Fangio: In Elway’s previous three head coach searches, the final candidate interviewed got the job: John Fox in 2011, Gary Kubiak in 2015 and Vance Joseph in 2017. Fangio is the last of five candidates this time. Then again, Fangio could not be interviewed until Monday because the Bears were playing in a first-round game.
If Fangio is hired, the Broncos are expected to retain many of their offensive assistant coaches: Zach Azzanni (receivers), Curtis Modkins (running backs), Chris Strausser (offensive tackles), Sean Kugler (guards and centers) and Klint Kubiak (assistant quarterbacks).
The Broncos are not expected to bring back offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. The status of tight ends coach Geep Chryst and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan is unknown.
On the defensive side, Fangio as head coach would mean Joe Woods would not be expected to return as defensive coordinator, but defensive line coach Bill Kollar is expected to return. The status of linebackers’ coach Reggie Herring and defensive backs coaches Marcus Robertson and Greg Williams is unclear.
Special teams coordinator Tom McMahon is expected back.
The strength and conditioning staff led by Loren Landow is also expected to return.
At 66, Kollar would still be the Broncos’ oldest coach, but his gap would close as Fangio will turn 61 in August.