Kiz: What a mess. With four missed kicks, Tennessee tried to hand a victory to the Broncos on Monday night, but coach Vic Fangio refused to take it. Yeah, I get it. It’s not Uncle Vic’s fault linebacker Von Miller could be out for the season, and the coach can’t be blamed because injured receiver Courtland Sutton probably catches a ball rookie Jerry Jeudy dropped at a critical juncture of the fourth quarter. But is Fangio really any better coach than Vance Joseph, who got blamed for every Denver loss during his two seasons as coach?
O’Halloran: To use one of your favorite words, when us “knuckleheads” are able to immediately question the head coach’s decision making — and have a point! – it isn’t good. And that’s what we were able to do with Joseph in 2018. By my count, Vic had four chances to use timeouts on Tennessee’s game-winning drive. I get saving one for when the Broncos offense got the football back. What I don’t get is Vic’s rationale, mentioning Stephen Gostkowski’s three missed field goals and one botched point-after attempt and saying he didn’t want the Titans to get any closer. Huh? Yes, Gostkowski was having an all-time awful night, but he was due to connect … and he did.
Kiz: Fangio built a much more solid reputation as a defensive coordinator than Joseph ever did before being handed the job in Denver. While Vic has been known to gamble (see: win vs Raiders in December 2019), it seems to me head coaches with defensive backgrounds tend to be more conservative on game day than young offensive geniuses itching to show the NFL world how smart they are. With Miller on the shelf for the foreseeable future, maybe Vic should open up the offense and stop trying to win games 14-13.
O’Halloran: It’s interesting that one of the reasons cited for offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s firing (scape-goating?) after last year was Vic didn’t think he was aggressive enough with his play-calling. I agree coaches with a defensive background are more willing to win the trench warfare-type of games rather than see the over-under point total blown away. Vic went for it on fourth-and-goal in the second quarter (liked that decision) and as a play-caller, he is universally respected. But if things don’t work out here, it may not be his defensive scheming that costs him as much as his game management.
Kiz: Since 1983, when I began covering the Broncos for your Denver Post, I’ve seen six presidents in the White House, and nine head coaches take the blame for losses in Denver. Hey, it’s a tough gig. I can’t get this out of my head: Fangio reminds me a little of Wade Phillips, during his doomed-to-fail stint in charge of the team from 1993-94. Great coordinator, iffy head coach. Phillips went 16-16 before getting dumped after only two seasons. What can save Fangio from a similar fate?
O’Halloran: It may be up to quarterback Drew Lock and the rest of the youngsters on offense to help the Broncos scratch and claw their way to .500 and buy Vic a third year, particularly if the defense keeps losing bodies. The Fangio/Phillips comparison is interesting. Phillips was 45 when promoted to Broncos coach; Fangio was 60. But your point about lifer defensive coordinators getting a shot at the big chair and struggling is spot on. Can Fangio recover from Monday night’s debacle? The next four games — at Pittsburgh, vs. Tampa Bay, at the Jets and at New England — will crystallize that question.