Sometimes it’s hard for a coach to know when he’s entering a make-or-break season, but Denver Broncos head man Vic Fangio should be heading into the 2021 NFL season with a “win now or else” mentality.
There isn’t as much patience today for development and mediocrity as there was 10 to 20 years ago, and coaches need to deliver results as quickly as they possibly can.
During his first two years coaching the team, the Broncos finished 7-9 and 5-11, respectively, which is not going to get it done.
Let’s take a closer look at three reasons why Fangio is coaching for his job in 2021.
In case anyone wanted to know what Vic Fangio looks like in a shirt/tie and not a gray Bears sweatsuit pic.twitter.com/qgbu4q02tV
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) January 10, 2019
3. New Management
Although former Broncos quarterback and Denver legend John Elway is not relinquishing his title as president of football operations, he is taking a step back as the primary decision maker with regards to on-field evaluation and hiring.
Elway brought on former Minnesota Vikings executive George Paton to slide in as the Broncos’ new general manager, who reportedly will have wide ranging latitude to improve the team as he sees fit.
It was Elway who was responsible for hiring Fangio as head coach back in 2019, which might place the 62-year-old back in “prove-it” mode in 2021.
Looking to make his own mark on the franchise, Paton might not hesitate to part ways with Fangio if the team starts off slowly.
2. A Talented Offense On Paper
Back in the day (which is at least 15 or 20 years ago), starting a highly-drafted rookie quarterback meant that the head coach bought himself at least three to five years at the helm.
Neophyte signal-callers would need time to develop, and organizations were not expected to compete for a playoff spot while young quarterbacks found their way in the league.
Unfortunately for quarterbacks and coaches alike, that luxury is no longer afforded.
Even though Fangio doesn’t cut his teeth on the offensive side of the ball, Denver has invested significant capital there, and will be expected to be in most games.
Even if Drew Lock is not the reason the offense succeeds, getting the ball into the hands of playmakers like Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler, Noah Fant, and Melvin Gordon should be enough to keep them competitive.
Fangio will need to have that group motivated and ready to go from day one.
1. An Underwhelming Defensive Performance
As touched on above, Fangio has spent the vast majority of his time in the NFL running defenses, and doing a pretty good job of it.
Prior to his hiring as Broncos head coach, he was a defensive coordinator for 19 years with the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, and Chicago Bears.
In particular, his last two stints with San Francisco and Chicago got him noticed as a viable head coaching candidate.
So far with Denver, Fangio’s defenses haven’t exactly dominated the line of scrimmage or worried opposing offenses too much.
Last season, Denver finished 24th in the league in points per game allowed, after finishing 10th in that category in 2019.
The Broncos have one of the league's best defenses on paper and we know Vic Fangio can maximize talent:
DT- D Jones/Harris/Purcell/Williams
ED – V Miller/Chubb/M Reed
LB – A Johnson/Jewell
CB – K Fuller/Callahan/Darby
S – Simmons/K Jackson
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) March 23, 2021
The loss of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller due to injury certainly contributed to the drop-off, but Fangio cannot afford to have his specialty unit perform at a subpar clip in 2021.