Fangio, 63, finished just 19-30 during his three seasons with the Broncos. That included three consecutive losing campaigns and 7-10 mark in 2021.
Denver is now back to the drawing board as general manager George Paton attempts to find a new hand-picked head coach. Below, we look at five candidates to replace Fangio in Mile High.
Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys
While hiring retread head coaches isn’t a popular move, Dan Quinn will get a ton of interviews this offseason and it’s deserved. Things certainly didn’t work out with the Atlanta Falcons, but this team did reach the Super Bowl and enjoyed a pair of double-digit win seasons. Beyond his defensive acumen, Quinn’s leadership is another huge factor in his favor.
- Dan Quinn record: 44-42, 3-2 in NFL playoffs
Taking a chance on a coordinator can deliver immense rewards for an NFL team, but it also means hiring someone to lead a team when they might not be right for the role. Quinn remains beloved in the Falcons’ locker room, he received the game ball for beating his former team and he’s the architect of the best defensive turnaround in the NFL this season. He would get Broncos’ players to buy into his message quickly, helping shape this defense into a top-10 unit.
It will be crucial for him to find the right offensive coordinator. When Kyle Shanahan left the Falcons, Atlanta’s offense fell apart and Quinn could never make the right hire. Fortunately, Paton is one of the most connected GMs in the NFL and could play an instrumental role in finding the right offensive coordinator.
Denber Broncos hire Nathaniel Hackett
Everyone knew this past offseason that Aaron Rodgers wanted a trade to the Denver Broncos. While a deal never came to fruition, negotiations with the Green Bay Packers could resume this offseason. But Paton will likely need to a head coach in place before pursuing a quarterback. The field for Rodgers will be competitive, but bringing Nathaniel Hackett to Denver could give this franchise a huge boost.
Rodgers’ relationship with Hackett is very close. The future Hall of Fame quarterback raved about Hackett’s ability yo connect with players and motivate them in an interview with The Washington Post. The reigning NFL MVP also joked in 2020 that he hoped Hackett didn’t leave Green Bay, unless he followed.
“It’s understanding that every player has different motivators and everybody can respond differently to coaching, and figuring out what those buttons are on certain people to push to get the most out of them. That’s what he does really well. He disarms guys and makes them feel really comfortable, and then he’s really good at teaching the game.”Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, via The Washington Post
But this is about more than a personal endorsement or a potential trade. From 2018-’19, Rodgers posted a 96.5 passer rating with a 7.2 ypa, 62.2% completion rate and a 4.4% TD rate. In the last two seasons, Rodgers has a 116.4 passer rating, 8.0 ypa, a 69.4% completion and a 8.1% TD rate. Hackett is playing an instrumental role in Rodgers’ resurgence and could be a strong hire for the Denver Broncos.
Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Byron Leftwich didn’t receive a single interview request in the last coaching cycle and that is baffling. If there was a thought that Tampa Bay’s success on offense in 2020 was a one-year fluke, that’s been proven false this season. The suggestion that the Buccaneers’ offensive turnaround is all about Tom Brady is also wrong.
Leftwich joined Bruce Arians’ coaching staff in 2019, immediately becoming the offensive coordinator and calling plays. By his second year with the roster, we already started seeing real signs of improvement. Jameis Winston drew the attention for his league-high 30 interceptions in 2019, but Tampa Bay’s offense still performed.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense stats (2019): 302.8 pass yard/game (1st), 28.6 ppg (4th), 8.1 ypa (5th), 52.9% fourth-down conversion rate (11th), 26.1 Offensive Points per Game (6th), 64.81% red-zone conversion rate (3rd)
While clips have gone viral of Brady waving off Leftwich’s calls at times, it should be viewed as a good thing. A play-caller who is willing to make in-game adjustments based on what his quarterback sees and is comfortable with is a valuable trait. It’s part of the reason Brady has heaped praise on the Bucs’ offensive coordinator.
Leftwich would certainly love an opportunity to coach the Denver Broncos. Outside of Tampa Bay, arguably no team has a deeper cast of weapons than Denver and Leftwich could design a great offense. With great play-calling and a strong supporting cast, the Broncos would become a very attractive landing spot for an available quarterback in 2022.
Mike Zimmer, head coach, Minnesota Vikings
There’s an off-chance that the Vikings will opt to move off Zimmer with the struggling team failing to earn a playoff spot this season. Minnesota sits at 7-9 on the campaign and was just eliminated from playoff contention.
If Zimmer does get his walking papers this week, there’s no better fit than Denver. The Vikings’ head coach since 2014, Zimmer worked with Broncos general manager George Paton for the first seven years of his tenure in Minnesota. The two obviously have a built-in relationship.
The idea here would be for Paton to find someone he’s comfortable with to help lead what remains a talented defense. In turn, the Broncos find an experienced offensive mind to run that side of the ball. Boasting a 71-56-1 record in Minnesota, the Broncos might not be able to find a more qualified candidate to replace Vic Fangio than Zimmer.
Denver Broncos hire Jim Harbaugh
It must be noted that Harbaugh has a solid relationship with Broncos all-time great and executive John Elway. These types of relationships can go a long way when considering a move of this ilk. And in reality, this might just be the shot in the arm a downtrodden Broncos organization needs with head coach Vic Fangio finally out of a job.
- Denver Broncos record (since 2015): 39-58
There’s absolutely no reason why Denver’s brass wouldn’t consider Harbaugh should rumors of his retrurn to the NFL come to fruition. This organization has not been relevant on the broader NFL stage since Peyton Manning’s retirement following the 2015 season. Adding Harbaugh to the mix would be absolutely huge.