The Broncos are 3-7. The blame game has been going on all year. The finger has been pointed in many directions.
John Elway, Von Miller, Joe Flacco, Rich Scangarello have all been targeted. Yet, head coach Vic Fangio has managed to elude criticism.
Last Sunday, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports dropped a bombshell report indicating that Fangio is not connecting with his coaches and players. Broncos fans and media began speculating about the validity of the report.
Given the current record for the Broncos, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that something is going on inside the walls at UC Health Training Center.
Many people were quick to say that La Canfora’s report is false. I highly doubt that La Canfora concocted a fake story about a largely unknown first-year head coach on an irrelevant team. It would be a very odd choice to just make that up. The story is likely not 100 percent representative of the entire situation, but to completely dismiss it would be foolish.
It would seem there is substance to some of the report and Fangio needs to understand, feuding with coaches and players will never end well for the head coach.
In early October, I wrote an article comparing Fangio’s relationship with Von Miller to that of Josh McDaniels and Jay Cutler. There is another famous example of a Broncos coach having internal strife within the organization, however. This one ended badly, as well.
Following the 1992 season, Dan Reeves was fired as head coach of the Broncos after an 8-8 record. In Reeves final season, the team was 7-3 before John Elway went down with an injury. Elway missed four games and the Broncos lost all four. The Hall of Fame quarterback returned for the final two games and the Broncos went 1-1.
Going from 7-3 to 8-8 is cause for concern, but the late-season slide could be attributed to Elway’s injury. An injury to the star quarterback is a plausible explanation for losing five of the final six games.
Soon after the firing, more of the story would come to light. There were other factors going on with Reeves and the Broncos. Mainly, growing tension with Reeves and Elway.
Reeves desired to move on from Elway and it was no secret. The coach tried to trade Elway to the Redskins prior to the 1992 season until Pat Bowlen put a stop to it. That same offseason, Reeves drafted quarterback Tommy Maddox in the first round of the draft. Clearly, this was a sign he was looking to replace Elway.
Reeves was arrogant enough to think he could win without Elway. In 1991, the Broncos lost the AFC Championship Game to the Bills. Elway was injured in that game and Gary Kubiak finished the 10-7 loss at Buffalo. Had Elway played the entire game, Reeves may have coached four Super Bowls for the Broncos. He didn’t understand that he needed Elway.
It wasn’t just Elway that Reeves was at odds with. There was an issue with a member of his coaching staff, offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan.
Following the 1991 season, Reeves fired Shanahan. Over the years, stories have come from both sides, but it’s clear the close working relationship between Elway and Shanahan played a role in the dismissal. There was even discussion that Reeves fired Shanahan for insubordination.
While the internal issues with Elway and Shanahan may not have been the sole reason for Reeves firing, it’s hard to imagine it didn’t affect his ability to properly coach and lead a team.
Reeves has the second most wins for a coach in Broncos history. He led the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances. He is currently ninth in wins in NFL history. Reeves in an all-time great NFL coach.
But even he was not able to overcome a disconnection with his players and assistants. Ultimately, it led to his undoing in Denver.
If Reeves couldn’t survive discord with this team, Fangio definitely won’t.
(In the ultimate twist of irony, Reeves would coach the Falcons to the Super Bowl and lose to Elway, Shanahan and the Broncos.)
Fangio is in his first season as a head coach. Many believe that he deserves to have a learning curve and patience is necessary. Keep in mind, though, Josh McDaniels and Vance Joseph were not afforded this benefit of the doubt. It is only fair to hold Fangio to the same standard we held those two coaches to in the past.
There are no positives to losing three games in the final seconds. There are absolutely no positives to blowing a 20-point halftime lead. Those losses are inexcusable and embarrassing. The losses fall on Fangio first and foremost. It’s baffling that he’s not being held accountable.
Fangio’s first season isn’t over and there are things for him to learn. It would have been unrealistic to expect him to be perfect, but there does seem to be issues. If Fangio is having a hard time connecting with players and coaches, it’s his responsibility to fix it.
McDaniels and Reeves are evidence of how it turns out when you have feuds within your own organization. It never ends well for the coach.
For Reeves, it was too late for him to correct it. For McDaniels, he was too stubborn to learn.
Fangio could be a good head coach. But right now, it’s impossible to say for sure.
But Fangio is losing games and nobody is asking whether he is a capable head coach. It’s a legitimate question and totally appropriate for a 3-7 coach dealing with reports of internal issues with players and staff.
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