The Denver Broncos fired coach Vic Fangio on Sunday after three seasons, embracing a change in leadership as the organization looks to end the NFL’s second-longest active playoff drought.
Fangio finishes his Broncos tenure with a 19-30 record and having never compiled a winning season.
After a 5-11 campaign in 2020, Denver started 3-0, marking the first time in his career as a head coach that Fangio had won a game in September. The Broncos lost their next four games but rebounded to claim three of their next four and re-enter the playoff mix. But Denver would end its season on a four-game skid and was officially eliminated from postseason contention in Week 17.
“This morning, (general manager George Paton) and I informed Vic of the decision to part ways with him as head coach of the Denver Broncos,” Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. “For the last three seasons, Vic put his heart and soul into coaching the Broncos. I want to thank Coach Fangio for giving his maximum effort to our organization since the day he was hired.
“George will have full authority to select the next head coach of the Broncos. This is his decision and his program. I have complete confidence in George’s ability to lead an exhaustive and successful head coaching search. We will give George every available resource and fully support him in hiring the very best head coach to lead the Broncos.”
At six seasons, the Broncos’ active playoff drought trails only that of the New York Jets. Denver is the first franchise to miss the postseason for six consecutive years after a Super Bowl win.
Following a 28-24 season-ending loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday that dropped the Broncos’ record to 7-10, Fangio acknowledged his future was uncertain.
“You saw it out there tonight – a bunch of fighters and competitors,” Fangio said. “Proud to be associated with them. Not proud of our record. I know it’s not good enough. I get it. But I’m proud to be associated with our players.”
A longtime NFL assistant and defensive coordinator, Fangio became a head coach for the first time in his career when the Broncos hired him at 60 in 2019. While this year’s defense ranked among the league’s best even after the midseason trade of eight-time Pro Bowl pass rusher Von Miller, the offense floundered throughout his run while the franchise continued to rotate through quarterbacks. Seven different players served as starters during the coach’s tenure.
Fangio on Saturday cited the ongoing quest to find an answer behind center as one of the primary reasons for the team finishing last in the AFC West for the second consecutive year.
“Those other three teams have top-shelf quarterbacks. … We just have to get a little bit better,” Fangio said.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.