ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Following a second straight loss that dashed playoff hopes and left a losing record taunting the franchise for a fifth consecutive year, coach Vic Fangio addressed his future on Monday.
In three seasons, Fangio has failed to produce a postseason berth, owns a 5-11 record in the AFC West and has gone 4-8 since an undefeated September.
Is he concerned he will be fired?
"For a lot of reasons, I do not worry about it. Those reasons are personal to me." Fangio said. "Do I acknowledge that it's certainly out there and could happen? Absolutely. Do I worry about it? I absolutely do not for many, many reasons.”
Fangio is in the third year of a four-year contract with a fifth-year option. The 35-year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks volunteered that he would "absolutely" return next season without a contract extension, and said his staff deserves to return. Part of Fangio's reasoning traces back to his solid relationship with Broncos' first-time general manager George Paton. The two have found a common bond in their ability to work relentless hours, pouring over film, while making no excuses.
"One of the best attributes the Broncos have is George Paton," Fangio said, echoing comments he has made multiple times this season. “I think this guy is just great at this job. Him and I get along tremendously. ... We don't go far into the future (in our conversations though). We focus on the task at hand.”
Still, the record makes Fangio a candidate to be dismissed.
The Broncos boasted one of the league's easiest schedules and had nine home games, creating a pathway back to the postseason for the first time since 2015. Denver has delivered two wins against teams with winning records, their season proof only that they can beat bad teams (Giants, Jets, Jaguars, Lions and Washington).
I asked Fangio if he believes he needs to win the final two games against the Chargers and Chiefs to secure his job. He repeated that his focus is on winning this week and that everything else is "out of his control." I followed up, wondering if Fangio had any second thoughts about employing a philosophy of trying to produce victories in low-scoring contests — Denver has failed to eclipse 19 points in 8 of their past 12 games.
“We’ve never said we’re trying to win low scoring games," Fangio said. "We’re trying to score as many points as we can.”
Fangio expressed confidence in embattled offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Broncos offense posted eight first downs Sunday — two more than when receiver Kendall Hinton played quarterback last season against the Saints — and went 1-for-10 on third downs.
"Pat has a long history of being successful in this league, and I’m counting on that happening in these final two weeks," Fangio said.
Fangio's defense has posted solid numbers, ranking in the top five for points allowed for several months, but were victimized by big plays the past two weeks against Cincinnati (Tyler Boyd's 56-yard touchdown reception) and Las Vegas (Josh Jacobs rushed for 57 of his 129 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter).
The Broncos followed their formula Sunday, and still fell short, according to Andrew Mason of DNVR. Since Week 17 of last year, NFL teams are 35-4-1 when posting a turnover margin of at least plus-3 — as the Broncos did Sunday. Denver owns two of those losses, speaking to their razor thin margin for error.
As it stands, quarterback Drew Lock will remain the starter. Teddy Bridgewater has yet to clear the five-step process in the concussion protocol. Lock showed flashes against the Raiders, making some off-schedule throws. He was undermined by drops and issues on third down. He finished 15 of 22 for 153 yards with no turnovers and no touchdowns.
"Anytime you lose your running game, especially for us since that's what we've done best this year, it makes it harder on the quarterback, there's no doubt," Fangio said. "I think it's hard to give a great assessment of Drew's play yesterday because as a whole offensively, we didn't play good enough. I thought he made some good throws. We had a chance on some we didn't quite make. But I wasn't terribly disappointed in his performance either. Obviously, it could be better."
Defensive lineman DeShawn Williams injured his elbow and will miss the final two games. ...
Nose tackle Mike Purcell could enter the COVID-19 protocols, according to Fangio.