Squawka NFL

‘Black Monday’ comes early for Fangio; Broncos, Jags and Bears amongst six need new coach

By Nat Coombs

Published: 17:00, 12 January 2022 | Updated: 13:36, 14 January 2022

Forget Christmas, Black Monday came early this year, for Vic Fangio anyway. The Denver Broncos wrapped up their indifferent season on Saturday night with a narrow loss to the Chiefs, and Fangio was jettisoned soon after, the first coaching casualty in the traditional end of season cull, when struggling teams clean house and reboot.

The Broncos are one of six teams to switch head coaching lanes in the last few days, with Matt Nagy (Bears), Mike Zimmer (Vikings), Joe Judge (Giants), David Culley (Texans) and surprisingly, Brian Flores at the Miami Dolphins.

Nagy’s departure was widely expected after another desperately disappointing year for Chicago which saw him become an increasingly maligned figure. Despite his reputation as a quarterback whisperer, Nagy was vilified for his handling of rookie first round QB Justin Fields, who had a challenging season despite his clear ability, because of the offense and play calling around him. The team has doubled down, firing General Manager Ryan Pace at the same time, and Chicago remains one of the more appealing landing spots, with a reasonable amount of salary cap space to build around Fields, although no first-round pick to play with in ’22.

The vastly experienced Zimmer, who took over in Minnesota in 2014, has mostly delivered contending teams that were good but never quite good enough, rather like their current QB Kirk Cousins. Under Zimmer, the Vikes won their division twice – and made the playoffs on another occasion – but never really looking like they were going to win it all, despite some highly capable defenses built by the former Cowboys and Bengals defensive co-ordinator.

Will Minnesota look towards an offensive mind next? Candidates linked to their vacancy – and to many of the others – include Bills offensive co-ordinator Brian Daboll who has helped develop Josh Allen from a raw, roll of the dice rookie into a Top 10 QB, and the well regarded Kellen Moore, the architect of a dangerous Cowboys offense, who enter the playoffs as serious contenders. Whoever gets the gig will be working another new face – GM Rick Spielman, who’d been with the team since 2006, was also deemed surplus to requirements.

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The current shortlist for the Broncos opportunity includes both offensive and defensive minds and intriguingly, Dan Quinn, Moore’s counterpart in Dallas who oversees the Cowboys defense which has been one of the big surprise stories of the season. Quinn – who left the Atlanta Falcons at the end of last season – would be a fascinating choice, inheriting a developing defense with a strong secondary, and an offense that is stacked with receiving talent, and will almost certainly be in the market for a new QB in the offseason. Top tier talent under consideration would be the potential wantaway duo of Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers, but even a mid tier quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo or Quinn’s old QB Matt Ryan – both of whom may be available – could flip the Broncos from also rans to serious contenders.

Flores leaving Miami appears to come down to Chris Grier winning a power struggle inside the Dolphins organisation, with ownership landing on the GM’s side. The two had reportedly worked on a more fluent alignment – GM’s & head coaches don’t have to be drinking buddies, but they must share the same broad vision – but were unable to find enough common ground by all accounts. Flores demonstrated this season just how good a coach he is, turning around a disastrous start to the season with a respectable second half that saw a seven-game winning streak. Time and again we see that teams who play the long game are rewarded. Flores, one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game, should certainly land another top role in time, and Miami may live to rue the decision they’ve made.

Meanwhile Joe Judge, despite the Giants giving him a vote of confidence a few weeks back, was removed from his position at MetLife Stadium late a day later on Tuesday – such was the level of dysfunction during the final games of the season. The retirement of GM Dave Gettleman may have a significant bearing on the coaching search here, with any new personnel director for a big market franchise like NY inevitably arriving with strong opinions.

David Culley, whilst not as hard done by as Flores, has cause to feel aggrieved. Handling perhaps the most complex of all situations this season – an ailing, threadbare roster minus their franchise QB Deshaun Watson was always going to be a long road, but Culley had his team playing hard for much of the year. He was always seemingly a short-term appointment – a career assistant, taking his first head coaching role in his 60’s – but unless the succession plan becomes a glaringly obvious upgrade, he deserved another year, particularly on a team firmly in transition.

Rich Bisaccia is surely deserving of the long-term gig in Vegas after his superb caretaker stint which should leave the Jaguars as the only team in the market – another destination of huge appeal, with the phenom Trevor Lawrence to build around. Lawrence’s rookie season has been underwhelming even by rookie QB standards, but he’s clearly got what’s needed to perform at an elite level, and the ceiling is so low in Jacksonville that any new coach is going to be given time.

Byron Leftwich, the Bucs offensive co-ordinator and former Jags QB makes the most sense, Josh McDaniels, the erstwhile Belichick offensive lieutenant inevitably will be linked as will Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs, who’s been overlooked in recent cycles. It may be that Bieniemy has needed to go through a few rounds of the interview process before nailing a shot, and a few names, including the Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo may get some constructive opportunities to build up experience, even if they’re a few years away from landing an offer. Teams will look to college again too, with the most touted name being Jim Harbaugh after his successful season guiding Michigan to the playoffs. A former Chicago Bear when playing, Harbaugh would be an emotional return, and popular pick, but Leslie Frazier, part of the teams legendary 46 defense, and a key component in the current Bills defensive success, may be the shrewder option.


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