Kiszla: Vic Fangio doesn’t let pressure faze him — even when listed as 5/1 favorite to be first NFL coach to lose his job in 2021 – The Denver Post

During the dog days of training camp, Broncos coach Vic Fangio celebrated his 63rd birthday. But after a lifetime working in the NFL, he can sense when the blitz is coming.

As we stand under the summer sun, Uncle Vic feels the heat. He knows our one-on-one conversation will eventually wind its way to the subject of his uncertain job security as the Broncos begin the third season on his watch.

“Hey, go easy on us geriatric coaches,” said Fangio, a carefree chuckle punctuating his request.

Understanding full well I want to discuss the undeniable pressure, the coach playfully tells me he expects “a Pulitzer award-winning article” with no bombs dropped on him.

But make no mistake. Fangio knows the score. With a 12-20 record in Denver, it’s win-now time. Or else.

Fangio doesn’t need to check with Las Vegas oddsmakers, who list him as a 5/1 favorite to be the first head coach fired during the 2021 NFL season, to know he’s on the hot seat.

“I think because of my experience of being in football for so long and having a good handle on everything, I’m OK with that. I’m not 35 years old,” Fangio said.

He’s old enough to not really give a hoot what I or any other critic in Broncos Country might think of him.

Oh, Fangio is aware of the criticism, the second-guessing that’s inevitable if a fourth-down gamble fails or he takes an unused timeout in his pocket to the locker room at halftime.

“I read the stuff,” he said.

He’s an unabashed sports fan who enjoys the debate about whether a baseball manager gives his starting pitcher the hook too soon or a basketball coach leaves a foul-plagued star gathering dust on the bench for too long.

“So,” I ask the coach, “do you also read the stuff knuckleheads like me write after the Broncos lose a game?”

“Sometimes,” replied Fangio, a wry smile creasing his face.

He was never a head coach until the Broncos gave him a shot. Should neither Teddy Bridgewater nor Drew Lock provide the Broncos with consistent play at quarterback and the season goes swirling down the tubes, however, Fangio seems confident this gig won’t be his last rodeo. Since joining the Philadelphia Stars staff as a USFL assistant way back in 1984, Fangio has proven beyond a doubt he can coach at the pro level, and will do so in 2022, whether it’s in Denver or elsewhere.

While I call him Uncle Vic, there’s a feistiness to the man.

Yes, Fangio seems determined to keep his public persona so low key I’ve been guilty of wondering how much passion burns in his belly. But away from the interview podium, behind closed doors at team headquarters, his humor has a sharp edge and he’s not afraid to use it.

Fangio doesn’t blow smoke. His approach has forged a strong relationship with new general manager George Paton.

“I didn’t know George prior to us interviewing and hiring him. He has been very easy to work with,” said Fangio, who has told his boss to make every roster decision for the long-term good of the team rather than the short-term benefit of a coach who feels pressure to get the Broncos back to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

“We see the game of football pretty much the same way. And that happened organically. You never know if you’ll see eye-to-eye on players through the interview process. You never know that until you work with someone for a few months. But through free agency and the draft process, we haven’t had a whole lot of disagreements.”

While many teams don’t care about the score of exhibition games, Fangio strived to establish winning as a habit during the preseason. With an 0-7 record in September with the Broncos, he has emphasized to players the importance of starting fast this season.

During the opening month, Denver plays the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, three teams whose cumulative record in 2020 was 9-39. If Fangio doesn’t win at least two of those games, the heat could be too much for him to survive.

“I totally accept and understand that we all live a seven-day life during the football season, one week at a time, until the next game,” he said.

In a business with a scoreboard and way too much time to pick apart every point large and small between games, the life of a losing coach can be miserable. But worry about what could go wrong? Uncle Vic insists he won’t.

Laughing at the crazy business he has made his life’s work, Fangio said: “If we win a game, even if it’s a bad-looking win, everybody is still going to like you. Well, at least for one week.”

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