Mike McDaniel’s first order of business as the Miami Dolphins’ new head coach is to put together a quality staff, and it appears one of his top targets will be former Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio.
Fangio, who led the Broncos to a 19-30 record in his three seasons, has served as the defensive coordinator for five NFL teams and one college program (Stanford) during his 36 seasons as a coach in college and the NFL.
McDaniel, who is finalizing his own contract with the Dolphins after being chosen over Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore following their weekend interviews, will be required to interview at least one minority candidate for his coordinator positions because of the alterations made to the Rooney Rule last year, which were intended to improve the NFL’s diversity in its coaching ranks.
But according to a league source Fangio, who also has interest from other teams which include the New York Giants, sits atop McDaniel’s list of assistants he wants to coach the Dolphins defense.
Miami’s defense carried the team for most of Brian Flores’ tenure, before he was fired at the conclusion of his third season.
Miami’s defense was mid-tier good in 2021, but at times they showed they had the potential to resemble the 2020 unit that sat atop the defensive standings most of that season.
Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Josh Boyer, the Dolphins finished the 2021 season ranked 15th in yards allowed (337.5), 18th in points allowed per game (21.9), 20th in third-down defense (41.1 percent conversion rate), and 11th in red-zone defense (52.6 percent of opponents’ opportunities result in touchdowns).
That means they have plenty of work to do, but a veteran coach like Fangio, 63, could help the unit — which features talented defensive linemen like Christian Wilkins, Raekwon Davis and Jealan Phillips, linebackers Jerome Baker and Andrew Van Ginkel, cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, and safeties Jevon Holland and Brandon Jones — improve.
The Broncos finished eighth in defense this season, despite their last-place finish in the competitive AFC West. Denver ranked 15th against the run allowing 111.3 rushing yards per game, 28th in third-down efficiency (allowing opponents to covert 44 percent on those critical downs), and third in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, allowing a touchdown 50 percent of the time teams were inside the 20-yard line.
But most importantly, under Fangio the Broncos defense allowed 18.9 points per game. Only the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots were better at limiting the opposition’s scoring last season.
This should come as no surprise considering Fangio historically coaches top-ranking defenses during his tenures with the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers.
Fangio’s creative schemes helped the Broncos stifle some of the best young quarterbacks, even with depleted defenses.
The list of quarterbacks who have had some of the toughest days of their careers against Fangio’s teams include Miami’s own Tua Tagovailoa, who had one of the worst games of as a pro against Denver in the 2020 season, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow.