After the Denver Broncos' gut-punch loss to the Green Bay Packers on September 22, Twitter erupted with calls for the head of team executive and formerly beloved on-the-field legend John Elway — and those demands haven't ebbed in the wake of a 26-24 home defeat at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 29. But more and more of the fans who're expressing their anger with their thumbs have added Vic Fangio to the termination list, just four regular-season games into his head-coaching tenure.
The 0-4 start isn't unprecedented; the squad racked up the same sorry stat in 1964, 1994 and 1999. But the sense of déjà vu triggered by yesterday's collapse recalls the feeling that fans had on January 28, 1990, when the Broncos were blown out in their fourth consecutive Super Bowl. We've seen this movie before, and it doesn't have a happy ending.
As with many disaster flicks, the story started happily. The Broncos built a 17-3 second-quarter lead on the strength of Joe Flacco touchdown passes to tight end Noah Fant (who briefly seemed to justify his status as the outfit's number-one draft pick) and wide receiver Courtland Sutton, and gave up just three more points going into halftime. But after intermission, the defense, which had previously shown signs of life (Von Miller and company recorded five more sacks than they had in the previous three tilts combined), suddenly transformed from steel into tissue paper. Jags running back Leonard Fournette was unstoppable, ultimately registering 225 yards (the sort of total he racked up at LSU), and ’70s porn-star lookalike Gardner Minshew hurled two touchdown passes en route to a 23-17 advantage.
The Broncos weren't done...yet. Just as he'd done in Chicago, Flacco led Denver to a go-ahead TD as the clock ran down. All the Broncos needed to do was to hold the Jags scoreless for around ninety seconds and they'd secure the win. But that was too big an ask. Aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty that wasn't as egregious as the one for which Bradley Chubb was flagged in the Windy City, Minshew quickly steered Jacksonville into field-goal range, and kicker Josh Lambo casually booted the pigskin through the goal posts and straight down the Broncos' throats.
This sequence of events is directly responsible for the turn against Fangio. In the beginning, he was seen as a a pleasant contrast to his predecessor, excuse-maker extraordinaire Vance Joseph, owing to his penchant for straight talk and the way he shrugged off a kidney stone during a pre-season game. But what had been a potentially stellar but underperforming defensive unit prior to his arrival has become demonstrably worse under his supervision: less explosive and more capable of breaking rather than bending. And Fangio's taking the lion's share of the blame. Suddenly, there's a Fire Fangio Twitter handle and a Moveon.org petition advocating for his ouster.
Granted, the petition has a grand total of one signature at this writing, and even some Twitterpated boosters think it's too soon to give Vic the heave-ho. But the season's start has already eroded the patience of many loyalists. See what we mean by counting down our picks for the most memorable post-game tweets below.