Earlier this week my attention was drawn to a headline on 9 News in Denver that read, “Broncos fire Fangio as head coach after three seasons.”1 This action took place at an 8:00 a.m. meeting on Sunday, January 9 with Broncos CEO Joe Ellis, and General Manager George Paton. The article stated, “Fangio is considered one of the NFL’s best defensive coaches” and the reporter also wrote, “Fangio’s sterling defensive reputation remains intact.”
A quick search of the Internet confirms the comment about “Fangio’s sterling defensive reputation.” Fangio was the “defensive coordinator for 20 of the last 24 seasons at the NFL or college level before becoming the Broncos head coach.” Working that many years as a defensive coordinator means he was doing something right.2
What happened to Fangio? Why was he successful as a defensive coordinator but not as a head coach? I am not a sports analyst, but I do have experience in leadership and working with organizational dynamics. Vic Fangio was hit by a career tsunami that was building for the last three years with the Denver Broncos.
A career tsunami begins taking shape when someone moves into a position that they are not prepared for and/or a position that does not work well with their talents, gifts, and strengths. Americans still fall victim to the idea that success means you continue to climb the ladder. There is nothing wrong with moving up the career ladder if the individual is ready for the climb, and their skill set, capabilities, and character are in alignment with the new position.
That means for some people their career is at the middle of the ladder while for others it is all the way to the top. However, when someone is not ready for the move or capable of filling the position, they may just fall off the tip of the ladder. Is that what happened to Fangio? I cannot answer that question nor can you because neither of us have all the facts. What I do know is this: when your sights are set on the next position, make sure that you are able to fill the role in a professional and competent manner.