Sean Payton said Tuesday that he tried to lure Vic Fangio back to Denver as his defensive coordinator before the former Broncos head coach chose to join the Miami Dolphins as their defensive coordinator.
“Do I think he would have been a great asset for us? Yes,” Payton said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, adding, “we were planning in this year away that if the right scenario came up, that we’d work together.”
Payton had to pivot from that plan when he took the Denver job.
“I think this one was just a little unique because it wasn’t too long ago that he was here,” Payton said of Fangio, who was fired by the Broncos on Jan. 9, 2022, after going 19-30 in Denver between 2019 and 2021.
Fangio instead joined the Dolphins as Mike McDaniel's defensive coordinator.
“Certainly, I tried to talk to him and tried to twist his arm,” Payton said. "I’m excited for his opportunity in Miami. I think he’s a talented coach. We went against each other for years, our teams, and it was always a challenge.”
Payton spent last year as a Fox football analyst after stepping down as head coach of the New Orleans Saints when Drew Brees retired. Fangio spent a year away from football following his ouster in Denver.
Payton ended up hiring another former Broncos head coach, Vance Joseph, after a detailed search that included former Jets head coach Rex Ryan, former Lions head coach Matt Patricia and Seahawks associate head coach Sean Desai.
Joseph went 11-21 in Denver in 2017-18 before being replaced by Fangio. He spent the last four seasons as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator.
“I’ve admired Vance from afar," Payton said. "I’ve never known him, heard a lot of really good things. We talked to a lot of different coaches, offensive coaches that have gone against Vance, and he’s hard to scheme against; he’s hard to go against.
“He hasn’t always been in the perfect situations. His defenses always play hard. They’re hard to scheme against, they get after the quarterback, they’re good in the pass game, they turn the ball over.”
After firing Fangio, the Broncos hired first-time head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who didn't even make it through his first season. He was fired on Dec. 26, a day after a 51-14 loss to the Rams dropped Denver to 4-11.
The Broncos finished 5-12 as Jerry Rosberg split his two games as interim head coach.
Payton's offensive coordinator is Joe Lombardi, who spent the last two seasons as the Los Angeles Chargers offensive coordinator and coached with Payton in New Orleans as his quarterbacks coach from 2007-13 and ’16-20.
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