Call Mike Tomlin. Text Sean Payton. Broncos need proven NFL coach to bring proud franchise out of purgatory

Can the Broncos please stop handing the keys to guys who don’t know what the red hankie is for? Or when to throw it?

Denver is one of those storied NFL outposts that should never be a starter gig. EVER. By the time you’ve finally “learned on the job,” the Chiefs will have bagged three more division titles.

But Red Miller …

Legend. God rest his soul. Different era.

But Dan Reeves …

Legend. God rest his soul. Different era.

Vic Fangio on Sunday officially joined Vance Joseph, Josh McDaniels and Wade Phillips in the pantheon of Broncos coaching Hail Marys that eventually landed in somebody’s popcorn.

Since 1992, the Broncos have tried four different coaches — Phillips, McDaniels, Joseph and Fangio — with no prior experience as a full-time NFL head man. None of them stuck.

Only one, Phillips, made the playoffs, and that was in his debut season after taking over for Reeves. Of the four, only Fangio made it past Year 2.

Cumulative record of those nine seasons with those four coaches: 58-87, good for a .400 winning percentage, and one postseason berth.

In this AFC West, if you’re not bringing an A-list quarterback to the fight, you better find somebody on the headset who can steal you a game here or there.

“I mean, there (have) been a lot of great head coaches and never had experience, and vice versa,” general manager George Paton said Sunday, a few hours after Fangio was let go after a 19-30 record over three seasons.

“There (have been) really good head coaches, (who) did have experience. So I think we’re going to keep an open mind. And it’s going to be a wide range.”

Want to get the faithful in Broncos Country, the ones who feel jaded and burned, back in your corner?

Swing for the fences.

If the search ends with Dallas defensive coordinator and former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, fair enough. But it shouldn’t start there.

Ask for permission from the Steelers to speak to Mike Tomlin. See if Sean Payton wants a change of scenery. Throw Pete Carroll a lifeline. The worst thing any of them can say is no, thanks.

Polling your pals in hopes of unearthing a gem from somebody else’s staff? We’ve seen that movie play out too many times here already. It rarely ends well.

We were told after Joseph’s failings as a first-time head coach that the Broncos were “right there,” and the issues were about details and discipline. That Sheriff Fangio would clean everything up.

But making sure your players turn up 5 minutes early for every meeting means nothing if that same head coach is lost on Sunday afternoons.

The inches that Fangio vowed to lick turned around and bit him on the backside, repeatedly. Penalties. Challenges. Settling for three in situations that cried out for six. Special teams. Those special teams.

In a league of fine margins, every edge matters. If you’re trying to win ugly — and for a Broncos offense that trotted out Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater as the primary quarterbacks of choice, there was no other path — then the rest of the ship has to be water-tight.

The S.S. Fangio leaked everywhere, from the captain’s chair on down. Uncle Vic’s challenge record? 16 hankies thrown, four calls overturned, for a .250 batting average. Joseph’s record? Nine challenges, two overturned — a .222 clip. In a division that’s seen Andy Reid’s bat .560 over the last five seasons on his challenges, that’s not going to fly.

The Broncos were 1-5 in games decided by eight points or fewer this season. They were 9-16 during one-score games in Fangio’s three years at the helm. If a steady hand figures out a way to turn that 9-16 into say, 13-12, Broncos president/CEO Joe Ellis wouldn’t be chasing his third new coach in six seasons.

“I think in a number of instances, we were close,” Ellis offered Sunday, “but every time we got close, we (went) back down, it seemed to me, in some of the key moments of the season. So we’ve got to overcome that and get rid of that systemic pattern.”

A pattern that starts at the top. The Broncos aren’t a starter gig. For anybody. In this division, with a few exceptions, you usually wind up getting exactly what you paid for. Or, in Fangio’s case, even less.

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