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AP source: Broncos pick Vic Fangio as new head coach

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio walks to the field before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Chicago earlier this season.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Forget RPOs. John Elway is going with AARP.

The Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, 60, has accepted Elway’s offer to become the Denver Broncos’ next head coach, a person with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Broncos didn’t announce the hiring, something the team won’t do until Fangio signs his contract. He’s expected to be introduced as the club’s 17th head coach on Thursday.

Fangio replaces Vance Joseph , who was fired on New Year’s Eve after posting the franchise’s first back-to-back losing seasons since the early 1970s.

Fangio and Elway, who turns 59 this summer, will make up one of the oldest coach-GM duos in the NFL in 2019.

Although Fangio, who turns 61 in August, has no NFL head coaching experience, he has been an assistant for 32 years in the NFL and 34 seasons overall, beginning with the Philadelphia Stars of the old USFL in 1984.

Just like former Denver defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Fangio relates to players less than half his age and commands a deep respect in the locker room.

“You’re talking about one of the best coaches in football,” Bears star edge rusher Khalil Mack said recently, dubbing Fangio “the evil genius himself.”

Elway said when he began his search for his fourth head coach in six seasons that he values experience but also recognizes the need to modernize the Broncos’ offensive and defensive schemes to keep up with the run-pass option craze that has swept through the NFL and rendered traditional systems antiquated.

Elway didn’t believe that innovation necessitated a young, up-and-coming head coach, however. So, instead of going with a fresh-faced offensive-minded novice in the mold of the Rams’ Sean McVay, he zeroed in on the grizzled gridiron lifer who’s more like his first head coaching hire, John Fox, or even the Chiefs’ Andy Reid.

Joseph was also a first-time head coach with deep defensive roots, but he lacked the lengthy resume Fangio brings. Whereas Joseph had just one year of experience as a coordinator, Fangio brings 19 years of coordinating experience for the Panthers, Colts, Texans, 49ers and Bears.

He’s built dominant defenses in different eras, successfully adapting to changes in personnel, philosophies and style.

The 2018 season was his best as Fangio guided a Bears defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL, allowed a league-low 17.7 points per game and led the Bears into the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

JETS EYE GASE: The New York Jets hired former Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase as their head coach Wednesday night, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

Gase was 23-26 in three seasons with Miami, including a playoff game in 2016, before being fired last week.

It turns out he’ll remain in the AFC East.

Gase replaces Todd Bowles, who was fired after he went 24-40 in four seasons and no playoff appearances. He’s the Jets’ first hire with previous NFL head coaching experience since Bill Parcells’ three-year tenure from 1997-99.

The 40-year-old Gase is also the first offensive- focused coach since Rich Kotite in 1996.

He worked as an assistant with Detroit, San Francisco and Denver before being promoted to offensive coordinator by the Broncos in 2013 and drawing rave reviews from Peyton Manning.

Gase followed coach John Fox to Chicago in 2015 to be the Bears’ offensive coordinator. He was hired by the Dolphins as their head coach the following season.

BROWNS TURN TO KITCHENS: The Cleveland Browns didn’t have to go far to find their new coach.

Freddie Kitchens was already in the building.

The 44-year-old Kitchens, who had a dazzling eight-week run as the team’s interim offensive coordinator, is finalizing a contract to become Cleveland’s ninth coach since the franchise’s 1999 rebirth, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

Also, Gregg Williams, who went 5-3 as Cleveland’s interim coach and defensive coordinator this season, is no longer with the team, the person said. Williams was the first candidate to interview for the coaching vacancy.

Kitchens has no previous head coaching experience, but his work with Cleveland’s offense — most notably quarterback Baker Mayfield — in the season’s second half vaulted him ahead of the other six candidates interviewed by the Browns, who were looking for the right coach to lead them following a stunning turnaround season.

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