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Vic Fangio out as Broncos coach after three straight losing seasons

Vic Fangio's fate was sealed with the Broncos' season-ending loss Saturday night in Kansas City.Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

Vic Fangio was fired on Sunday morning as coach of the Denver Broncos after going 19-30 in three seasons.

Team president and CEO Joe Ellis, who will step down later this year, said general manager George Paton will have “full authority to select the next head coach.”

“This morning, George and I informed Vic of the decision to part ways with him as head coach,” Ellis said in a statement. “For the last three seasons, Vic put his heart and soul into coaching the Broncos. I want to thank Coach Fangio for giving his maximum effort to our organization since the day he was hired.”

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Fangio released his own statement in which he thanked the organization and fans and praised Paton as one of the NFL’s top GMs: “Broncos fans, you have a great one in George.”

Fangio said he appreciated the team’s “fight and character you showed each and every week. No matter the adversity, circumstances or challenges we faced, you never backed down. I am proud to be associated with this group of fighters and competitors.”

And he reiterated that the franchise is on the cusp of returning to greatness.

“The foundation is in place for this team to accomplish great things,” he said. “The future is bright for the Denver Broncos, and I wish the organization nothing but the best.”

The Broncos lost their final four games to finish 7-10, capped by a 28-24 loss to Kansas City on Saturday in which they blew a fourth-quarter lead and extended their losing streak against the Chiefs to 13 games.

Fangio met with Paton ahead of the season finale and laid out his plan to fix the Broncos’ myriad problems that extended the team’s playoff drought to six seasons and string of losing records to five years.

Fangio led Denver to a 5-11 mark last season and went 7-9 in 2019 after he replaced Vance Joseph, who was fired after two losing seasons.

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Fangio got the job after more than three decades as an assistant, and he burnished his reputation as a defensive master during his time in Denver. But the Broncos didn’t win, and that cost him his job.

Fangio and Paton hit it off when Paton was hired last year to replace John Elway. They saw eye-to-eye on the draft and many felt their close relationship would help Fangio survive a third losing season.

Fangio isn’t expected to be out of work long. He will be a candidate for a defensive coordinator job in the new round of coaching changes this month.

Jaguars will draft No. 1 again

The Jaguars closed out a turbulent season with a 26-11 win at home over the Colts but still managed to lock up the top spot in the 2022 NFL Draft thanks to a little help from the Lions.

It will be the second straight year with the No. 1 pick for Jacksonville, which grabbed quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the top pick in 2021.

Lawrence completed 23 of 32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, his first game with multiple TD passes since the season opener. Lawrence finished his rookie campaign with 3,641 yards and 12 touchdowns passing to go along with 17 interceptions. He also ran for 334 yards and two scores.

Jacksonville’s win left the door open for Detroit to grab the coveted No. 1 draft position, but the Lions will pick second as a result of their 37-30 win at home over the Packers. The Texans, who closed the season with a 3-point loss to the Titans, will draft third.

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Seahawks’ Diggs carted off with broken leg

Seattle Pro Bowl safety Quandre Diggs was carted off the field with a broken right leg and dislocated ankle in an emotional scene in Arizona.

Following the Seahawks’ 38-30 win, Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Diggs broke his right fibula.

Diggs appeared to slip on the grass just before being blocked early in the fourth quarter and immediately grabbed his leg. Players on both teams were visibly upset as Seattle’s trainers worked on Diggs, and teammate D.J. Reed threw his helmet.

Diggs was in tears as he was carted off. He made his first Pro Bowl this season and is set to be a free agent this offseason. He led the Seahawks with five interceptions and was third with 63 tackles before Sunday’s game.

In other injury news:

▪ The Saints were leading the Falcons, 7-6, with about six minutes left in the first half when quarterback Taysom Hill departed after hurting his foot on a 1-yard run. Hill went into the Saints’ sideline medical tent before being escorted to the locker room. Trevor Siemian took over and threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith.

▪ 49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky was sidelined in the first half at the Rams by a concussion, forcing placekicker Robbie Gould to punt. Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal with 2:45 left in overtime to help the 49ers beat the Rams to clinch a playoff spot, and he was efficient with his punts.

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Rams’ Kupp finishes with high marks

Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp became the fourth player in NFL history to lead the league in receptions, yards receiving, and touchdown catches in the same season after finishing with seven receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the 49ers. Kupp finished the regular season with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 TDs … Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt tied former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan’s single-season record of 22 1/2 sacks, reaching the milestone late in the second quarter of Pittsburgh’s 16-13 overtime win at Baltimore. Watt’s sack of Tyler Huntley helped force the Ravens to kick a field goal in the final seconds of the first half. Watt put Strahan’s record, which stood since 2001, in jeopardy with a four-sack performance in last weekend’s win over the Browns … Several single-season club marks fell in Week 18, including Ravens tight Mark Andrews passing Derrick Mason’s receptions record with 107; Bengals rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase breaking Chad Johnson’s receiving yards mark with 1,455; Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott eclipsing Tony Romo’s record with 37 touchdown passes; Lions wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown besting Roy Williams’s rookie receiving yards mark with 912; and Packers receiver Davante Adams surpassing Jordy Nelson’s receiving yards mark with 1,553. In addition, Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady became the oldest player (44) in league history to pass for 5,000 yards in a season and joining Drew Brees as the only players with multiple 5,000-yard seasons … On the other hand, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson came up 17 yards shy of a franchise single-season record for receiving yards, finishing with 1,616 yards (Randy Moss had 1,632 yards in 2003).

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Texans’ Culley expects to return

Texans coach David Culley remains confident he’ll return for a second season despite speculation he could be fired after his team finished the season 4-13 with Sunday’s loss to the Titans. “As of right now, I feel like I will be coaching this team next year,” he said after the 28-25 defeat. Culley was hired last January to replace Bill O’Brien, spending 43 years as a college and NFL assistant. He took over a team that went 4-12 last season with Deshaun Watson at quarterback. Watson requested a trade around the time Culley was hired, which was before 22 women filed lawsuits alleging sexual harassment or assault. Watson sat all season and precipitated a rebuild in Houston that left Culley at the helm of one of the NFL’s worst teams. Houston beat the Jaguars in the season opener before losing eight consecutive games after QB Tyrod Taylor was injured and rookie Davis Mills struggled. But the Texans played better late in the season, with two of their four wins coming in the last month of the season and Mills playing much better in the last few games after Taylor was benched and he returned to the starting role. Mills threw for 301 yards and tied a season high with three touchdowns Sunday to give him 2,604 yards passing this season to move past David Carr (2,592) for most yards passing by a rookie in franchise history … According to reports, Falcons owner Arthur Blank tested positive for COVID-19 and did not attend the team’s season-ending loss to the Saints.