Another year, another group of coaching changes in the NFL. We had eight head coaches lose or vacate their positions, so there are eight new faces – some fresh, some not so much.
Everybody loves to talk about the new head coaches, but it often stops there. I believe that by paying closer attention, we can better evaluate how the entire staff is constituted, which can help breed fantasy success.
In this fourth year of writing about coaching changes and their dynasty impact, I’m adding a new wrinkle. We’re going to release them this year in ranked order, starting at the bottom. And before you get too offended, maybe all eight of these hires will have long, illustrious careers. Who knows? Let’s get to it.
Coaching Hire Rank Six of Eight – Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos
In the era of the young offensive mind, the Broncos thought outside of the box in hiring an older, experienced defensive-minded coach. Fangio comes to Denver with 32 years of NFL coaching experience, but zero years of head coaching experience. It’s hard to pin down why he has been repeatedly passed over for head coaching vacancies, but it’s hard to get a shot if you aren’t even getting interviews – prior to this off-season, Fangio had only been interviewed for the top job three times in his 32 years. It would be understandable if he had spent most of that time as a position coach, but Fangio also has 20 years of experience as a defensive coordinator.
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Fangio will be tasked with getting that formerly fierce Broncos defense back on track. The Bears last year led the league in a number of defensive categories including scoring, rushing defense, takeaways and a lot more. The Broncos under former HC Vance Joseph, meanwhile, finished 22nd in the league in total defense last year, even with huge playmakers like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb in the fold. I suspect Fangio can put Denver back on the defensive map.
As his DC, Fangio brought along Ed Donatell, who has spent the last eight years working under Fangio. Donatell does have experience as a DC as well, but it was over ten years ago. The good thing is the two have a long history together, and the expectation is that Fangio will still essentially act as the DC and call defensive plays, bringing along someone he is familiar with will help hold the whole thing together. It should also be noted that this will be Donatell’s third stint as a coach with the Broncos, so he has experience both with Fangio and in Denver.
The offensive side is where things both get a little bit dicey and perhaps a little bit interesting. The Broncos originally were expected to bring back the venerable Gary Kubiak to run the offense, which would have done a great job of relieving the offensive stress for Fangio. Many even considered this to be a done deal, but after meeting and discussing the possibility, the Broncos went in a different direction. Either Fangio or general manager John Elway apparently had some disagreements about how the offense should be run, and Fangio declined to offer Kubiak the job.
So instead of a seasoned OC, the Broncos went the way of a young assistant to a well-regarded offensive mind, this time hiring 49ers’ quarterback coach Rich Scangarello. And like many other examples of this type of hire throughout this year’s coaching hires, Scangarello has no experience calling an NFL offense. He worked the past two years for Kyle Shanahan as the quarterbacks coach, but most of his history prior to that is at the collegiate level, and most of that collegiate experience in DII and DIII.
Scangarello has been watching Shanahan’s offensive scheme for some time, which is the kind of innovative offensive scheme most teams are after. It isn’t the Sean McVay tree, but it’s one of the next best things out there. Scangarello, in his two short years coaching quarterbacks in San Francisco, has also shown the ability to get the most out of the position. The Broncos need exactly that, after the fizzle of the single Case Keenum season and numerous swings and misses since the departure of Peyton Manning. Scangarello got more out of CJ Beathard than there rightfully should have been, and also urged the team to sign Nick Mullens in the off-season.
However, he has zero experience running an NFL offense. He now has to work some kind of magic with Joe Flacco, and his head coach isn’t likely able to provide a whole lot of help.
At quarterback, the Flacco era has started in Denver, and some likely wish that era was already over. I do expect they bring in a young quarterback either this year or next, and it will be interesting to watch who they target next. Hopefully not another Paxton Lynch. As far as Flacco, he isn’t worth considering in most start one QB leagues.
At running back people do really love Phillip Lindsay, but the other young running back is still around in Royce Freeman. New OC Scangarello is a Shanny disciple, so I might look for a lot of work for both backs in 2019. They are two very different types of runners, so a 1-2 punch backfield could be beneficial for both backs. It’s just hard to say if Scangarello can really make this backfield sing.
Wide receiver in Denver has a couple of nice young players along with a veteran who just keeps plugging along. Courtland Sutton took over the WR1 role last year, and ended his rookie campaign with over 700 yards and four touchdowns – in a bad offense. If the Broncos can get more innovative, he could start to really shine. And don’t forget about the other well-thought-of young guy in DaeSean Hamilton. Could Sutton and Hamilton be the electric wide receiver duo the Broncos envisioned? Perhaps. Just remember Flacco has to get them the ball. The bargain basement producer who can be had for a song could be Emmanuel Sanders. He’s returning for another season after an injury-shortened 2018. Don’t forget how good he looked before that injury.
The Shanahan offense that Scangarello would like to emulate doesn’t classically feature the tight end, but then George Kittle happened. They do still have Jeff Heuerman who many in dynasty have liked on and off, as well as Jake Butt, another old dynasty canard. I’d pay close attention to see if they go for a super athletic tight end in the draft, as this class is full of them.
The Bottom Line
The Broncos are both going conservative with the new head coach but taking a big chance with their new offensive coordinator. I do think there is room to take shots on coaches like Scangarello, as long as they have experienced coaches backing them up in some way. The Broncos have guys they can trust with huge amounts of experience on the defensive side, so hopefully that can help make this whole thing work. See the McVay/Wade Phillips pairing in LA as well as the Matt Nagy/Fangio pairing from last season in Chicago to see how this kind of strategy can pay off. The Broncos do have some intriguing young players to consider, and overall I think they made good choices with this new staff.
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