Sporting a tie given to him by Chicago Bears chairman George McCaskey, the new Denver Broncos head coach met the media at Dove Valley on Thursday.
Described as a stoic, no bullshit taskmaster of a coach, Don Fangio presented his vision for the club in 2019 and gave a glimpse of how life will be for the players under his command.
His given name might well be Victor, but he’s never been the head honcho before. It is only fitting the new Broncos head coach is given the respect he deserves, so Don Fangio it is.Embed from Getty Images
Don Fangio shot down talk that he had already agreed to former head coach Gary Kubiak to return in a lesser capacity as offensive coordinator. Conversations regarding the assistants are ongoing, but he’s interested in making it happen.
The rest of the Don’s inner circle is not clear either, but it’s early days for the 60-year-old as he gets to grips with being the man at the top. He might have to lean on his assistants, but not too much.
His confirmation as the new boss in Denver brought out some key figures, especially from the Broncos’ defense. Shelby Harris, who hopes to remain in Denver in 2019 was there. Derek Wolfe was too, as was a Von Miller, among others.
Miller’s choice of attire would please a man more often seen in gray sweats — affectionately known as his business suit — than a suit and tie, but the Don had a message for the Broncos’ perennial MVP, who became the club’s all-time sack leader in 2018: he can become an even better player.Embed from Getty Images
Some might think that’s a knock against the Broncos’ defensive leader, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Don Fangio’s primary means to forging great defenses is player development.
Khalil Mack was a great player in Oakland. After he was traded to Chicago last season, Mack had one of his better seasons with Don Fangio’s guidance, despite joining the team a week before the start of the season.
It wasn’t just Mack who excelled in 2018, the entire Bears defense was ranked number one in numerous categories and in the top five in many others.
Like the Bears in the NFC North, the Broncos face three excellent quarterbacks while theirs is currently far from elite, so that puts a premium on taking them down.
For the Broncos, that requires a heavy dose of Miller being unplayable and his new sidekick Bradley Chubb improving on the 12.5 sacks he had in his rookie season.
If Von Miller can be a better player, that means rest of the Broncos defense just received an eardrum-bursting wake-up call, and Don Fangio with his 30-plus years coaching around the NFL is still going to be hands-on at practice as he strives for excellence.
From the short introduction that Broncos Country received to Don Fangio, his philosophies and methods, we know that he will get his hands dirty and will call the defensive plays. That’s his gig, and he’s good at it.
Fangio’s approach should see the players improve their craft and become less penalized in games — something that was a notable problem throughout the Vance Joseph era.
Unless something dramatically changes when free agency opens in February or at the NFL Draft in April, Case Keenum remains the Broncos’ quarterback.
The same Case Keenum that was brought into the league as an undrafted rookie by Kubiak in 2012 and given a chance to make it in the NFL with the Houston Texans.
Don Fangio might not be a quarterback whisperer, but he schemed against Keenum twice in the NFC North when Keenum had his best season in the pros.
While his numbers were far from flash, Keenum and the Vikings won twice against Fangio on their way to securing a 13-3 season and a first-round bye.
Interestingly, Fangio’s measure of success differs from what we’re used to hearing. Playoffs have been the minimum expectation. Contending for and winning championships the ultimate goal every season.
In the Don Fangio era, we’re not immediately reaching for the skies. To achieve success, the players must be more fundamentally sound, which makes their units — on all sides of the ball — better and, in turn, the whole team better.
If that happens, he argues, the wins increase, and with that — presumably — comes postseason, and back to the summit.
It’s a built from the ground up, commonsense approach, but it’s not what most of us in Broncos Country would look to when we measure success.
It is neither tangible nor sexy. Even in a league driven by data, it is tough to tell whether a player has improved his fundamentals from one year to the next.
But none of us has been an NFL coach since 1986.
Given that the Broncos’ offense will again rely on young talent in 2019, with a defense that will get younger as a number of veterans are moved on, starting with the fundamentals is a sound approach.
Don Fangio conceded the Broncos are John Elway’s baby, and he would defer to him on personnel matters if there is a deadlock.
That seems entirely reasonable because Elway eschewed all the encouragement and trend of NFL teams to go after a bright, young thing of a head coach with the hire of a wily veteran rarely considered as head coach material.
Vance Joseph didn’t seem much like head coach material either 24 months ago, and as it turned out he wasn’t, but there’s something different about the 17th head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Don Fangio isn’t flash, doesn’t deliberately obfuscate, and on first viewing appears to be someone who knows how he intends to get results.
He’s a grinder; old school. Someone who has worked hard and been good for a long time to get to where he is rather than a shiny label fast-tracked through the door with an iPhone in one hand and a large quad-shot-skinny-sugarfree-soya-
Most importantly, he’s someone Broncos Country can believe in.
Just as in Elway we trust, in Don Fangio we must trust.