In two weeks, the Denver Broncos kick off their 2019 campaign with new head coach Vic Fangio.
And, for the most part, hopes are soaring in the Mile High City. At least, defensively.
Denver’s dynamic defense is headlined by future Hall of Famer Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Chubb and now includes Kareem Jackson as well as Bryce Callahan. Simply, that side of the ball is completely loaded with talent and they seem ready to be one of the NFL’s best defenses once again.
That’s not only because of the great wealth of talent on “D” but because Fangio, in his first stint as head coach, is arguably the greatest defensive mind in the game today.
Fangio’s defensive resume is long. He worked for the Carolina Panthers in the late 90s, part of that 12-4 team which allowed a mere 13.6 points per game. And his 2006 and 2008 defenses with the Baltimore Ravens were Nos. 1 and 3 respectively in those seasons, helping that squad reach the playoffs each time.
But, even though many football fans argue that defense wins championships — we saw that in 2015 with the Broncos — most of the NFL is currently shifting its focus to the offensive side of the ball. Not in Denver, though, who signed not only and older and more experienced coach, but a defensive master.
So, with all the success in the league to this point, it’s really no surprise that those young, brilliant football minds say that Fangio is the most difficult defense to face.
On Monday, ESPN’s John Keim wrote about just that, interviewing Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur on many topics including who’s the most difficult defense to play against.
“There are so many guys and every system is different, but I look at Vic Fangio,” LaFleur said. “Just the fronts and the multiple looks you get from him. That’s incredibly difficult.’
“My hardest has probably always been Vic Fangio,” Shanahan explained. “He does so many things with his personnel groupings that he puts you in a bind with protections. He ties a lot of stuff together. Playing against him, I feel he packages stuff very similar to how I would think.
“[Bill] Belichick is very similar,” Shanahan continued. “They do it in a different style. You know they don’t just run their defenses. They figure out what you’re doing and then they think about how to stop what you’re doing and that’s very similar to how I am.”
That’s extremely high praise, not only from the youngsters in terms of Fangio’s defense always being prepared and difficult to face, but for the Broncos’ new head coach to be compared to one of the greatest of all time, Belichick.
“For us, I think Fangio and the Bears did an outstanding job of a sound scheme with versatility mixed with great players,” McVay explained in the ESPN piece.
In today’s NFL, the offense has all the advantages. Not only to they throw different schemes at defenses, mixing up personnel just to keep everyone off balance, they also get the benefit of many calls. Shanahan and McVay may be young, but they’ve already made a living creating new, innovative offensive formations and plays which seemingly can’t be stopped.
In comes Fangio, who, by all counts, was long overdue for his first head coaching position. To wit, Fangio’s Chicago Bears defense last season held McVay’s NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams to a mere six points. It was the only time all year the Rams scored in single digits outside of the Super Bowl as LA averaged a second-best 32.9 points per game.
While the Broncos’ offense has a litany of things to prove — how can Joe Flacco adapt to the new team, how will the new offensive line perform and more — Denver’s defense looks to be a top-5 defense once again thanks to the leadership and knowledge Fangio possesses.