The Denver Broncos are fresh off their bye week and now have their sights set on the surging Minnesota Vikings.
Denver will travel to Minnesota to square off against a 7-3 Vikings squad who are fresh off a clutch, primetime victory versus the Dallas Cowboys.
Should Denver want to escape Minnesota with a victory, their defense will have to shut down a Vikings offense that has been on fire in recent weeks, led by Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook.
After a slow start, Cousins has come on strong in the middle of the season. Minnesota’s offense is averaging 26.2 points per game to pair with 384.4 yards. The Vikings offense is coached by former Broncos head honcho, Gary Kubiak.
As most of Bronco Country will remember, Kubiak has a long history with the team. First, he was a backup quarterback to John Elway in the ’90s, then he was Elway’s offensive coordinator. Years later, Kubiak coached the Broncos to their Super Bowl 50 victory versus the Carolina Panthers.
Following the championship season, Kubiak stepped down as head coach for personal reasons. Since his departure, Denver endured two putrid seasons under the command of Vance Joseph.
After cutting the cord with Joseph, Denver hired Vic Fangio to right the ship.
And the beginning of the 2019 season marked Fangio’s first season as an NFL head coach; the results so far have certainly reflected that of a rookie head coach running the show.
The Broncos enter Sunday’s contest riding a 3-6 record, although Denver could possibly have a couple of extra wins and be closer to a .500 football team.
Denver has suffered some brutal losses this season that could have gone the other way should Denver have managed to find a way to win in crunch time.
While coach Fangio could control very little in those games, the results were indicative of a coach learning how to run the show at the NFL level. You could call the Broncos crushing losses to the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts “growing pains” for coach Fangio and his staff.
Even at 3-6 at this point in the season, it’s safe to say Fangio is a lot better than coach Joseph, and the Broncos appear to be trending in the right direction under his control.
While the results have not been stellar, the Broncos have played some solid football this season, especially on the defensive end, which is coach Fangio’s specialty.
Prior to becoming the Broncos’ head coach, Fangio turned the Chicago Bears’ defense into the best unit in the NFL.
And now, Fangio’s defensive mastery has rubbed off on the Broncos. Denver’s defense has been one of the best in the league this season, allowing an average of 309.7 yards and 18.9 points per game, both of which rank in the top-10.
Additionally, Pro Football Focus ranked the Broncos’ pass coverage as the third-best in the league this season while Denver’s run defense is the highest-graded unit in the NFL.
Safety Justin Simmons and linebacker Alexander Johnson have emerged as game-changers at their respective positions and have complimented veterans Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. in Fangio’s system.
Generally speaking, Denver’s defense has been as advertised under Fangio. The Broncos are excellent at stopping the run and keeping games close entering the fourth quarter.
Where the Broncos have struggled the most, and Fangio has dropped the ball, is on offense.
While Fangio is a defensive specialist by trait, he is responsible for the entirety of the Broncos team, offense included. Denver hired the youthful Rich Scangarello to run the offense and that’s partly on Fangio. Scangarello was considered to be an offensive mastermind and was supposed to elevate Denver’s offense. Well, like Fangio, Scangarello has struggled to make the jump to an elevated position.
The Broncos’ offense is one of the worst units in the league and has prevented the team from blossoming as the year has progressed.
Fangio has defaulted a majority of the responsibilities on offense to Scangarello, and the results have been lukewarm. What’s resulted is often times this season, Fangio has looked more like a defensive coordinator than a head coach on the sideline. While Fangio only has nine games under his belt as Broncos head coach, his deficiencies are evident.
Fangio appears to have total control of one facet of the Broncos but lacks overall influence over the entire team.
The jury is still out when deciding if Fangio should be the Broncos head coach for the long haul, however, he still has some work to do if he wants to elevate the Broncos to one of the best teams in the league.
Come Sunday, Fangio will square off against the coach that led the Broncos to a championship just a few seasons ago in Kubiak.
While “Kubes” leaned heavily on Wade Phillips to coach the defense during the Broncos Super Bowl run, he had total control and respect of the entire team.
Should Fangio want to take Denver back to the promised land, he will need to continue to adjust to being a head coach. Fangio and Kubiak are not cut from the same cloth, but Fangio should take a page from Kubiak’s book moving forward as head coach of the Broncos.