ENGLEWOOD, Colo.— In 2017, first-year 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan hired Rich Scangarello, previously the offensive coordinator at Wagner College, a small, private liberal arts school in New York City, to help run his offense. The 49ers weren’t calling it a rebuild, but that’s what it was; journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer was brought in to lead the QB room and Shanahan drafted C.J. Beathard in the 3rd round. The idea was that Hoyer or Beathard would stick, or they’d trade for a QB, or go the free agent route the next spring.
Hoyer was benched halfway through his sixth start. The 49ers lost all six. Beathard played well enough to earn the respect of the staff, but was soon replaced by trade acquisition Jimmy Garopollo. Two years later, Scangarello is a rising star in the NFL coaching ranks with an envious assignment in his new role with the Broncos. As the offensive coordinator on a team with a defensive-minded head coach, he’s installing his offense and guiding a new QB room with a familiar makeup. Second-round pick Drew Lock will begin the season as a backup, and veteran newcomer Joe Flacco is the assumed starter.
“The difference,” Scangarello says, “is Joe is established and looks outstanding, and we know what he’s capable of and we’re excited to have him. And now we’re able to build the room with other guys that complement the organization, the future, without the stress and pressure.”
The goal, Scangarello says, with players like Beathard and Lock—QBs who aren’t drafted at the very beginning of the first round—is to “insulate” them. “Brian was really good at helping them develop as players, and part of it is to insulate those guys so they don’t feel the pressure of having to play, building their confidence up and letting them feel confident as a player in your system, in you organization, in their relationships with older vets.”
Translation: Don’t expect to see Drew Lock holding anything more than a clipboard anytime soon. If all goes to plan in Englewood, it’s former Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco’s job for at least 2018, if not longer. At least, that’s the feeling I get when I talk to people involved in the Broncos’ scouting of Lock, the four-year starter at Missouri who passed for 99 touchdowns in his career and still fell to the 42nd pick in the draft. He was the fourth passer chosen, after Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins.
Despite his long playing resume, Lock has little experience calling plays from a huddle and executing many of the concepts he’ll lean on in a Shanahan offensive system.
“That’s the world we live in nowadays,” Scangarello told reporters over the weekend, after seeing Lock throw in rookie minicamp for the second day. “A guy plays in a spread offense and he doesn’t huddle in high school or in college. It’s going to take time. It’s the hardest thing to do on the planet, in my opinion, to do it well, and part of that is being able to call plays and visualize them. That takes work. That is what they pay us to do and that is what they pay him to do. We have to work together to get that done.”
Flacco made waves over the weekend with his pledge not to be a deliberate teacher in that process. It’s Scangarello’s job to mentor Lock, not his. Scangarello seems to agree. The onus, he says, is on Lock to learn everything he can from Flacco. “It’s a true opportunity to be around a veteran who has accomplished what Joe’s accomplished and sponge it all up,” Scangarello says.
• Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.