The Denver Broncos committed a catastrophic error in 2017 by passing over Kyle Shanahan for Vance Joseph. Four years later, the franchise will have an opportunity to right that wrong.
In his "sensible plan" to "fix" the Broncos, Sports Illustrated's Conor Orr — who previously suggested acquiring Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota this coming offseason — advised the team to replace offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur with one of Shanahan's top lieutenants in San Francisco, passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur or run game coordinator Mike McDaniel.
"Punch the accelerator on one of Kyle Shanahan’s two 'offensive coordinators,' Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel, and see if you can pay through the teeth to get one of them to run your offense in 2021," Orr urged. "Shanahan held on to both tightly during the head coaching cycle last year, so perhaps some kind of 'assistant head coach' title would be necessary to subvert all the administrative red tape. I really think Lock is savable and that Denver has all the pieces to win 10 games. While this would be a temporary fix, given that both LaFleur and McDaniel are on a head coaching track, installing and committing to the Shanahan offense is among the safest bets you can make right now as a head coach."
Although Shanahan is the brains behind an offense that's months removed from a Super Bowl appearance, LaFleur (brother of Packers head coach Mike LaFleur) and McDaniel are integral components of the operation. Hence their annual hype among the league's rising coaching prospects.
Under the former, the Niners have squeezed production from average- and replacement-level passers alike, from Jimmy Garoppolo to CJ Beathard to Nick Mullens. Under the latter, the club's running-back-by-committee has spawned several household names in the fantasy community, such as Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Jerrick McKinnon.
LaFleur (33) and McDaniel (37) are green yet experienced thanks to their involvement in Shanahan's play-calling and game-planning processes. Either would represent a refreshing deviation from 55-year-old Shurmur, whose vanilla offense appears to be stuck in 2005. It's a young man's business, after all, and neither Shurmur nor Broncos head man Vic Fangio (62) have adopted with the times.
However, the mulligan Fangio received, his decided return for 2021, likely extends to Shurmur. The front office seeks continuity following a fifth-straight playoff-less season, meaning the status quo largely is expected to remain in place.
Never say never — few predicted Rich Scangarello's firing — but it's hard to envision Fangio dumping his second OC in as many years, especially if quarterback Drew Lock is given another chance as The Guy.
Like Shanahan himself was, the Broncos picking from his coaching tree is little more than a pipe dream.