The Denver Broncos 15-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts made clear that OC Rich Scangarello is in way over his head. Scangarello failed time and time again to call plays that would attack weak points of the Colts defense, deciding to go conservative with three timeouts and 2:15 left in the first half, as well as folding late in the fourth quarter.
The killer for Scangarello was actually the one touchdown the Broncos scored. Denver had 1st-&-Goal from the 4-yard line and they came out and ran it with Royce Freeman.
Scangarello relied on the running backs, which is supposed to be the focus of the offense, and surprise, surprise — it worked. Earlier in the game, though, Denver had three yards to go and what does Scangarello call? Three consecutive passes and none of them with a quick slant.
One was a roll-out that the Colts read. Another was supposed to be a dump off to Phillip Lindsay, but a free defender shut down that lane, and the last saw Joe Flacco throw the pass high in the back of the end zone and out of Noah Fant's reach.
No rushes in that goal-to-go sequence. No quick strikes. No attacking weak areas of the Colts defense.
Yes, Scangarello is in his first year as an offensive coordinator and yes, there are issues with the talent on the field. However, the sign of a good offensive coordinator is his ability to adjust and work with the cards he is dealt and that has not been seen in Denver. The next few weeks will be a test for Scangarello with the change at quarterback, but it isn’t going to suddenly fix all of his other issues.
There are too many points in this loss where the play-calls were bad. He just isn’t up to par and unless that changes over the remaining eight weeks of the season, Scangarello could be one-and-done as an offensive coordinator.
It is rare to see a first-time offensive coordinator, in his fifth year as an NFL coach, not allow a 12th-year vet at quarterback to make any kind of adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
This is something very easy to see pre-snap. This isn’t a defense of Flacco, but he can’t call audible, can’t change blocking assignments, or anything. He is handicapped by the ego of a first-time play-caller.
This handicap has hurt the Broncos many times, and it is a big reason why blitzes are so effective against them, and paired with a bad offensive line, it is deadly.
That leads to the last point about Scangarello and why, if he doesn’t improve, he could be replaced. Good coordinators will play to what they have and provide help where needed.
The Broncos offensive line has issues and Flacco doesn’t move well, and yet Scangarello calls plays with long-developing routes with 5- or 7-step drops. When the offense would go with a quicker passing game, the Broncos are far more effective.
So if Scangarello gets the boot after 2019, who are some names that can take over for him as Broncos OC? It was a mistake to hire an inexperienced coordinator with a first-time defensive-minded head coach, so in my search around the NFL, I put an emphasis on finding coaches with experience as a play-caller.
There are a few, however, that don’t have that experience. Before I share with you my list of names, keep in mind that I am not advocating for the Broncos to fire Scangarello. I'm reading the tea leaves of incompetence, however, and can see that change might occur in the spring if the offense continues to average 15-16 points per game.
Without further ado.
John DeFilippo: Jacksonville Jaguars OC
My favorite option to start the list, but also one of the long shots, DeFilippo has the Jaguars offense playing well and it comes after losing the guy they paid to be their starting quarterback. DeFilippo calls plays that fit Gardner Minshew and his limitations, which helps the offense out a lot. With the Jaguars sitting at .500, they may not make any coaching changes, but there have been rumors that they will look hard at making a change and go after Eric Bieniemy of the Kansas City Chiefs. If Jacksonville does, that likely means DeFilippo is on the outs.
Randy Fichtner: Pittsburgh Steelers OC
The Steelers have under-performed offensively for a couple of years now, and there have been an abundance of locker room issues. Could that lead to them making many changes to their coaching staff in the form of starting over? Who knows, but if they do, Fichtner is going to receive a lot of interest around the NFL and the Broncos should be included.
Marcus Brady: Indianapolis Colts QBs Coach
Losing Andrew Luck put a lot of pressure on Marcus Brady to get Jacoby Brissett ready and the coach really stepped up. It hasn’t been great, but Brady has gotten some impressive results from Brissett with his coaching to help the Colts get to where they are. At 5-2.
Press Taylor: Philadelphia Eagles QBs Coach
Everything that Scangarello got hyped up for in San Francisco, Taylor has actually been doing with the Eagles for a bit longer. Taylor has been more hands-on with the quarterbacks than Scangarello was in getting them ready with all the injuries the Eagles have dealt with. Taylor is my personal favorite choice on this list of options that lack offensive coordinator experience.
Dirk Koetter: Atlanta Falcons OC
There are a lot of reports that the Falcons will clean house after this year, with Dirk Koetter among them. His offenses have been solid, and Denver had interest in him previously. Of all the names on this list, this is the one that stands out the most. His offense has plenty of talent in Atlanta, but he also did a good job in Tamp Bay, at least with the offense. His offense currently ranks No. 7 overall, No. 1 in passing, 29th in rushing, and is averaging 20.6 points per game. He would be that veteran play-caller to try and help right the ship.
Mike Mularkey: Atlanta Falcons TEs Coach
There is plenty of experience with Mularkey, and with the word being the Falcons are going to clean house, he might be available. Mularkey is a good coach, but his offenses have a history of struggling. I question him in the position of offensive coordinator, but he will likely get an opportunity again. I just don’t see it for Denver.
Joe Lombardi: New Orleans Saints QBs Coach
Lombardi is going to be coveted as an offensive coordinator candidate after the season. His first go-around wasn’t the best as an offensive coordinator, but talk is he has grown a lot during his time with the Saints. His name is working its way back up, and what he did to help Teddy Bridgewater be ready when Drew Brees went down only helped.
Jay Gruden: Former Washington Redskins HC
He was once a bright offensive mind, but the bad handling of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder in Washington have been crushing. Gruden was fired three weeks ago after the Redskins got out to an 0-5 start. Perhaps a step down in responsibility and a new home could help bring out that bright mind that made him so coveted as a head coach candidate.
Kevin O’Connell: Washington Redskins OC
Similarly to Gruden, O’Connell is viewed highly in NFL circles for the offensive mind he has. He flies under the radar because of the offense's struggles in Washington, but he dials up good play-calls and knows how to attack defenses, unlike what the Broncos have seen from Scangarello.
Matt Campbell: Iowa State Cyclones HC
I highly doubt that Campbell would leave the program he is building for an offensive coordinator job in the NFL. However, what he has done with that offense deserves to have a call placed at least. His ability to really get lesser talent up and playing well should be coveted for a Broncos team that lacks talent.
Steve Sarkisian: Alabama Crimson Tide OC
Sarkisian is a popular name, and what the Crimson Tide do week in and week out makes it easy to see why. He has NFL experience, having worked with the Falcons as their offensive coordinator and Denver could use experience. Not sure Denver would look his way, but with what he has done with Alabama, he deserves a look.
Derek Dooley: Missouri Tigers OC
Drew Lock spent one year with Dooley and he showed a lot of improvement as a quarterback. Dooley knew Lock's strengths and he called the offense to reflect those strengths. Hiring for familiarity could help Lock adjust to the NFL and bring him along quickly.
Brent Vigen: Wyoming Cowboys OC
My colleague, Lance Sanderson brought Vigen to my attention, which caused me to do some digging. Vigen seems to get a lot out of lesser players and shows the ability to adapt his offense and calls to the player’s strengths.
Brian Ferentz: Iowa Hawkeyes OC
There is very little experience in the NFL from Ferentz, which isn’t ideal. However, he has experience dialing up plays for Noah Fant and has some solid offenses. There have been signs of him calling plays to attack weaknesses and to cover up for deficiencies of the players.