In Wake of Scangarello's Firing, it's Fair to Wonder if Elway & Fangio are on the Same Page
Most fans are unlikely to shed a tear over the Denver Broncos' recent decision to fire underperforming offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. Scangarello's replacement is set to be Pat Shurmur (ex-Giants), who will most certainly be a considerable upgrade in terms of experience and provide the crucial element of more creative and aggressive play-calling.
The move to fire Scangarello does, however, call into question how the football side of the Broncos organization is being managed by GM John Elway. How can the firing of yet another offensive coordinator even remotely come close to resembling Elway’s favorite Broncos buzz word from 2019 — continuity?
Moving on to appoint the team's fifth offensive coordinator in as many years also marks a rapid U-turn from Vic Fangio, who said two weeks ago that he didn't expect any changes to his coaching staff.
The only common dominator is the fact that both Elway and Fangio seem to agree that Drew Lock is the answer at quarterback the team has been searching for. The realization of what they have in Lock has provided a zest to accelerate the young signal-caller's development, if the team can place him in the right pair of hands and system.
Despite this shared perception of Lock, it still represents a huge departure from what the Broncos' boss said about his vision and philosophies for developing a franchise QB when he was interviewed by Peter King only a year ago.
“When we do find that guy, we’ve got to have the continuity on the offensive side to where we can train him and develop him and get him there,” Elway told King last January.
While the GM deserves credit for hitting on his second-round draft pick, it would also be wise to employ a sensible degree of caution, while carefully managing expectations in order to maximize Lock's potential.
Obvious upsides were plain to see as the QB led his team to a 4-1 record down the stretch but Lock still has a long way to go with future bumps in the road being inevitable. Changing systems and cycling coordinators has roundly been considered one of the quickest ways to derail a young QB's NFL career.
Providing a rock-solid foundation for a youngster to grow was always something that Elway prioritized in the past, as he expanded in his interview last year with King,
“This is our fourth year offense in probably three or four years. QB’s need to be developed,” Elway admitted. “You don’t find one ready-made, we got to have a solid system in place for when we do go after whatever guy it may be, a young guy or a trade or whatnot.”
Strangely, Elway would appear to have forgotten his own words, as the recent change of staff will directly affect his starting QB the most. Shurmur is known to run a QB-friendly system that features a lot of shotgun looks, which would suit Lock, but it will still require time and repetition to be mastered.
Diving deeper into the back story of how Scangarello met his demise in Denver, perhaps it was Fangio who made a power play by getting his guy into the offensive operation despite Elway’s short-lived emphasis to maintain coaching continuity. The proverbial internal struggle of head coach vs. general manager could perhaps hold some water in Denver's situation, especially when you dive deeper into Elway’s end-of-season comments.
“Not having continuity on the offensive side makes it a lot harder, no matter who the QB is," Elway said on December 30. "Unless you have continuity in the system that you have, it’s going to be hard to have a QB that goes through multiple system changes. I’ve talked to Vic about us trying to make sure we have the same system offensively and keep that going and be able to hire from within if we were to lose people. But the key thing that we have to do is, systematically, we have to be consistent year in and year out to have these players get better.”
What’s now clear, only days after making this statement, is that Elway did a 180. Or at least, he rubberstamped Fangio's decision to fire Scangarello and pursue Shurmur, thus calling into question whether the GM and coach are truly on the same page.
If there is a level of disconnect between Fangio and his boss over how to proceed in building the Broncos, those potential cracks could only deepen over time. At this stage, considering how quickly both coach and GM contradicted their words through the action of firing Scangarello, it's fair to question whether the two are on the same page.
As I wrote on Monday, Broncos fans should be excited about the arrival of Shurmur — a well-respected and experienced offensive mind. But we'd be remiss to not examine the internal implications of what these coaching moves could mean.
Bottom line, here's to hoping that the musical chairs in the coaching ranks don’t conspire to damage Lock's overall development — that would be most unforgivable. There's also the possibility teaming him up with Shurmur could accelerate Lock's growth. Only time will tell.