Fangio on Scangarello's Play-Calling: We had to 'Try to Win, Not Hope to Win'
Coaches sometimes say the darndest things. While I wouldn't technically call it 'Freudian' per se, perhaps head coach Vic Fangio inadvertently let something slip following the Denver Broncos 38-24 dominating victory over the Houston Texans.
First, some context.
Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has been under fire all season long, but especially since Week 11 at Minnesota when the Broncos squandered a 20-point first-half lead. The embattled play-caller has received criticism from both inside and outside the building for his play selection and game-planning in the second half of games, including from his boss GM John Elway.
Heading into Houston at 4-8, the Broncos as a team had nothing to lose. And for once, the offensive play-calling matched the reality of the team's situation on the field as the Broncos put up 391 total yards, posting 22 first downs and 31 of the team's 38 total points.
“It was good," Fangio said of Scangarello's game-plan. "We knew we had to come out and get after these guys, and not hope to win but try to win, and throw it around and have a good mix of run-pass.”
What happens next for the Broncos and Drew Lock? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!
Pay close attention to what Fangio said about trying to win, as opposed to hoping to win. Perhaps another way of saying it would be coaching to win instead of coaching not to lose.
Even with a rookie quarterback making his first career road start, Scangarello opened up the playbook and didn't take his foot off the gas. The Broncos got after the Texans early, totaling more points in the first half (31) than they had in any game's worth of action all season long.
While the Broncos 'only' put up another seven points in the second half, it wasn't necessarily because of any palpable fear on Scangarello's part. Rather, when a team enters the half with a 31-3 lead, it's incumbent upon the coaches to call a game in the second half which kills the clock and maximizes the team's odds of holding onto the margin of victory. Scangarello did just that.
Drew Lock went 22-of-27 for 309 yards with three touchdowns and an interception, finishing with a QB rating of 136.0. Lock became the Broncos first rookie QB to win each of his first two starts since Elway did it back in 1983 and made NFL history as the only rookie to ever eclipse 300 yards passing and three passing touchdowns in his first road start.
Scangarello deserves credit for how well Lock played in both his home and road debuts. As Fangio alluded, the Broncos had a good mix of run/pass plays and especially exploited the Texans defense with their play-action game.
The Texans were on their heels throughout the meaningful portion of the contest. Gone was the predictable offense Scangarello had been telegraphing to opponents over the last quarter of the season. He had Texans DC Romeo Crennel guessing all game long.
Whether or not Scangarello's offense could work in the NFL was never in question. He proved that in the first half of games long ago. The issue was always Scangarello's play selection in-game following the initial scripted portion of his weekly game-plan.
However, what we learned from Fangio after the big win in Houston is that like most pursuits, Scangarello's success or failure as a play-caller depends entirely on his mindset. Now that Denver has a truly dynamic quarterback under center, perhaps Scanagrello can more fully embrace that more aggressive and confident mindset that allowed the Broncos to jump on the playoff-caliber Texans early and then step on the opponent's throat.