ENGLEWOOD — First-time head coach Vic Fangio and first-time offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello continue learning on the job. This was expected when the Broncos hired their third head coach in four seasons and their fourth offensive boss.
However, offensive coordinator Scangarello disputed a CBS report claiming Fangio has a strained relationship with the offensive coaches, particularly on gameday, when I asked him about it on Thursday.
"The farthest thing from the truth," Scangarello said. "He's been great. He's helped me as grow as a coach. I think everyone in this building respects him as a man, his leadership. We know we are going to win a championship under him. And that's the goal. And that's what we are fighting for. We are a first-time coaches working together, there's always going to be dynamics (to that). But he's been great. He's been supportive. He has a defensive perspective that you just don't get."
Scangarello has undergone a baptism by blowtorch this season. After the loss to the Colts, veteran quarterback Joe Flacco ripped the playcalling, saying "what to we have to lose" by not being more aggressive. His criticism was directed at Scangarello and Fangio, believing it was unfair to the team to go ultra conservative in the fourth quarter. Scangarello respected Flacco's opinion – Flacco continues helping the quarterbacks despite suffering a season-ending neck injury – and has shown a willingness to open up the attack. Scangarello took more shots against the Browns and Vikings. The Broncos have averaged 23 points over their past two games, inching their season average to 17.2. But they lack in defining moments, converting 29 percent on third down (30th overall) and 44 percent (27th) in the red zone.
So the idea that Fangio would make suggestions and disagree with some calls is obvious. The Broncos need better offensively. Scangarello acknowledges this fact. Fangio is no more involved than any head coach on the headset during game day, Scangarello said. The Broncos delivered their most explosive first half of the season against the Vikings, racing to a 20-point lead. They failed to gain traction in the second half, managing a field goal in four possessions.
"Just look back at that physically we dominated them, but we have to be able to make big plays when it matters. We didn’t go in there and play a full game. That’s what it comes down to. We have the talent. We have the capability. In every game we play we’re out-physicalling everybody. That’s not the problem," said running back Phillip Lindsay, who has rushed for 651 yards and five touchdowns. "The problem is creating big plays. "It's about execution. Brandon Allen’s giving us great opportunities and great chances to win games at the end. We have to make things count.”
Allen remains the starter after throwing three touchdowns and one interception in his first two games. He has brought more mobility to the position, but must improve his accuracy. He's completing 49.2 percent of his passes. While Allen has shown promise, where does that leave rookie Drew Lock? He will not be the backup this week. He could start as soon as the Chargers game -- that's not happening if Allen upsets the Bills -- or the team could continue to slow play it with an eye toward the final two home games against the Lions and Raiders.
Lock continues to receive roughly eight-to-10 reps in practice. It took a few practices after his two-month layoff, but Lock feels comfortable again with the speed of the game. Lock won the backup job in training camp before suffering a thumb injury that landed him on injured reserve.
“The reality of it is playing live is always going to help you in some ways when you’re ready," Scangarello said. "So that’s just what it is. Making sure that he’s comfortable and we’re comfortable.”
Left guard Dalton Risner (ankle) and center Connor McGovern (shoulder) did not practice Thursday, but are expected to play. ... Right tackle Ja'Wuan James is unlikely to play for a third consecutive week after re-injuring his left knee against the Colts. ... Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell was asked if he has seen a disconnect between Fangio, the coaches and players. “Not at all. Not at all. It’s disappointing to read something like that at times. It happens in the NFL world, but I’ve worked with Vic for nine years and it’s all been great."