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Vic Fangio fires Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello

The Denver Broncos are about to hire Pat Shurmur to be their fifth offensive coordinator in five years.
Credit: AP
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, left, stands with head coach Vic Fangio, right, on the sideline before an NFL football preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

DENVER — After taking a deep dive into arguably the worst offense in the NFL this season, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has decided to fire offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, a league source tells 9NEWS.

The Broncos were the only team in NFL that finished in the bottom five in all four key offensive metrics: Points, yards, third-down percentage and red zone percentage.

Fangio will make Pat Shurmur the Broncos' fifth offensive coordinator in five years, sources told 9NEWS. Shurmur, who was recently fired as the New York Giants head coach, had offers from multiple teams to be an OC. However, a league source said he picked the Broncos in large part because of a talented young core led by Drew Lock.

As the father of Kansas Chiefs' practice squad quarterback Kyle Shurmur, Pat Shurmur attended the Kansas City Chiefs' 51-31 comeback victory against the Houston Texans in Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday and saw firsthand how difficult it will be to coordinate an offense that can keep up with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

But Shurmur has worked wonders in the past as an offensive coordinator while bringing along the likes of a young Nick Foles, Sam Bradford, Case Keenum and Daniel Jones. His offenses have consistently been among the league leaders in big plays. 

Fangio met with Scangarello as part of his coaching staff’s end-of-year evaluations a couple of days after the Broncos’ season finale victory against the Raiders. Although Fangio told 9NEWS the day after the season he didn’t anticipate making any staff changes, he was waffling on whether to retain Scangarello for a second year, sources said.

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello directs tight end Troy Fumagalli (84) during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Friday, July 19, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Broncos, remember, had taken a leap of faith with Scangarello, who was relatively inexperienced as an NFL coach at the time he was handed the offensive coordinator role.

After taking 10 days or so to watch tape and talk it over internally, Fangio decided a move was necessary if the Broncos’ offense was going to jump into the league’s upper echelon.

“After a lot of consideration and discussion after the season, I determined that a change at offensive coordinator ultimately would be best for our team,” Fangio said in a statement released by the team. “We need to do everything we can to get better—in all areas—as we start working toward next year."

Per a player source, Fangio outlined to the team at its end-of-year meeting the importance of taking a significant step on offense if the team was to get back in the playoffs.

In a sit-down interview with 9NEWS on Dec. 30, Fangio talked emphatically about needing to dramatically improve the Broncos’ offense so that it could keep up with the high-scoring Chiefs, who have won four consecutive AFC West Division titles.

“It’s obviously our biggest need as a team,’’ Fangio said. “We need to score more. I believe we had nine games this year where we scored 16 or less points. Forget about Patrick Mahomes, you’re not going to beat a lot of the other teams doing that. Obviously to beat Kansas City you’re going to have to score more than that.

“That’s going to be priority No. 1 for us, figuring out a way to be more explosive, score more points and that process is going to start rather soon.’’

Credit: AP
Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello looks on with fullback Andy Janovich (32) during drills at the team's NFL football training camp Thursday, July 18, 2019, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Step one, as it turned out, was deciding to replace his offensive coordinator. Scangarello was the Broncos’ fourth offensive coordinator in four years, following Rick Dennison (2016), Mike McCoy (2017) and Bill Musgrave (2018).

In seeking the team’s fifth offensive coordinator in five years, Fangio looked for a more experienced and aggressive play-caller, in particular with the big shot and trick plays. Shurmur meets that criteria. It appears Shurmur picked Fangio and Lock over the Chicago Bears' tandem of coach Matt Nagy and quarterback Mitch Trubisky. 

One league source said Shurmur has three years and roughly $18 million left on his contract with the Giants so the Broncos would only have to pay him a minimum offset. 

The Broncos had hired Scangarello, a disciple of San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, a year ago to improve an offense that had been struggled since the second half of the 2014 season. Instead, the Broncos got worse in every offensive category except turnovers.

A statistical comparison between the Broncos last year offensively and this past season:

……………….…….. 2018 ……......… 2019

Category ….....… No. … Rk ..… No. ... Rk

Points/g .…....…. 20.6 … 24 .… 17.6 … 28

Yards/g …....…. 350.1 … 10 ... 298.6 … 28

3rd down Pct. … 33.3 … 28 ..… 31.7 … 30

Red zone Pct. … 56.8 … 19 .… 47.6 … 28

10+yd rushes  …… 55 …. 11 ……... 41 … 21

20+yd passes ……. 53 …. 13 ……... 46 … 25

In Scangarello’s defense, he was the league’s only offensive coordinator who won at least one game with three different starting quarterbacks. And the Broncos had one of the youngest offensive rosters in the league.

But the first of those quarterbacks, Joe Flacco, was indirectly critical of Scangarello’s playcalling after the Broncos suffered a heartbreaking, 15-13, walkoff loss at Indianapolis in week eight.

“We’re a 2-6 football team and it just feels like we’re kind of afraid to lose the game,” Flacco said. “It’s third-and-five at the end of the game. Who cares if they have a timeout there at the end or not? Getting in field goal range isn’t that tough. “You’re just putting your defense in these bad situations and I just felt like, ‘What do we have to lose, why can’t we be aggressive be aggressive in some of these situations?’ That’s kind of how I feel about a lot of the game today.”

As it turned out Flacco had suffered a season-ending neck injury in that game, which led to Brandon Allen and then-rookie Drew Lock.

Although the Broncos went 4-1 in their final five games with Lock, the offense did a little worse overall, averaging 289.2 yards per game compared to 302.8 yards in their first 11 games.

Also as it turned out, Fangio took notice of Flacco’s complaint. The Broncos are about to get their fifth offensive coordinator in five years.

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