x
Breaking News
More () »

Fangio's preseason approach to playing starters matches NFL coaching icons

Broncos rank 15th in preseason starter snaps — behind the likes of Reid's Chiefs, Belichick's Pats, Tomlin's Steelers and Harbaugh's Ravens.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When it comes to playing his starters during the preseason, Vic Fangio’s philosophy is aligned with the NFL coaching heavyweights.

Entering the NFL’s final preseason weekend, six head coaches with a combined 11 Super Bowl titles – Mike Tomlin, Andy Reid, Bill Belichick (6), Mike McCarthy, John Harbaugh and Sean Payton -- have played their starters more than Fangio has with his Broncos’ starters.

To those still questioning the wisdom of Vic Fangio playing Teddy Bridgewater in the Broncos’ preseason finale Saturday night (kickoff is 7:05 p.m., and televised on KTVD Ch. 20) against the Los Angeles Rams at Empower Field at Mile High, consider this: If the starting offense is going to play, doesn’t it make sense for their newly crowned starting quarterback to play with them?

The Bills' Sean McDermott is playing Josh Allen and his starters in their preseason finale Saturday.

Fangio’s decision to play his starters has been scrutinized more thoroughly this year in part because the Broncos’ first two preseason opponents – Minnesota and Seattle – didn’t play most of theirs and Denver’s opponent Saturday, the Los Angeles Rams, have not played their starters during the preseason since Sean McVay became their head coach, to immediate success, in 2017.

“We can’t control what other teams play in the preseason,’’ Fangio said last week. “Some teams don't play guys. I threw on the Kansas City game (from week 1) when I was lying in bed … I see Chris Jones out there, I see Frank Clark out there, I see (Patrick) Mahomes out there, I see Tyreek [Hill] out there with the backup quarterback included with Tyreek Hill. So, everybody has a different philosophy.”

Credit: AP Photo/Jason Redmond
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio wears a headset on the sideline during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021

Coaches have had to adjust to a contracted preseason -- from a four-game schedule to three. Most coaches, including Fangio, played their starters more in preseason game 2 than game 1. While Fangio played 18 of his 22 starters (plus his three specialists) in week 2 against Seattle, none of the projected defensive starters played more than 10 snaps.

A 9NEWS study of preseason snap counts can lead one to conclude that while there are exceptions, the approach to playing starters in the preseason is almost divided between old-school and new-school coaching philosophies.  

The Steelers’ Tomlin has almost doubled the preseason starter snaps as Fangio has with the Broncos. The veteran coaching likes of Belichick, Reid and Ron Rivera believe in getting their key players ready for the regular season by putting them through game action, even if it’s minimally, in the preseason.

Conversely, some of the younger coaches – Kevin Stefanski, Matt LaFleur, Arthur Smith and McVay – believe the injury risk outweighs any performance edge the preseason brings. A look at how teams have played their starters through the first two weeks of the preseason:

2021 Preseason Playing Time for Starters

9NEWS research based on NFL GSIS snap counts and team depth charts

RK Club .… Wk 1 ..… Wk 2 … Overall

1. MIA …… 20.7 …… 37.8 ……… 29.2

2. PIT …….. 17.4 …… 37.1 …....… 27.2

3. KC …….. 15.4 …… 34.1 ……... 24.6

4. JAX ……. 22.2 .... 20.7 ….… 21.4

5. NE …….. 19.9 …… 21.9 …….. 20.9

6. WAS ….. 18.8 …… 21.6 …...… 20.1

7. NYJ …… 16.9 …… 21.6 …….... 19.1

8. DET …… 20.2 …... 17.3 ..….… 18.8

9. ARZ ….... 13.3 ….. 24.4 ……… 18.5

10. HOU ..... 10.8 …… 23.1 …..… 17.0

11. DAL ……. 12.4 ….... 21.6 ….…. 16.7

12. BAL ……. 14.0 ….. 18.0 …..…. 15.9

13. NO …….. 12.5 ….. 19.0 …...... 15.7

14. CHI …….. 12.1 …... 18.7 ….…... 15.6

15. DEN …….. 9.5 ….. 19.9 …….. 14.7

16. CIN ……. 10.7 ….... 18.3 …...... 14.4

17. SEA ……. 12.4 ….... 12.1 …..….. 12.2

18. PHI ......... 14.0 ...... 10.0 ......... 11.3

19. LV ........... 12.6 ..... 10.0 .......... 12.0

20. CAR ....... 7.3 ........ 13.9 .......... 10.3

21. BUF ........ 8.2 ....... 10.9 ........... 9.6

22. SF ........... 5.0 ....... 10.9 ........... 8.0

23. MIN …….. 1.2 …..... 14.8 .…..… 8.0

24. IND ......... 3.0 ...... 13.1 ............. 7.7 

25. LAC ........ 5.9 ....... 6.6 ............ 6.3

26. NYG ....... 9.7 ....... 2.5 ............. 6.1

27. TEN ........ 5.2 ...... 6.4 ............. 5.8

28. CLE ..…… 6.7 .….. 4.2 ……..…. 5.5

29. GB …...…. 3.9 ….. 5.4 ……..…. 4.6

30. TB ............ 7.5......  0.9 ........... 4.3

31. ATL ……… 3.2 ….... 4.1 ….....…. 3.6

32. LAR ……… 3.0….. 1.3 …..…..…. 2.1

Credit: 9NEWS

Broncos podcast: Klis' Mike Drop

Denver Broncos headlines, game previews and interviews with our 9NEWS insider Mike Klis.

HOW TO LISTEN

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Sports

MORE WAYS TO GET 9NEWS

Subscribe to our daily 9NEWSLETTER

Download the 9NEWS APP
iTunes: http://on9news.tv/itunes
Google Play: http://on9news.tv/1lWnC5n 

HOW TO ADD THE 9NEWS APP TO YOUR STREAMING DEVICE

ROKU: add the channel from the ROKU store or by searching for KUSA.

For both Apple TV and Fire TV, search for "9news" to find the free app to add to your account. Another option for Fire TV is to have the app delivered directly to your Fire TV through Amazon.