When he was first named head coach of the Broncos, Vic Fangio made it clear that he had high expectations for everyone on the team. He did so by challenging his best player on day one.
“I think Von Miller can play even better than he’s played in his career,” Fangio said at his introductory press conference. “Von Miller can be one of the rare players in this league, much like Khalil (Mack) is.”
It was a compliment, but also a challenge. And on the eve of his first training camp at the helm, the first-year head coach didn’t back down.
“I think he’s got more to give,” Fangio doubled down on Wednesday when asked about the franchise’s all-time leading sack leader. “With us guiding him and being a resource for him, I think he has more in him that he can even be better and better.”
That’s a bold proclamation, considering Miller has already won a Super Bowl MVP award and racked up 98.0 sacks during his time in Denver. But the linebacker agrees with his head coach.
“I’ve got a lot to give,” Miller said on Wednesday when asked about Fangio’s comments. “I haven’t won Defensive Player of the Year. I haven’t led the league in sacks. There’s a lot more to give; as long as I keep that mindset, I’ll continually get better each and every year.”
That has to be music to Fangio’s ears.
“He is a guy that should be in the mention for (Defensive) Player of the Year award,” Fangio added. “A guy with his talent level, a little bit becomes a lot.”
Miller seems eager to see if he can get more out of himself. And he’s open to the coaches pushing him to get there.
“Vic has coached all the great ones,” the linebacker added. “Whatever he tells me to do, I’ll do it. I feel like I’m a coach’s dream. Whatever they tell me to do, I feel like I can do it. If you coach me on a point, I’ll be able to do it.”
So far, Miller hasn’t just talked the talk; he’s walked the walk.
“(I’ve) loved working with him up to this point,” Fangio said about Miller. “He has been very receptive and I’m looking forward to the season with him.
On great teams, the best player embraces tough coaching; that gets everyone else to fall in line, knowing that everyone is held to a high standard. It’s worked for years in New England with Tom Brady. Tim Duncan buying in was what made Gregg Popovich’s message work with the Spurs all those years. The list goes on and on.
It’s early, but the Broncos seem to have found that formula. Their head coach is pushing their best player. And their best player is embracing the challenge. That’s an extremely encouraging sign.
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