Through the first week of training camp, one of the things that has continually stood out has been Vic Fangio’s grasp on every aspect of what the Broncos are doing. Time and time again, the first-year head coach has the perfect answer to a simple question, providing the insight that was needed and squelching any debate before it can begin.
It’s been a stark contrast to what transpired during the Vance Joseph era. During the previous two seasons, it always seemed as though the former head coach was grasping at straws when talking to the media, searching for the “right” answer to questions. It wasn’t clear if he was trying to say what he thought he should say or trying to regurgitate what someone else in the building had told him to utter, but it was obvious that the answers weren’t at the ready.
Fangio is the opposite. It’s evident that he’s answering the question in an honest, earnest manner; they’re his thoughts, not anyone else’s. As a result, it’s become crystal clear that he’s in charge and on top of every detail.
A few prime examples:
There has been some discussion about the Broncos holding a handful of training camp practices in the afternoon, when thunderstorms typically roll into Denver. Fangio was asked about it during the media BBQ.
“The rain dictates you that you practice in the morning. We are going to roll the dice on a couple of those afternoon practices because those are all happening after the players have the day off. After a day off, I like to get them back into building, meet with them again, get them rolling before we go back out on the field. We’ll just cross our fingers and hope it doesn’t rain. If it rains, we have beautiful indoor facility we’ll go into.”
Makes sense. There’s a rhyme and reason to the decision. And a plan in place if things go awry. All good.
During the first two days of practice, temperatures were pushing 100 degrees. Fangio wasn’t about to let it turn into an excuse for his players in any way.
“The heat wasn’t bad. You’ve got to remember I spent nine years in New Orleans, some in South Carolina and Houston. They pray for a day like this.”
A perfect response. Short and sweet. Use past experience to make a point. Nip the situation in the bud.
There was a lot of conversation about the Broncos nixing music from practices. It’s a drastic change from what’s happened in years past, so Fangio was asked about the decision.
“Anybody’s who’s been a position coach or an assistant coach, they don’t like the music because it makes it hard to talk to your guys, so I don’t see the benefit of having music out there. I was an assistant coach and I don’t want to have to drum out the noise to talk to my players. There’s no music in games, and when it goes to the point where we need to simulate crowd noise in practice, which we will do, it will be noise. It won’t be music. It will be noise. That’s what it is in the game. Noise by definition sounds annoying. Music sounds nice, so if we have to deal with noise, let’s deal with noise.”
Training camp is about teaching and learning, something that is impeded by loud music. Couldn’t have said it better myself, coach.
After a couple of practices with no one-on-one drills, the Broncos finally rolled them out this weekend. Fangio was asked what he thought of the battle between wide receivers and defensive backs.
“To me, one-on-one’s a teaching drill. It’s really not football. I tell a story and it’s a true story. In all my years as a coordinator, I’ve never watched a one-on-one drill. I’ve never watched it in person nor on tape because if you watch that drill, you’d be afraid to call man coverage. It’s a drill. It’s a teaching drill; and that’s the way I look at it.”
While the media makes a big deal about drills that have very little correlation to actual football, the head coach just squashed the notion that who does and doesn’t “win” during these one-on-one battles has any meaning.
The Broncos practices this season are roughly an hour longer than they’ve been under Joseph and Gary Kubiak. Fangio was asked about the amount of time players are on the field.
“I just think guys have to practice. The only way you get better is to practice and get more reps. One thing you all need to keep in mind is there are 90 guys out there. Although we’re out there a long time, there’s nobody getting more than maybe a third of the reps, so individually it’s not that long other than being out there. But, that’s how long a game is. If we were to throw a halftime break in here, it would probably be right at about three hours, so that’s good. The other thing is we’re just practicing one-a-day and as you guys have noticed and alluded to, we’re not doing walk through too often so they’re off their feet int he afternoon. I think it makes a lot of sense.”
If you can’t practice for three hours, how can you play for three hours? Makes sense.
With the transition from Joseph to Fangio, there’s a hope that a losing mentality is left in the past and a transition to winning follows. Fangio was asked about it, with the latest buzzword being uttered.
“Culture is kind of a new word in the sporting vernacular. Culture to me is getting a bunch of good players in here and getting a bunch of good coaches doing a good job coaching them, and then you win games and everybody’s happy. All of a sudden, we’ve got a good culture. I don’t know. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to play smart and try to be on top of things mentally.”
Exactly. A coach doesn’t come in and establish a culture with platitudes on the wall. It’s done via day-to-day hard work, something the head coach clearly understands.
Will all of this translate into winning on the field? Time will tell. But through a week, one thing is for certain: Vic Fangio is a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is head coach. And it’s a refreshing change.