From the moment Vic Fangio was hired by the Broncos, he’s been pushing the team’s best player to be better. At his introductory press conference, the new head coach told the media that he expected more from Von Miller in 2019 and beyond.
“I think Von Miller can play even better than he’s played in his career,” Fangio said back in January, interesting comments considering that the outside linebacker boasts a resume that includes winning MVP of Super Bowl 50.
But the head coach didn’t back down from his comments. On the eve of training camp, he doubled down, continuing to push the Broncos all-time sacks leader to be better.
“I think he’s got more to give; I think we can make him be a better player,” Fangio said back in late July. “He’s got to make himself be a better player, with us guiding him and being a resource for him. I think he has more in him; he can even be better and better.”
Having worked with players like NaVorro Bowman and Khalil Mack in the relatively recent past, it’s not as though Fangio doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His perspective is a unique one.
“He’s a guy that should be in the (conversation) for player of the year awards and stuff like that,” Fangio added prior to training camp. “If we can get him to improve, to do all the little things correctly and just become a little bit better, with a guy of his talent level, a little bit ends up being a lot.”
At the time, most people saw this as a good thing. If the new head coach was willing to call out the face of the franchise, pushing him to work harder, every other player on the roster was on notice that standards were on the rise in the Mile High City.
But as the season got started, and the Broncos defense underperformed, justifiable questions arose. Perhaps Fangio wasn’t pushing the right buttons with his star pass rusher.
Through the first five games of 2019, Miller only has two sacks, both coming in a Week 4 loss to Jacksonville. He also only has two tackles for a loss and four quarterback hits. For the most part, he’s been ineffective, taken out of plays by the offense and caught standing around when things didn’t come his way.
Against the Chargers, however, Miller was much better. He didn’t sack Philip Rivers, but the linebacker was active throughout the game. He made plays, most of which didn’t show up on the stat sheet, that helped the Broncos defense hold Los Angeles without a touchdown on the day.
On Monday, though, Fangio had little positive to say about Miller’s efforts.
“I thought his rush was okay,” the head coach said about No. 58’s performance in L.A. “He was close a few times. I think he’s capable of better, but he was coming free some and did help the pass defense in that way.”
That’s a semi-backhanded compliment.
“(Miller’s) run defense was up and down a little bit,” Fangio added. “A lot of stuff was away from him. It was kind of uneventful.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement after watching film of the game.
But the negativity didn’t end there. Fangio was asked about Miller getting held a lot by opposing blockers, but he offered very little sympathy.
“Yeah, it’s happening,” the coached admitted. “But what do you want me to do?”
In other words, Fangio isn’t offering Miller any excuses. The linebacker’s lack of production is on him; don’t blame the scheme, the refs or anything else.
That’s not all bad, as this attitude helps avoid complacency. But it also runs the risk of alienating the player, especially when it’s not accurate or fair.
Has Miller been great in 2019? No. Has he taken too many plays off? Yes.
But at some point, his head coach continuing to badger him about his play, demanding more and offering little in the way of praise, could become problematic.
Vic Fangio is old school, which isn’t necessarily a problem. But with the modern professional athlete, things can turn ugly in a hurry. See Doug Marrone and Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville as just one example.
— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 15, 2019
The relationship between Fangio and Miller isn’t there. In fact, the pass rusher has had nothing but glowing things to say about his head coach. But there’s no guarantee that it’ll stay that way forever.
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