Jeff LegwoldESPN Senior WriterClose
- Covered Broncos for nine years for Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
- Previously covered Steelers, Bills and Titans
- Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame Board
of Selectors since 1999
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Just 14 days after saying he expected all three of his coordinators back for the 2020 season, Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio has fired offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello after just 16 games on the job.
“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 Sunday. “We need to do everything we can to get better — in all areas — as we start working toward next year. Rich is a bright coach with a great future ahead of him. I appreciate all of his hard work and thank him for his contributions to the Broncos.”
It means a team in search of offensive continuity will start the 2020 season with its fifth offensive coordinator in as many years. The Broncos were the only team in the league that finished the 2019 season in the league’s bottom five in points scored, total offense, third-down percentage and red zone success.
However, the day after they finished at 7-9, Fangio was asked whether he expected the team’s offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator to be back.
“I do,” Fangio said Dec. 30. “All these guys will — we have a good staff. I’m sure some opportunities will come up for some guys. We’ll deal with those as they come.”
Fangio also said Scangarello and rookie quarterback Drew Lock had developed “good trust” with each other. However, after meetings in recent weeks, as well as evaluations of the team’s performance, Fangio informed Scangarello of the decision to fire him.
The Broncos finished 28th both in total offense (298.6 points per game) and scoring (17.6 points per game) this season, to go with 30th on third down and 28th in red zone efficiency. The team scored 16 or fewer points in eight games, including seven of their nine losses.
Scangarello, 47, completed his first season as an NFL play-caller after a long career in college football. Because of his time with Kyle Shanahan on the Atlanta Falcons‘ and San Francisco 49ers‘ staffs, he brought the offensive scheme Fangio and Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway had said they wanted and signed him to a two-year contract.
Fangio is seeking a more experienced play-caller who can bring a more downfield element in the passing game as well as implementing some of the jet motion and open formations the best offenses in the league currently employ. Fangio also has reviewed the general feel of the gameday calls, timing of gadget plays and some late-game situations.
After the season, both Fangio and Elway said improving the offense’s production was a priority and both added the Broncos’ ability to “handle” the Kansas City Chiefs would be key in trying to win the division. The Broncos were outscored 53-9 combined in two losses to the Chiefs this season.
The new coach’s ability to continue to develop Lock will be key as well. The Broncos went 4-1 in the rookie’s four starts to close the season, and Elway already has said it would be “unrealistic” to say Lock will not be the starter next season.
Scangarello had given Lock a plan for the offseason, and Lock had expressed optimism about working with Scangarello in the future. During the season, Lock had also praised Scangarello for preparing Lock to play this past season, even with him on injured reserve until November.
“I think it was an awesome relationship that we had,” Lock said last month.
“The way he coached me this year I was super thankful. I told him … that I wouldn’t have been to this point, felt comfortable without the way he made me feel about who I was as a quarterback and just the way he coached me.”
Before Scangarello, Rick Dennison (2016), Mike McCoy (2017) and Bill Musgrave (2018) had served as Denver’s offensive coordinator.