As HC Vic Fangio moves to sideline to call plays, he'll use preseason to find plan that works

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After nearly two decades of calling defensive plays from the coaching box, Head Coach Vic Fangio will move to the sideline to call games — and that means the Broncos will have some details to sort out this preseason.

So while a team’s preseason games may not directly impact which teams head to the postseason, they could play a significant role in determining the Broncos’ success next season.

Fangio said Thursday he will use those four games to finalize Denver’s defensive play-calling plan during the regular season — and that may well be done through trial and error.

“It will be an adjustment,” Fangio said. “I’m glad we have four preseason games. You would think a guy who’s been a coordinator for 20 years wouldn’t need it, but I’ll be down on the field. I did it one other year out of my years in the NFL, but it will be an adjustment. It will be evolving. I’m sure from the first preseason game to the second to the third, I’ll adjust.”

During Fangio’s 19 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator, he’s come to find the advantages of calling defensive plays from high above the action.

“There’s a lot of reasons [it’s preferable],” Fangio said. “I think one is you see better. In many ways, the worst place in the stadium to watch a game is on the sidelines, believe it or not, because everything’s at ground level and the action might be way over there and not in front of you. That’s one reason. You can see the flow of the game better — how the offense is operating. There’s a lot of little things. Not one big thing, but a lot of little things.”

As Fangio adapts to his new reality, he’ll have his longtime assistant Ed Donatell with him to help ease the transition.

Donatell, who was introduced Thursday as the Broncos’ defensive coordinator, spent the last eight years with Fangio in San Francisco and then Chicago — and Fangio suggested he would be a key resource as the Broncos figure out both their defensive instillation and game-day logistics.

“The last two mornings, we’ve started meeting with the other defensive coaches installing our defenses from ground zero,” Fangio said. “[Donatell]’s in there with me, and he already knows everything. He knows the evolution of it, and it’s very helpful to the new guys that aren’t used to this defense to help us put it in.”

Fangio, though, said he hasn’t decided if Donatell will be on the sideline with him during the game or up in the coaching box to provide a different perspective.

“That’s another thing you may see during the preseason,” Fangio said. “He might be down there Game 1, might not be down there Game 2. [I’ll] get a feel for everybody else — with the rest of the staff — how it’s all best situated.”

Regardless of where Donatell is situated on game day, he expects to produce the same defensive success he and Fangio have found at each of their last two stops.

“We came together in San Francisco and we saw immediately that we saw football kind of the same,” Donatell said. “My experience came from the back end and his is more from the front. And I just saw this is a relationship that I kind of wanted to be a part of for a long time. As he talked before, our defense has evolved and we’ve done it together. It’s been a really good partnership.

“We’re excited about where it goes from this point on.”

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