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‘I expect big things from Denver’: Why ESPN’s Booger McFarland, Lisa Salters think the Broncos can exceed expectations

Former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan talks with ESPN reporter Anthony "Booger" McFarland at a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers on the 20th day of training camp on August 17, 2019.
Former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan talks with ESPN reporter Anthony "Booger" McFarland at a joint practice with the San Francisco 49ers on the 20th day of training camp on August 17, 2019.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vic Fangio is Booger McFarland’s kind of people.

The “Monday Night Football” color analyst fought in the trenches for a decade in the NFL as a defensive lineman for the Buccaneers and the Colts, so he knows the meaning of hard work — and that’s exactly the kind of mindset he sees in the Broncos’ head coach.

“I’m a fan of people that grind,” McFarland said during an ESPN conference call with media. “Vic Fangio has been grinding his whole life. Sometimes in life there are things based on your last name or the family you come from, or [that] are based on the side of the tracks that you grew up on. Things are given to you in life, and we’ve all seen that. Vic Fangio had to earn everything that he’s gotten, right now being the head coach. And I’m a real, real big fan of people that earn things, because I had to live that life myself. I gravitate toward those people.

“So I am a huge fan, and I expect big things from Denver.”

McFarland and the rest of the “Monday Night Football” crew, which also includes Joe Tessitore and Lisa Salters, got to see Fangio’s coaching style up close during a day at training camp ahead of their broadcast of the Broncos’ preseason game against the 49ers. That experience left them confident that Fangio can help turn the team’s fortunes around.

“I think, number one, it starts at the top,” McFarland said. “When you look at Vic Fangio and having waited over three decades to become a head coach, and what he brings, usually teams develop the personality of their coach. If Denver continues to develop that of Vic Fangio, they’re going to be a tough defensive football team that’s going to be very, very, very well coached. They’re going to pay attention to the details.”

Lisa Salters, who serves as ESPN's sideline reporter on "Monday Night Football," previously interviewed Von Miller at the 2017 Pro Bowl.
Lisa Salters, who serves as ESPN's sideline reporter on "Monday Night Football," previously interviewed Von Miller at the 2017 Pro Bowl.

The addition of quarterback Joe Flacco was another key point for McFarland and Salters as they addressed the Broncos’ outlook. Salters, as a Baltimore resident, said she thinks she sees something a little different from the former Ravens quarterback — and it’s not just a different color uniform.

“I live in Baltimore, and as I was telling Joe Flacco on the sideline, it was odd seeing him in orange,” Salters said. “But the one thing when I got back home to Baltimore, people kept telling me, like, ‘Wow, Joe Flacco looked really engaged.’ And he just seems different to me. Not that he isn’t always very considerate and thoughtful with us, but he just seemed to have a little bit more, a little bit different juice this time around. And I think he’s got a chip on his shoulder too.”

McFarland picked up on that as well and noted that he believes Flacco’s experience with strong defensive teams has prepared him for the kind of team the Broncos have.

“I think if you look at Joe Flacco, coming from Baltimore to Denver, he understands how to play for a defensive team,” McFarland said. “And so Joe has to come in, take care of the football, don’t turn it over, don’t try to be a hero, make sure you play for your defense. …

“I would just say this: I don’t think the book is closed yet on Joe Flacco. I think he’s the right person for that team.”

But more than just the quarterback, Denver’s defense may be the biggest reason McFarland and Salters expect success from the Broncos this season.

“And they have special players on defense,” McFarland said. “We get enamored with the quarterback position — and rightfully so, because they touch the ball every play — but I think to be a championship team, you have to have two or three special players. It could be a great kicker, a quarterback, a defensive [guy]. You’ve got to have two or three, four special players. They’ve got a couple on defense when you look at Bradley Chubb [and] Von Miller. Those are special guys. If other guys around special players would do their job and not try to everyone else’s job, then you can start to build a football team that can stockpile wins.”

Booger McFarland previously worked as a sideline reporter for "Monday Night Football" seated on a mobile crane.
Booger McFarland previously worked as a sideline reporter for "Monday Night Football" seated on a mobile crane.

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