ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vic Fangio's day started better than it finished.
By the time Saturday was over, the Broncos' head coach found himself trying to solve an unprecedented situation at quarterback and adjust his team's game plan for a Week 12 game against the Saints.
Earlier that day, though, Garett Bolles stopped by Fangio's office with news for his head coach. The long-maligned offensive tackle who greatly elevated his play in 2020 would soon signa four-year extension to remain in Denver.
"We had an emotional couple minutes there, him and myself together," Fangio said Monday. "I'm very happy for him."
As Bolles reflected Monday on his new contract that will tie him to Denver through 2024, he credited the Broncos' head coach — among others — for sticking with him as he struggled with holding penalties early in his career.
"I will tell you this, I love that man dearly," Bolles said. "He put up with me for the last two years of the boos and people telling him to kick me out. But he knew what I was capable of doing because he saw me in practice every day. We talk regularly. He believes in me. I believe in him. I think he's a phenomenal head coach that's leading this organization in the right way. That moment I had with him when we both shed teary eyes and even the time that he said, 'I knew you could do it,' that meant a lot to me. I also told him, 'I won't let you down, Coach,' and he told me he's going to hold me accountable to that. So, I'm very thankful for that and I know that I won't let him down."
With the help of Fangio and Offensive Line Coach Mike Munchak, Bolles persevered through a three-year stretch in which he led the league in combined holding penalties. He began to show improved play in the final five games of 2019, but the Broncos declined to exercise his fifth-year option ahead of the 2020 season. That meant the former first-round pick was poised to head to free agency, and he acknowledged that he contemplated the reality of a future away from Denver.
"That hurt me when a team trusts you and they don't pick up your contract option," Bolles said. "At the same time, that happens to a lot of people. I didn't really let that bother me. I continued to focus on what was important, and that was to play good football. I took it upon myself to show them that I can, and this is the result that happened. The fans had the right to boo me. I wasn't playing well. I really wasn't. I was hurting our team in a lot of ways, and it was up to me to fix those things."
Bolles did that, although he said there's not a singular moment where things clicked for him. Instead, he put in the offseason work and focused on having a more detailed plan of attack going into games.
No matter the method, Bolles has found a way to marry his athleticism with a level of consistency and ability to avoid penalties. That put him in position to earn an extension, and he said last week he hoped to finalize a deal before the end of the season. He didn't learn until Friday that his agent was in the middle of negotiations with the team, and he said the previous few days have been "really emotional" as he's celebrated with his family.
If it sounds like Bolles wanted nothing more than to stay in Denver, well, that's accurate. He could have waited until the season ended to either force the Broncos to apply the franchise tag on him or to hit the open market, but he wanted to remain in the place where his NFL career began.
"My hope was I was going to play here my entire career," Bolles said. "I love Denver. Like I said before, I love the city, I love my teammates, I love really everything about this state. The people here, the people that I've ran in contact with and helped and they've helped me, I wanted to stay here. This is home to me. My family's here, my kids — Kingston's starting school and the school that he goes to has been awesome for him. So, yeah, I could have said, 'Yeah, I could have taken in more in free agency,' but that's not the whole point. The contract that Chase Callahan and the Broncos came to agreement with was a perfect contract for me and my family. That's exactly what I needed and my family needed, and that's all that really matters to me.
"Yeah, it would have been awesome to be the highest paid, but at the same time I'm thankful for what I've got. I'm blessed for what I've got and I know the Broncos and Chase did exactly what they needed to do to get me to stay here. I took it and I'm thankful for it. Now it's behind me and now I can just focus on being the best left tackle in the game of football and continue to help this Broncos organization to get back on top of AFC West."
Bolles' goals certainly are high as he aims to help the Broncos return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 season. He said he wants to be more than a solid player for Denver. Instead, he wants to chase greatness.
"I want to be a guy to where an O-lineman down the road — 10 years down the road — will look at my film and say, 'How can I be like that guy?'" Bolles said. "I want to be that role model, and I want to chase greatness. I want to be the best left tackle to ever play this game. That's my mindset. I'm going to continue to do whatever I can to fight for things to come true."