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Sacco Sez: A blast from the past


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I had a strong gut feeling, in a positive way, about the hiring of Vic Fangio as the Denver Broncos' new head coach.

That remains true today, and if anything, my feelings in this regard are even stronger, largely because I really like the coaching staff being assembled by Coach Fangio and the Broncos.

Sometimes the stars align in a really good way.

I think new Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell is, in a way, symbolic of the new era taking shape here, and he perhaps ties together with the most successful period in team history.

This is Ed's third stint with the Broncos, and in terms of complete transparency, I consider him a really good friend.

But the main thing to me is that he just "fits," as the rest of the staff seems to fit.

Ed's second stint here was as secondary coach rom 2009-10, but most notable was his presence the first time around.

That was from 1995-99, and it was marked by the Broncos winning back-to-back Super Bowls, going undefeated for a calendar year (from December 1997 through the same December week in 1998), and the Broncos produced 46 victories from 1996 through 1999, at that time a National Football League record.

Plus, as we are one week before voting takes place for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's worth noting two of the players he coached (one from each of those stints) are finalists for the Class of 2019. Donatell's backfield included Ring of Famer Steve Atwater and future Ring of Famer Champ Bailey.

Both players should be inducted into the Canton Hall, but we can never count our chickens before they hatch, and the voters have a full slate of great players to consider.

Champ was always a great player, but his teams did not always match his greatness.

Atwater, on the other hand, was a member of one of the greatest teams in NFL history, one of the rare ones that went back-to-back.

He and Ed Donatell were key components of that success, as player and coach.

Atwater had one of the greatest games ever by a defensive player in Super Bowl XXXII.

Atwater's play in that victory over the Green Bay Packers, a game in which he totaled six tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two pass breakups, was instrumental in Denver's winning its first-ever world championship.

He followed that up with another superb season in 1998, when Denver won Super Bowl XXXIII over Atlanta. After calling it a career following the 1999 season, the safety ranks second only to John Elway in career postseason starts by a Bronco, as he started all 14 playoff appearances, including three Super Bowls and four AFC Championship Games.

Meanwhile, Donatell was a part of those seven postseason wins in 1997 and 1998. The Broncos are the only team in NFL history to win seven postseason games in just two seasons, so his coaching and guidance played a major role in Denver's success.

But one of the key components to all that success was the veteran nature of the coaching staff.

It seemed to be comprised largely of men who had been there, done that, and who were not surprised by anything that would be thrown their way.

This is the type of staff that the Broncos seem to be assembling now.

Admittedly, while symbolism is a nice touch, you still have to plan, prepare, coach and play.

Nevertheless, there is a real, positive old-school feel to this coaching staff, which at the same time integrates younger coaches with dynamic ideas.

My guess and the hope of fans is that the foundation is being set for a return to the greatness which has been so much a part of Denver Broncos football.

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