PHOENIX -- Six things you should know from Head Coach Vic Fangio's hour-long question-and-answer session Tuesday with media at the NFL Coaches Breakfast at the Annual League Meeting:
HE BELIEVES JOE FLACCO HAS 'A LOT LEFT'
Fangio feels that Flacco has an "athletic body" that will allow him to continue playing and flourishing and will not "slowly break down" over the coming years.
"Now, that's not to say he can't get injured, but some bodies last longer naturally than others," Fangio said. "I think he's got a body that can last a long time.
"He throws the ball with ease, meaning it's just natural. There's not a lot of torque, so I think his arm strength has not wavered one bit since he came into the league. And he's hungry. Joe wants to do well. I think a lot of players, they lose their stinger before they lose their talent, and Joe's stinger is still sharp."
Fangio was on the Ravens' coaching staff in 2008 when Flacco arrived as their first-round pick from Delaware and saw his potential right away.
"When we first got him, it was during OTAs of his rookie year and John Harbaugh was a rookie head coach at that time," Fangio said. "He had just come from Philadelphia with Andy Reid who had Donovan McNabb at that time. Andy rode Donovan for a long time. They got to win a bunch of playoff games, got to the Super Bowl, never won the Super Bowl, but they had a nice run there.
"I walked over to John Harbaugh and I said, 'I think you've got your guy here that you're going to be able to ride for a long time, just like Andy rode Donovan McNabb.' I noticed it early.”
HE WANTS TO MAKE HIS OWN JUDGMENTS ABOUT RETURNING PLAYERS
And that means focusing on how they practice and play going forward. Fangio said he plans to evaluate his players based on what he sees of them after they arrive for offseason work next week, and not focus on what they did in previous seasons.
When he interviewed for the head-coaching job in January, Fangio told President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway he had watched "very little" Broncos film from the 2018 season, and that remains the case.
"I bet you under 150 plays," Fangio said. "The only guys I've watched are the guys we've had to make decisions on.
"If the guy's on our roster and he's going to be on our roster, I want to form my own opinion. I don't want to watch other stuff.”
HE WILL BE 'A PART' OF QB EVALUATIONS
Now that Fangio has oversight over an entire team's process for the first time in 33 seasons in the NFL, he will "absolutely" evaluate the quarterbacks in this year's draft class.
“The first thing I said to a lot of coaches, I said, ‘Now I get to evaluate quarterbacks, and I won't make the same mistakes some of you offensive coaches have made over the years,'" Fangio said with a laugh.
Having been a part of game-planning against opposing quarterbacks in pro football since 1984 with the USFL's Philadelphia Stars, Fangio believes his perspective from the other side of the line of scrimmage has value. He knows what types of quarterbacks are toughest to defend.
“I do think it's another lens to look at a quarterback from," he said. "Most of the evaluators of quarterbacks are looking at it from the lens of offense, offense, offense. I'm looking at it looking this way (from a defensive point of view). I think it's another perspective that should be utilized.”
HE ADVISES YOU TO NOT GET TOO FOCUSED ON WHICH PROSPECTS THE BRONCOS BRING IN FOR PRE-DRAFT VISITS
Between now and the NFL Draft, each team can bring up to 30 players to their headquarters for in-person visits. With the reports of each visit, pundits and fans attempt to diagnose the intent of the visit, to determine whether it's a sign of legitimate interest or an attempt to deceive.
In this area, Fangio advises caution.
"I wouldn't get too enamored with who we're bringing in or who the other 31 teams are bringing in," he said. "It could mean something; it might not mean something. I think guys that try and read the tea leaves on the draft drive themselves crazy."
But what does matter is what Fangio and the Broncos can gain from spending time with each prospect.
“I think it helps," Fangio said. "For every guy, it's a little bit different. Some guys you're bringing in just to get a little bit of a better feel for them. Some guys you're bringing in you feel like you have a lot of questions that you want to ask and get answered. It's a different degree."
But then again ...
"Some of those guys you're bringing in, you're just bringing in as a smoke screen," he said.
HE SEES DEFENSIVE LINEMEN AS 'INTERCHANGEABLE'
In response to a question about Shelby Harris -- on whom the Broncos issued a restricted free-agent tender at the second-round level -- Fangio shared his hopes that Harris could play any position on the defensive line.
“I think he can play anywhere along the defensive line for us hopefully,” Fangio said.
Then Fangio added that the versatility he desires carries over to all defensive linemen.
“I think D-linemen are interchangeable. I think the days of a nose tackle and an end — to me, they're all [linemen]," Fangio said. They play from lining up on this tackle all the way to that tackle and anywhere in between. They all have to react to the same type of blocking schemes and the same type of blocks to be able to pass rush.
"To me, they're defensive linemen. Period. End of story."
HE SEES POTENTIAL IN THE OFFENSE TO HELP CREATE A TURNAROUND
From New Orleans to Carolina to Indianapolis and on to San Francisco and Chicago, Fangio has seen teams rebuild -- or simply build, in the case of the expansion Panthers -- successfully. Those projects had common traits.
“There were better players there than people thought there were. That's obviously a good starting point," he said. "I think in all those places we put together good coaching staffs, which always helps. Once you get a pretty good core group of players and a good coaching staff together, you can turn things around quickly.
"It didn't go as quickly in Chicago because there weren't many good players there when we got there. So it took a while.”
That led to a follow-up question: Do the Broncos have players who are better than others thought – the type that can help craft a turnaround like the ones Fangio experienced?
“I think so at certain places. I do," Fangio said. "I think offensively, we have a chance to be better than people think we do. I think the players are better on offense than the perception was when I first got there.”