ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When John Elway introduced Vic Fangio as the 17th head coach in franchise history on Jan. 10, 2019, he lauded Fangio's attention to detail and defensive expertise.
"I'm thrilled that Vic is our next head coach," Elway said less than a year ago. "I believe he is exactly what we need."
In Fangio's first season as head coach, Elway's sentiment rang true.
With Fangio leading the way, the Broncos ranked in the top five in passing and total defense and the top 10 in scoring defense for much of the season. A late slew of injuries knocked Denver to 12th in total defense and 11th in passing defense, but the team remained 10th in scoring defense to end the year.
The Broncos' red-zone defense was tops in the league in 2019.
Fangio's detailed, meticulous approach also kept the team motivated and together following an 0-4 start.
"You know what, we took care of the little things," Elway said Monday at his season-ending press conference. "You look at what we did penalty-wise and the discipline that the team played with, I think all those things made drastic turn-arounds from where we'd been. I think that was a start, but that's what Vic impressed with, his attention to detail. One of the great things he did [is] it's hard to make the transition from the box to the sideline and be able to call a defense and be the play caller from the box compared to the sideline. I think that was seamless. He did that tremendously. He was able to not lose anything of what he did as a defensive coordinator and continue to do what he did on the defensive side, but also be a tremendous head coach. The players believe in him. Again, when we talked about last year and talked to Vic before he was here, those are the things that stood out to me. That's kind of what we needed. All those things came to fruition and where we are and the discipline that we play with. That's only going to get better. He's got one year under his belt. That's going to continue to get better. On the base of what he's put on our football team, they understand what those points are. That's only going to continue to get better."
The Broncos went 7-5 after that unfortunate beginning to the season, and they closed the year 4-1 in their last five games.
"Obviously when you finish 4-1, you're excited about that," Elway said. "This is the first time really in three years we've finished strong. … The difference between this year and the previous couple years is that we started slow. It feels better to finish the way that we finished. I think with Vic and his staff and what they did — I'm excited about what he did. He had a tremendous year for us and battled through some tough times. We had a lot of things that didn't go our way but battled through that. I think the most encouraging thing is you watch how this team played the whole year. They played hard the whole year. That, number one, is the most exciting thing."
With Fangio at the helm — and Drew Lock at quarterback — the future seems encouraging for the Broncos.
"I think that we're at the point where the good feeling is we've bounced off the bottom," Elway said. "When you're losing, the whole thing is getting that locker room turned around. That's the most important thing — and [getting to] where they feel like they have a chance to be successful. It's not, 'Here we go again.' We've talked about, 'Here we go again,' so many different times, especially over the last couple years, because there was that feeling. I think that we've finally gotten rid of that feeling and that locker room feels like they've got a chance to be successful. They believe in the coaching staff, they feel like the young guys that we have and the excitement that Drew has brought, that locker room is excited again."
Year 2 will bring added expectations for Fangio, as Elway said the playoffs were a realistic expectation for next season. As the two men aim to make that goal reality, they seem to be in lockstep.
"It's been great from my perspective," Fangio said of his working relationship with Elway. "If I need something or want to run something by John, I just walk by and do it. Same thing if he has something that he wants to say to me, whether it be personnel or scheme, he comes by and runs it by me. I think it's been seamless and great."
Added Elway: "In my point of view, it's been great. I look forward to working with Vic in the future. I think it's only going to get better and better as we get to know each other even more. I will say this, Vic has been everything that I thought he would be and a heck of a lot more. … I'm excited about Vic and what he's about and the way he goes about his business. I couldn't have asked for a better guy to work with at this point in time. We're on the same page, and like I said, we're getting to know each other better. The bottom line is I don't get in his way. If he needs something, I try to help him, and if he's got questions, I can answer that.
"It's been a great working relationship and I only plan on it getting better and better."