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Why Vic Fangio's defense perfectly matches his favorite gray sweatsuit

Zac Stevens Avatar
May 23, 2019

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vic Fangio’s got a wardrobe of champions, at least in my book.

The Broncos’ new head coach watches film in a full sweatsuit, leads team meetings in a full sweatsuit and coaches NFL football, you guessed it, in a full sweatsuit.

A gray sweatsuit, that is.

And that sweatsuit signifies much more than just the Denver Broncos logo that’s plastered loud and proud all over it—it represents exactly the type of person Vic is.

In describing his new head coach, Justin Simmons said it’s impossible to read him.

Fangio’s facial expressions are identical, whether a player makes a fantastic play in practice, or completely muffs a rep.

“It’s tough to get a read on him. You can typically get a read from somebody’s facial expressions, or body demeanor, [with Vic,] it’s the same,” Simmons said with a smile, after describing Fangio’s mentality and personality as “Godfather, Italian, mob-esque.”

“Just like the plain Jane gray outfit he wears 24/7. It’s like his demeanor. You can’t tell. Happy, sad, pleased, displeased, you guys have just as good of a guess as we do sometimes.”

And not only that, but the 60-year old’s sweatsuit and demeanor mirror exactly what his defense is like.

“I think the biggest thing is you never know what’s coming,” Simmons said, describing what to expect, or not expect, from the Broncos’ new defense. “We’re always moving around. We try and make it as tough as possible on everybody [on offense].”

Visually, Vic never gives anything away with his appearance—whether it be his outfit or expression. His defense is built to do just the same.

Sure, Fangio runs the same 3-4 defensive scheme the Broncos ran under Vance Joseph and Joe Woods the past two seasons, and it’s even the same defense the team ran on their way to Super Bowl 50 under Wade Phillips.

But the similarities stop right around the numbers 3 and 4.

“The first two were pretty similar. Wade and Joe Woods, pretty much the same scheme. Ed’s defense is a lot different,” Adam Gotsis detailed on Thursday, referring to new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.

“It’s a lot more sub we’re going to be in. And a lot more coverages and mixing things up in there. Hopefully, we’re not just sitting there, and teams just know what we’re lining up in every snap and can expose us as easy.”

Fortunately, another Broncos’ defender believes that’s exactly what Fangio’s specialty is.

“I think with his defense what’s really cool is [the offenses] never really knowing what you’re in, what coverage you’re in. It really disguises everything really well,” linebacker Josey Jewell said during Week 2 of OTAs. “With a bunch of different coverages that he has and the way he disguises things, sometimes a quarterback is not going to know what you’re in and not going to know where to pick on you at. Say you’re in Cover-3 and he thinks you’re in man or something like that. He’s not going to be able to pick it out and know exactly where to go right away and have those quick throws.”

Disguise. The unknown. Disguise. Confusion. Disguise.

That’s what the Broncos’ new defense is all about. And according to Gotsis, all of this disguise will lead to more big plays from one of the highest-paid defenses in the NFL.

“Hopefully make a few more turnovers this year and put our offense in better positions,” Gotsis said on Thursday as the team wrapped up the second week of OTAs. “That’s one way we can help this team is score on defense or put us in scoring positions on offense.”

But besides just the smokescreen Vic hopes to hide behind his gray appearance, the Broncos’ defense will schematically be different, too.

“We’re going to be playing a lot of sub to let us get a little more pass rush, generate a little more pass rush up inside,” Gotsis said, pointing to the lack of 3-4 base defense Denver will play this year.

Additionally, instead of putting cornerbacks on islands and playing straight lock-down man coverage—as the “No Fly Zone” excelled at—Fangio’s defense, you guessed it, mixes it up with a combination of man and zone concepts.

“The biggest part of the defense is it’s all communicative based,” Simmons emphasized over and over again. “I think a lot of defenses are like that, but the vibe of this one is different. It’s about trusting guys, seeing plays develop, guys not mentally being on the same page, but physically. Reading it how each other’s body would read it. It’s just being in each other’s shoes, feeling out the plays.”

On the surface, Denver’s 3-4 defense isn’t any different than what’s been in town since the good ol’ JDR days.

But this defense is different. It’s like it’s draped in a gray sweatsuit with a stoic face at all hours of the day.


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