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New Broncos offensive coordinator aims to go back to old, reliable scheme

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For the Broncos' offense, it's time to go back to the old reliable.

Each time the franchise has put a shiny, new Lombardi Trophy in the lobby of the team complex after a Super Bowl win, the team has used the foundation of the same offensive playbook to do it.

Sure, the Broncos had a quarterback who has since been enshrined in Canton in John Elway for the first two title wins and a quarterback who will be enshrined at the first opportunity in Peyton Manning for the third win. But Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak used the guts of the same offense as they tried to change with the times and their personnel.

It's the same offense Shanahan taught to Kubiak, Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay and San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. It hasn't exactly gone out of style, and perhaps it won't require a hearty rebuild on that side of the roster. With that, Rich Scangarello, Kyle Shanahan's former quarterbacks coach, has been entrusted with fixing what the Broncos need to repair the most.

“I think things have been added [to the base offensive scheme] as guys have moved through the years. I think we added some things in Washington, after [Denver]," Mike Shanahan said. “You’re just always looking for matchups to give you a chance to win those big games, but it’s good to see, and it’s proven."

New Broncos head coach Vic Fangio initially talked to Kubiak about being on the Broncos’ offensive staff -- Kubiak had been in the Broncos’ personnel department -- but no deal was worked out over the construction of the offensive staff, and Kubiak accepted a job with the Minnesota Vikings. Elway and Fangio had their collective eye on Scangarello and quickly pivoted to hire him as offensive coordinator.

“I like the basis of his learning, the people he’s been around and the offense that he believes in," Fangio said. “That’s No. 1. I like the run game, the play-action game and the deceptives off of it. That’s the ground work of what he’s been around and believes in. We’ll evolve the rest of it based on our players going forward."

Even in these pass-happy times, much like Kyle Shanahan and McVay, much like Mike Shanahan always felt, Scangarello believes there is a place for the run game in what the Broncos will do. But Fangio has been clear as well that the Broncos need to challenge defenses with misdirection, motions and personnel groupings others have used successfully.

“Staying ahead in this league -- I think you’ve seen it with the misdirection," Scangarello said. “A big thing that’s in vogue is the fly sweep and the action that comes off of it. Creating different ways to attack a defense, and with that can come innovative ways to run the ball as well … I’m excited to take on that challenge. But that, to me, is how you stay ahead, and you’re innovative and balanced."

There is risk in Scangarello. He has called plays at the collegiate level but never in the NFL. But the Broncos, after the struggles of the past two seasons especially, wanted a playcaller with some recent experience in college football to mesh with the experience in an NFL system.

Scangarello knows what he’s getting into. The Broncos have used four starting quarterbacks the past two seasons, and they have finished 24th and tied for 26th in scoring in those two seasons. The passing game has been particularly troublesome, even as the Broncos have successfully run the ball.

The Broncos tied for 24th in passing touchdowns this past season and tied for 25th in passing touchdowns in 2017 while finishing in the top 10 in interceptions in both of those years -- tied for ninth-most in 2018 and second-most in 2017.

All the while, the Broncos consistently struggled to protect the passer while trying to make the three-wide-receiver set the team’s base formation on offense. The Broncos surrendered the third-most sacks in the league in 2017.

“I see an offense that’s willing to take shots, that’s aggressive but is detailed in every way," Scangarello said. “That takes care of the football, that empowers its players to be the best that they can be by putting them in a position to be successful. I think our offense empowers the quarterback to have success and can adapt to his skill set."

That's a tall order, given that since 2005, the Broncos haven’t finished among the league’s top 15 in scoring with anybody but a healthy Manning at quarterback. The Broncos figure to keep the process moving by giving heavy consideration to adding to their quarterback depth chart -- Case Keenum has just one year left on his deal -- in both free agency and the draft.

“We’ve got work to do, a lot of work to do," said Elway, the Broncos’ president of football operations/general manager. “We’re going to work our butts off to get it right. But I like what Vic wants and how he thinks we can get there."