Broncos change coordinators in effort to beat the Chiefs

The Broncos want an offense that can apply pressure the way the Chiefs can and believe Pat Shurmur, above, can do that better as OC than Rich Scangarello. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Imagine you're John Elway this past weekend and you've taken a moment to focus on the competition instead of figuring out how to get the Denver Broncos back to the playoffs.

You see the Kansas City Chiefs, with their uber-talented 24-year-old quarterback, erase a 24-point deficit in a playoff game with ridiculous historical ease. You see Patrick Mahomes throw five touchdown passes and the Chiefs score 51 points in the divisional round of the playoffs.

That 51-31 win by the Chiefs over the Houston Texans says everything about the Broncos' offseason: They have to find a way to top Mahomes, Andy Reid & Co.

And the first significant move of the Broncos' offseason -- firing offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello on Sunday to replace him with Pat Shurmur -- has a direct connection to the Chiefs. Shurmur was on Reid's Philadelphia Eagles staff for 10 years as a tight ends, offensive line and quarterbacks coach.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio wants an offense that will pressure defenses down the field the way the Chiefs do. He wants motion, pre-snap shifts and a variety of personnel groupings, because in Fangio's vast experience as a defensive coordinator, in piles of games against Reid or Reid's proteges, that all can be difficult to deal with if done properly.

Fangio wants to have a presence in the power run game while also working out of spread concepts. He wants an offensive coordinator who can develop 23-year-old quarterback Drew Lock while still scoring touchdowns. Fangio has made it clear he wants some of what the Chiefs have and believes Shurmur can get him closer to that than Scangarello could.

Easier said than done.

"We're still coming up short with them," linebacker Von Miller said of the Chiefs after the season. "But I feel like, I've said this, we're done with this losing, I'm excited to see where we go, but in our division [the Chiefs] are at the top right now."

After all, the Broncos have lost nine consecutive games to the Chiefs, with three different head coaches and four different offensive coordinators. The Broncos were outscored 53-9 in two losses to the Chiefs this past season. After a 23-3 loss in Arrowhead last month, Miller declared, "It just defeats my soul to go out there and play the way we play and lose the way we lose."

"We didn't score a touchdown against the Chiefs," Elway said the day after the season ended. "They're the team, and obviously our goal every year is to win the [AFC] West. They're the team that we're going to have to beat. ... I think [Miller's] frustration came about how we played against the Chiefs because we didn't play well either game against the Chiefs -- here or there."

Scangarello was partly a victim of the Broncos' personnel shortcomings and injuries, especially on the offensive line. But the Broncos did finish this season 28th in total offense (298.6 yards per game), scoring (17.6 points per game) and red zone efficiency and were 30th on third down -- making them the only team in the league to be in the bottom five of each of those categories. The team scored 16 or fewer points in eight games, including seven of their nine losses.

Since Elway's first season in his current job as the Broncos' chief football decision-maker in 2011, the Broncos or the Chiefs have won every AFC West title. The Broncos won five in a row between 2011 and 2015 while the Chiefs have won the past four.

And with Mahomes -- Broncos fans should probably sit down for this part -- still years away from even reaching his prime, decision-making for the Chiefs is far less complicated than for other teams in the league. But to be the best, you have to beat the best. For the Broncos, that is their rival to the east.

"We talk about not making the playoffs, but our goal is still to win a world championship," Elway said. "The first goal is to win the [AFC] West. Now we've got to figure out how we're going to get through Kansas City to do that. They will be the defending champs. That's what's exciting about it. The base that we have, the young talent that we have, the picks that we have and the staff that we have, things are trending up."