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Top offensive coaches say Vic Fangio’s defense is the toughest to coach against

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Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur all cite coach Fangio’s defense as one of the toughest to prepare for and play against.

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When John Elway introduced Vic Fangio as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos he said one of the qualities he wanted in his next head coach was for them to be an expert on one side of the ball.

“There’s a lot of tremendous coaches that are great at X’s and O’s. But Vic’s background on the defensive side is unmatched,” Elway said. “Just watching his history and the success that he’s had as a defensive coordinator, and then you hear about the respect that people talk about, the way he goes about his defense, the way he plays it, he’s always got something for them.”

We have heard former players from Chicago as well as current players in Denver talk about his prowess on the defensive side of the ball, and how well he schemes his defenses.

Now, some of the top offensive coaches around the league have weighed in on Fangio as well. John Keim of ESPN put out a great interview on Tuesday with Kyle Shanahan of the 49ers, Sean McVay of the Rams, and Matt LaFleur of the Packers. All three men coached under Mike Shanahan in Washington and now have all moved up the ranks to head coach, and are considered some of the top young offensive minds in football.

Keim asked them a variety of questions in what was a really cool and insightful piece (he also joined Benjamin Allbright and Ryan Edwards on KOA News Radio to discuss the story), but the thing that stuck out was when they were asked “which coach’s defense is the toughest to read and attack?”

All three of the coaches mentioned Fangio. Adam Malnati and Ian St. Clair talked about the high praise for Fangio and his defense on the MHR Radio Podcast (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify).

Matt Lafleur: There are so many guys and every system is different, but I look at Vic Fangio. Just the fronts and the multiple looks you get from him. That’s incredibly difficult.

Kyle Shanahan: My hardest has probably always been Vic Fangio. He does so many things with his personnel groupings that he puts you in a bind with protections. He ties a lot of stuff together. Playing against him, I feel he packages stuff very similar to how I would think. [Bill] Belichick is very similar. They do it in a different style. You know they don’t just run their defenses. They figure out what you’re doing and then they think about how to stop what you’re doing and that’s very similar to how I am. I don’t just run my offense. I have no idea what I’m going to call until I know what defense I’m visualizing and trying to attack. It’s fun.

McVay: For us, I think Fangio and the Bears did an outstanding job of a sound scheme with versatility mixed with great players. And clearly what New England did down the stretch was impressive. Those are the two defenses that gave us the most trouble.

All of these coaches have experienced coaching against Fangio and his scheme multiple times in their careers, without a lot of success.

In 2013, when all three of the coaches were in Washington, they squared off against the 49ers and Fangio’s defense. The 49ers won 27-6, holding RGIII and Washington’s offense to 2.4 yards per pass and 10 first downs all game.

More recently, last year with the Bears, Vic Fangio’s defense took on the Kyle Shanahan coached 49ers and the McVay coached Rams and held them to 9 and 6 points, respectively. His defense held two of the best offensive coaches in the league without a touchdown last year.

When asked about their comments, Fangio was honored and took the praise humbly:

“I wasn’t aware of that. They said that? That was nice of them. I don’t know what to say. It’s better than the alternative, them saying the easiest right. Nice of them to say that. I appreciate it.”

It is always encouraging to hear some of the top offensive minds in the league praising your defensive coach and his scheme/approach. If you have been hanging with us as I have been breaking down Fangio’s system from last year, we have gotten a bit of a look into why his defenses are so challenging to play against, and how he adapts them to his opponents.

We’ll continue digging into them as the season goes along, and look forward to great things from this defense.