ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — One thing about Vic Fangio’s NFL career is abundantly clear: the guy can coach linebackers.
Three, Ricky Jackson, Kevin Greene and Ray Lewis, are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Now, Fangio arrives to his first year as the Denver Broncos‘ head coach with one of the league’s best defensive players craving to be the next one on that list.
Von Miller has 98 career sacks in 120 games, seven Pro Bowl selections and a Super Bowl MVP award, but Fangio thinks there’s more to come from the 30-year-old linebacker and Miller happily agrees.
“I’ve said, (Fangio) has coached all of the great ones,” Miller said Wednesday as the Broncos opened training camp. “Whatever he tells me to do, I’ll go out there and do … I want to be coachable, I think I am coachable, but I’m ready for all of it.”
In his first season as Broncos’ coach, with a team that has gone 11-21 in the last two season, Fangio certainly faces plenty of riddles to solve. Most pressing is an offense that hasn’t finished higher than 19th in scoring since 2014. But the potential of what Fangio can do with Miller, in terms of development and scheme, already has the attention of plenty of offensive coaches around the league.
“All you have to do is look at the guys he’s coached, even some of the best, and they still got better with (Fangio),” former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.
In all, defensive players Fangio has coached, either as a position coach or defensive coordinator, have earned 44 Pro Bowl selections in those seasons. That includes a who’s who at linebacker in those years, like Jackson, Lewis, Greene, Pat Swilling, Patrick Willis, Sam Mills and NaVorro Bowman
Fangio, who has already gotten a reputation from the Broncos players as being reticent to roll out the compliments, also sees that potential in Miller. Fangio had already, before a game has been played this season, put Miller on the list of the best he has coached, but he also quickly added there can be more to come from the ninth-year linebacker.
Fangio was specifically asked this week if Miller is on the same level as other linebackers he has coached, like Lewis, a Hall of Famer, and Khalil Mack, a former Defensive Player of the Year. Fangio said he is, before he added “… I think he’s got more to give … he’s got to make himself get better, with us guiding him … I think he has more in him. I think he’s a guy who should be mentioned for player of the year awards, stuff like that. If we can get him to improve all of the little things correctly, not that he hasn’t in the past, (but) just become a little bit better, a guy with his talent level, a little bit is a lot.”
Miller, too, has said since Fangio’s hiring, he’s ready to be coached and coached hard — he told Fangio as much at the coach’s introductory press conference in January.
“I’ve got a lot to give,” Miller said this week. “I haven’t won Defensive Player of the Year, (I) haven’t led the league in sacks … there’s a lot of things I’ve got to give. As long as I keep that mindset, I’ll continue to get better each and every year and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Miller finished second in the league in sacks in 2016, with 15.5, and was third in 2012 (with his single-season best at 18.5). He finished second, by a single vote, to Mack in the 2016 season for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
“I just want to come in, work hard and be coachable,’’ Miller said. “ … My job is to get sacks, make game-changing plays. I want more of both, a lot more of both and that means we’re winning.’’