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Coaching Matters: 2021 Denver Broncos Coaching Staff Preview

Jerry Jeudy - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, Draft Sleepers

After every NFL season, NFL teams take the time to evaluate not only the players but also the coaching staff and front office as well. While many teams choose to retain the same head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator, a few other teams opt to go in a new direction with their coaching staff.

One team that managed to maintain their core coaching staff this offseason was the Denver Broncos, with head coach Vic Fangio, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell all returning for the 2021-22 season.

This article will look at the potential impact this coaching staff will have on the players and try to pinpoint the Broncos players' fantasy values in it.

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The Baseline

To get a better understanding of the value the Broncos coaches help bring to this team, we can look at the NFL league averages in each of the past two years in a variety of statistical categories and then compare them to the averages achieved by the Broncos' coaches. Here are 'The Baseline' NFL league averages over the past couple of years:

QB Impact

Year Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 League Average
34.87 251.78 1.56 3.56 15.04 0.16
2020 League Average 35.19 254.88 1.70 4.19 18.43 0.25

RB Impact

Year RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds. RB Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
21.77 92.96 0.68 5.10 6.64 40 0.19
2020 League Average
21.68 95.13 0.75 4.71 6.14 34.94 0.18

WR Impact

Year WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
12.05 19.59 158.39 0.95
2020 League Average
13.24 20.21 166.67 1.04

TE Impact

Year TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 League Average
4.70 6.88 50.99 0.38
2020 League Average
4.76 7.03 51.29 0.45

Defense Impact

Year Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play
Turnovers Forced
22.8 235 112.9 63.5 5.5 1.4
24.8 240.2 118.9 64.3 5.6 1.3

 

2021 Offense

2021 Offensive Coordinator: Pat Shurmur

Pat Shurmur was hired as the Denver Broncos offensive coordinator in 2020 after being fired from the New York Giants. Before joining the Broncos, Pat Shurmur was an offensive coordinator for St. Louis Rams (2009-2010), Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2015), and Minnesota Vikings (2016-2017), and also a head coach for the Cleveland Browns (2011-2012) and New York Giants (2018-2019). Let's dive into some statistics from Shurmur's prior experiences as an offensive coordinator to get a better understanding of how the Broncos may utilize their offensive players in 2021.

QB Impact

Year Games Team Pass Att. Team Pass Yds. Team Pass TDs QB Carries QB Rush Yds. QB Rush TDs
2019 Giants 16 37.94 254.38 1.88 3.06 17.88 0.13
2020 Broncos 16 34.75 229.56 1.31 3.56 11.88 0.19
Shurmur's Career Averages (OC/HC) 185 35.92 244.84 1.38 2.78 10.92 0.08

RB Impact

Year Games RB Carries RB Rush Yds. RB Rush TDs RB Rec. RB Targets RB Rec. Yds.
RB Rec. TDs
2019 Giants 16 18.81 79.94 0.56 4.31 6.13 34.94 0.19
2020 Broncos 16 23.25 104.31 0.63 3.25 4.5 17 0.06
Shurmur's Career Averages (OC/HC) 185 23.11 97.01 0.65 4.88 6.65 36.70 0.10

WR Impact

Year Games WR Rec. WR Targets WR Rec. Yds. WR Rec. TDs
2019 Giants 16 13.25 21.88 162.38 1.25
2020 Broncos 16 10.5 19.56 151.69 0.88
Shurmur's Career Averages (OC/HC) 185 11.90 20.29 150.58 0.88

TE Impact

Year Games TE Rec. TE Targets TE Rec. Yds. TE Rec. TDs
2019 Giants 16 5.94 8.75 57.06 0.44
2020 Broncos 16 6.06 9.25 60.88 0.38
Shurmur's Career Averages (OC/HC) 185 5.28 8.18 56.79 0.4

 

Pat Shurmur Takeaways & Expectations

Over the course of Pat Shurmur's 185 game career as an offensive coordinator or head coach, his offense has averaged a middle-of-the-pack number of passes with 35.92 passing attempts per game. It has continued to hover around this range the past two years he's had offensive play-calling duties, with the 2019 New York Giants attempting 37.94 pass attempts per game and the 2020 Denver Broncos attempting 34.75 passes per game. It is important to note that the 2020 Broncos passing attempt averages are dragged down a bit because of a game against the New Orleans Saints where the team didn't have any quarterbacks eligible to play due to COVID protocols and ended up only attempting nine passes - the entire game. The Broncos averaged 36.47 passing attempts per game over the other 15 games of the season, so it is likely Shurmur has his offense attempt slightly more passes than the league averages in the 2021 season.

Besides passing, it's also important to look at the amount of rushing work that a quarterback may receive since it can provide a major boost to their fantasy production.

For the most part, Pat Shurmur has not seen his quarterbacks take off and run much because it was not a part of his quarterback's game (Michael Vick in 2013 and maybe Colt McCoy in 2011 are the only exceptions). This has resulted in Shurmur's QB room averaging just 2.78 carries per game over the course of his career, and his offenses being below the league average in this area for much of his career. Overall, the winner of the Broncos' starting quarterback job will likely get a decent amount of passing work but a below-average amount of work on the ground and stick to more of the QB2 range from a fantasy perspective.

Examining Pat Shurmur's running back rooms over the course of his career it's a pretty positive outlook. In the 185 games that Shurmur's been an offensive coordinator or head coach, his running back room has averaged 0.65 rushing touchdowns per game which is around league average. In addition, his running backs have averaged 23.11 carries per game which is above the league average.

Pat Shurmur has been pretty reliable in providing his running backs with work on the ground over the course of his career. But besides the amount of volume (carries) on the ground that Shurmur has historically provided, we also need to consider how that volume has been distributed over the course of his career - is Shurmur rolling with a bell-cow or a running back by committee approach?

Examining the season carries data, Shurmur has generally taken a bell-cow approach to the running back position, with multiple seasons where his lead back on the season saw more than 70% of the carries. Prior to the draft, it looked like Melvin Gordon was going to be the beneficiary of this approach, but after the team selected Javonte Williams early in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft there's a lot more uncertainty about who will be the lead back. Because of this the battle for the Broncos starting running back job will be one to watch closely as training camp approaches.

The final aspect we should look at concerning Pat Shurmur's running backs is how much he has traditionally utilized them as pass-catchers. Over the course of his career, Shurmur's running back room has averaged 6.65 targets per game.

Shurmur has generally provided his running backs with an average amount of targets over the course of his career, but in the 2020 season, he provided his tailbacks with the least amount of targets per game of his 12-year career. While we should expect some bounce-back to the norm of around six running back targets per game for the 2021 season, this will be something to watch for going forward.

Overall, Pat Shurmur will provide his running backs with plenty of carries, has been successful with the bell cow approach, and gives his running backs a mediocre number of targets in the passing game. Based on this information, the Broncos lead back should get plenty of opportunities to put up numbers in the 2021 season - it's just a matter of figuring out who that will be between the veteran Melvin Gordon and the rookie Javonte Williams.

Looking at the wide receiver position, Shurmur has provided his wide receivers with 20.29 targets per game over the course of his 185 game career as an offensive play-caller.

Shurmur's wide receiver usage has stayed remarkably consistent over the course of his 12-year career as a play-caller, staying between 18.19 targets per game and 24 targets every year. This middle-of-the-pack usage suggests that the Broncos can definitely support one fantasy-relevant wide receiver and maybe even two if the quarterback play can improve.

Lastly, Shurmur's historical usage of tight ends is extremely encouraging. Over the course of his career in an offensive coordinator or head coaching role, Shurmur's tight end room has averaged 8.18 targets per game.

Clearly, Pat Shurmur will give his tight ends a lot of work in the passing game, which makes Noah Fant one of the most intriguing options at the tight end position outside of Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller. In addition, Albert Okwuegbunam could have some value if Fant ends up missing any time during the season.

Fantasy Relevant Players: Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon III, Royce Freeman, Mike Boone, Courtland Sutton, KJ Hamler, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Seth WilliamsAlbert Okwuegbunam, and Noah Fant

 

2021 Defense

2021 Head Coach: Vic Fangio

Vic Fangio had to wait a long time for his first head coaching opportunity, but that opportunity finally came in 2019 when he was hired to be the newest head coach of the Denver Broncos. Prior to joining the Broncos, Fangio was a defensive coordinator in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers (1995-1998), Indianapolis Colts (1999-2001), Houston Texans (2002-2005), San Francisco 49ers (2011-2014), and Chicago Bears (2015-2018). Let's take a look at some of Fangio's defensive statistics over the past couple of years, as well as over the course of his career.

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2019 Broncos 16 19.75 225.56 111.44 62.69 5.38 1.06
2020 Broncos 16 27.88 237.94 130 65.19 5.64 1
Fangio's Career Averages (DC/HC) 336 21.42 218.34 113.87 63.33 5.25 1.58

 

2021 Defensive Coordinator: Ed Donatell

Ed Donatell has been working with Vic Fangio for a long time and has helped lead some great defenses over the course of his career. Prior to being hired as the Denver Broncos defensive coordinator in 2019, Donatell had previously served as a defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers (2000-2003) and Atlanta Falcons (2004-2006) and also worked in the secondary with the Denver Broncos (2009-2010), San Francisco 49ers (2011-2014), and Chicago Bears (2015-2018). Let's take a look at some of the team defensive statistics of some of Donatell's teams during his time as a defensive coordinator.

Year Games Points Allowed Pass Yds Given Up Run Yds Given Up Plays Against Yds/Play Turnovers Forced
2019 Broncos 16 19.75 225.56 111.44 62.69 5.38 1.06
2020 Broncos 16 27.88 237.94 130 65.19 5.64 1
Donatell's Career Averages (DC/HC) 144 20.78 213.56 113.54 63.31 5.17 1.83

Vic Fangio and Ed Donatell's career defensive statistics have been pretty great overall, with especially strong numbers in points allowed, passing yards given up, yards allowed per play, and turnovers forced. However, the poor performance by the Broncos defense in 2020 does raise some concern about the type of performance we should expect from the team for the 2021 season. Considering many of the team's star defensive playmakers were out with injuries for a significant portion of the regular season last year, it's probably best to chalk 2020 up as a mulligan and expect a return to solid play going forward. Based on this information, the Denver Broncos D/ST is a strong bounce-back candidate for the 2021 season and could be a sneaky defense pick late in your fantasy draft.

 

Other Notable Assistants

Special Teams Coordinator: Tom McMahon - Tom McMahon is a long-time special teams coordinator who joined the Denver Broncos in 2018. He's also previously been an NFL special teams coordinator for the St. Louis Rams (2009-2011), Kansas City Chiefs (2012), and Indianapolis Colts (2013-2017).

QB Coach: Mike Shula - Mike Shula has been the Broncos quarterbacks coach since 2020 and has been coaching since 1988. He's previously been a quarterback coach at the NFL level for the Miami Dolphins (2000-2002), Jacksonville Jaguars (2007-2010), and Carolina Panthers (2011-2012). Shula has also served as an offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-1999), Carolina Panthers (2013-2017), and New York Giants (2018-2019).

RB Coach: Curtis Modkins - Curtis Modkins has been the Denver Broncos running backs coach since 2018. He's also been a running backs coach in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs (2008), Arizona Cardinals (2009), Detroit Lions (2013-2015), and Chicago Bears (2017). In addition, Modkins has been an offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills (2010-2012) and San Francisco 49ers (2016).

WR Coach: Zach Azzanni - Zach Azzanni has been the Denver Broncos wide receivers coach since 2018. He's been coaching since 1999 and at the NFL level he has also been a wide receivers coach for the Chicago Bears (2017).

TE Coach: Wade Harman - Wade Harman became the Denver Broncos tight ends coach in 2019. He has previously been a tight ends coach in the NFL for the Baltimore Ravens (1999-2013) and Atlanta Falcons (2015-2018).

OL Coach: Mike Munchak - Mike Munchak joined the Denver Broncos as an offensive line coach in 2019. Munchak has previously been an NFL offensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans (1997-2010) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2014-2018), as well as the Tennessee Titans head coach from 2011-2013. He also played guard in the NFL for the Houston Oilers from 1982 to 1993 and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

DL Coach: Bill Kollar - Bill Kollar has been the Denver Broncos defensive line coach since 2015. He's been involved in coaching since 1984 and has been an NFL defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons (1990-2000), St. Louis Rams (2001-2005), Buffalo Bills (2006-2008), and Houston Texans (2009-2014).

LB Coach: Reggie Herring - Reggie Herring joined the Denver Broncos as a linebackers coach back in 2015. He's been involved in coaching since 1981 and has also been a linebackers coach for the Dallas Cowboys (2008-2010), Houston Texans (2011-2013), and Chicago Bears (2014).

OLB Coach: John Pagano - John Pagano has been coaching at the NFL level since 1996 and coaching in general since 1989. He's been an outside linebackers coach for the San Diego Chargers (2004), Houston Texans (2018-2019), and Denver Broncos (2020-Present) and a linebackers coach for the San Diego Chargers (2005-2011). In addition, Pagano has served as a defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers (2012-2016) and Oakland Raiders (2017).

DB Coach: Christian Parker - Christian Parker is a new member of the Denver Broncos coaching staff in 2021. He's been involved in coaching since 2013 and previously was the defensive quality control coach for the Green Bay Packers (2019-2020)

 

Enjoy this series? Be sure to check out all of the other 'Coaching Matters' team previews: Houston TexansJacksonville JaguarsIndianapolis ColtsTennessee TitansCleveland BrownsBaltimore RavensPittsburgh SteelersCincinnati BengalsLas Vegas RaidersLos Angeles Chargers, and Kansas City Chiefs

Follow Eli Grabanski on Twitter: @3li_handles



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