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Rich Scangarello’s vision to reignite Broncos offense

Rich Scangarello’s big break came as a result of working on an intern’s salary at age 43 while crashing in a co-worker’s spare bedroom. Call it unpredictable. Much like his offense.

The Broncos hired Scangarello (pronounced SKANE-guh-rel-OH) this past week to coordinate their offense under first-year head coach Vic Fangio. His success in 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s system for two seasons as quarterbacks coach solidified his candidacy. But Scangarello’s vision is one rooted through lessons of an unorthodox coaching journey.

“It’s an example of someone betting on themselves,” said Jason Houghtaling, head coach at FCS Wagner College where Scangarello once served as offensive coordinator, “and saying, ‘I’m going to take a step backward to take 100 steps forward.’ ”

It began in 1998 with Scangarello an assistant quarterbacks coach at then D-II UC-Davis. Kevin Daft, who went on to be a fifth-round draft pick, was a junior quarterback when Scangarello joined the UC-Davis staff. Daft set five NCAA D-II records.

“(He) can talk to quarterbacks, be on the same level and treat each other like men,” Daft said. “That was the relationship that we had in college.”

Scangarello spent the next decade jumping between coaching roles at UC-Davis, Idaho and Carleton. The Oakland Raiders hired him in 2009 as offensive quality control coach at the same time Kyle Shanahan coordinated the Texans’ offense, using a heavy dose of pre-snap motion and a quick passing game. Scangarello left the NFL in 2010 for the college ranks, this time a rung lower as offensive coordinator at D-III Millsaps College. But Shanahan’s philosophies stuck with him. Scangarello outwitted defensive coordinators in D-III and earned a promotion to FCS Northern Arizona.

“He had a great handle on the big picture,” then NAU coach Jerome Souers said. “He understood the game is four quarters, how to be patient and how to set things up. The sequencing truly had a thought of; attack first, and when they adjust, we have a plan to attack back behind it. He highlighted matchups and was really creative in how to create opportunities for the offense.”

Some in Scangarello’s shoes might have come to grips with a career relegated to bouncing around the collegiate ranks. He wanted more. A quality control position working for Shanahan, then an offensive coordinator,  on the Falcons’ 2015 staff opened the door to big things. But the job came with a pay cut, which led to cutting expenses and sleeping in the home of Atlanta assistant offensive line coach Keith Carter.

A year later, he returned to the college game as offensive coordinator at FCS Wagner to showcase what he learned under Shanahan.  Wagner coach Jason Houghtaling credited Scangarello’s success to an ability to teach and empower quarterbacks in addition to high-level knowledge of defensive schemes. Shanahan soon after hired Scangarello back, this time to his new 49ers staff in 2017.

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