By the time we kickoff next season for both the NFL and College Football, my Colorado 4 (Broncos, Buffs, Rams and Bears) will be starting the year with two coaches in their second year with the team and two coaches (TBD) will enter their first year with the team. If that doesn’t tell you just how bad things have gotten for football in the state, I’m not sure what will.
Denver showed Vance Joseph the door after two losing seasons and hired first time NFL head coach, Vic Fangio. At 4-8 on the season, Fangio’s first year hasn’t exactly been a big improvement on last year’s 6-10 campaign. With another QB carousel and an awful offensive line, it’s difficult and perhaps unfair to pin this all on the head coach. However, there is talent on the Broncos roster and they have been close in most of their games. But the difference between close and actually winning often comes down the man in charge. Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello has produced an offensive game plan that leaves most fans scratching their heads. Whether it’s a jet sweep call for your rookie tight end or a running back dive on 3rd and 5 with the smallest player on your team, Scangarello just doesn’t seem to be using the personnel to their strengths and Fangio, who proved last Sunday against the Chargers, he can in fact override his offensive coordinator, doesn’t seem to see a problem with how the offense is being handled.
Is there a bright side to Denver’s 4-8 record and underwhelming head coaching performance? Rookie QB, Drew Lock, provided some welcome energy in his first start and I believe he showed enough to earn the starting job heading into training camp next season. Courtland Sutton has emerged as an elite WR while G Dalton Risner, RB Phillip Lindsay and a solid defensive unit show a lot of great signs for the future. The offensive line should be addressed in the draft and big decisions will need to be made about Chris Harris Jr, Derek Wolfe and Justin Simmons but overall, I really feel good about the depth chart. Can Vic Fangio get the best out of them? That’s the question. He’s not going anywhere for the next few years so like it or not, John Elway is riding with the 61 year old coach…..
Colorado moved on from Mike MacIntyre after 7 straight losses to end the 2018 season. Although he lead the Buffs to a PAC 12 championship game in 2016, he failed to reach a bowl game five out of 6 seasons as Colorado’s coach. Enter former Georgia defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker. Although Colorado just missed out on bowl eligibility (5-7) there’s optimism surrounding the Buffs football program. Tucker made it clear he wanted to bring a brand of toughness to the PAC 12 and with one season under his belt, I’m eager to see what he can do once he starts getting his type of guys in Boulder. Earlier this month, CU added 5 star DE transfer Antonio Alfano from Alabama. He was one of the nations top high school players in the 2019 class and is set to transfer to Colorado. He had some family/personal issues this past fall that kept his attention away from Alabama but Tucker is confident that getting him into his program will not only be a positive step for Alfano, it will be a beacon type move that will attract several other big time players to Boulder.
I expect the Buffs to be a legitimate contender in the Pac 12 South for years to come. Losing Laviska Shenault and Steven Montez will be tough but that’s the name of the game and Tucker’s already on the recruiting trail. Bowl eligibility should be an achievable goal next year while competing for the top spot in the PAC 12 might be closer than many think.
Colorado State and Mike Bobo parted ways after five seasons. While Bobo’s first year provided a bowl game, a win over Wyoming and Air Force and 7 wins, things began to go downhill during the next four. Sure, he continued to lead the Rams to bowl games (7-5 in year 2 and 7-5 in year 3) but failed to beat a rival (CU, Wyoming and Air Force) and lost all three bowl games. While Bobo’s first three seasons weren’t exactly phenomenal, it was the last two that set things in motion, ultimately leading to Bobo’s departure. According to Kelly Lyle of the Coloradan, Bobo will likely be the next offensive coordinator for South Carolina and I’m sure he’ll be great. As for the next head coach for the Rams? No, it won’t be Urban Meyer even though he was in Fort Collins on Monday, December 2nd. He was likely in town to put in a good word for Tony Alford, a former Ram and someone Meyer thinks very highly of (he hired him back in 2015). I love some of the names on the list when it comes to potential coaches (Mark Helfrich for one) but Alford’s name is the one I keep seeing and hearing about. Either way, CSU AD Joe Parker has to get this one right. It was reported that only 12,000 fans were at Canvas Stadium for the Rams last game of the season against Boise State. Probably even less. That has to change. HAS TO. I love Canvas stadium and was 100% on board with moving on from Hughes but with that move came a lot of pressure and Bobo, the first coach in the Canvas era, didn’t do nearly enough to prove those critical of the new football headquarters wrong. The next coach has to get it right or else Joe Parker won’t be far behind Bobo.
The University of Northern Colorado finally moved on from Earnest Collins Jr. after 9 seasons and a 28-72 record. Like Mike Bobo, Earnest earned a reputation of being a great man but one that just couldn’t get it right during his time as head coach of the Bears. He had back to back winning seasons (2015 and 2016) but a game over .500 both years was hardly enough to hang a hat on. Now the Bears will look for its 3rd head coach in their Division I regime. Kay Dalton was the first but that was during the DI transition period. It was Scott Downing who took the first crack at the next level for UNC where he saw a 9-47 record. Fans are wondering if Northern Colorado can EVER compete in the Big Sky. Between Earnest and Downing, the Bears are 37-119 since officially moving up to DI FCS. Yikes. To say the next head coach for UNC has nowhere to go but up is an understatement. UNC AD Darren Dunn would like to have his next football coach in place by mid-December and will ultimately let him decide who his coordinators will be. So I expect a complete overhaul once the new head coach is announced. Can someone else get things moving in the right direction for Northern Colorado or will we see yet another head coach fail to win in the Big Sky?
Things are bad, sports fans. While I am excited for Drew Lock, Mel Tucker and some young players decorating my Colorado 4’s rosters, I don’t see an overall turnaround happening anytime soon. If I had to guess, early December, I’d say this:
Broncos will improve a bit next season if Drew Lock progresses, the O-line improves and Simmons, Harris and Wolfe resign. Playoffs? No. But 9-7? Perhaps.
Colorado will win enough to become bowl eligible but that’s about as much as I can realistically expect as we are still so early in the Tucker process.
Colorado State will hire Tony Alford as their next head coach and second coach in the “New Stadium” era. Will Collin Hill be back? If so, then we could see 6 wins for the Rams next year. If not? Lucky to win 5.
University of NOCO might be the biggest question mark. After 9 disastrous seasons under Collins, it’s hard telling what kind of move they will make. They seemed to be content with losing records on the field but stellar performances in the classroom. What will their standard be now? Are Wins the ultimate goal in Greeley or are we ok with a nice guy and a feel good program?