In a packed-to-the-limit meeting room inside the Broncos complex, Miller had used his best swim move to cut through the crowd to meet Fangio at the end of Fangio’s introductory news conference earlier this year. Miller shook the 60-year-old coach’s hand with purpose and simply said:
“Coach me, coach me. I want you to coach me hard, coach me hard."
That is a side of his personality the Broncos’ resident free spirit doesn’t often unveil to public view -- “I like to keep everybody loose, make some jokes, you know, keep it loose," he says. But inside the helmet can be another matter for a seven-time Pro Bowl selection, a three-time All-Pro, former Super Bowl MVP and the league’s 2011 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
That guy has 98 sacks in 120 games. That guy burns plenty hot as goes about his business in games, but “he doesn’t say much, if anything, while he’s coming at you play after play,’’ is how former Broncos tackle Jared Veldheer put it.
But as Fangio's tenure gets started, it's crystal clear Miller is going to get his wish. He will be coached hard because Fangio has a long list of upper-tier pass-rushers on his resume, including Hall of Famers Ricky Jackson and Kevin Greene, and Fangio believes there is more in Miller’s game nobody has really seen yet.
Fangio has been on the job for just over four months. He continues to get to know the Broncos’ players and they continue to get to know him as they all move through the offseason program. One thing the team’s linebackers in particular have already learned is that linebackers are Fangio's deal -- what he calls his “area of expertise." And the Broncos linebackers get more than a little dose of that from time to time.
“I think he’s more hands-on with the defense as a whole," said linebacker Todd Davis. “He knows everybody’s job no matter what the play is and what the route is or a route concept. He knows what you’re supposed to be doing. The thing I love about him is in meetings he’s not afraid to call anybody out no matter who you are -- Pro Bowl or not, All-Pro, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not doing something or not doing your job, he’ll call you out in front of everybody, and I love it. I think everybody is held to a higher accountability level and keeps us all where we need to be.”
Miller is certainly on that list as well. And there have been times in recent seasons, when the Broncos seemed unsure or, or at least searching for the best way, to handle their preeminent defensive player.
Fangio hired outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley -- the Broncos did not have an assistant coach designated as an outside linebackers coach last season -- and Fangio will be a familiar voice to the position group as well when the Broncos get into their regular-season schedule. To this point, however, Fangio has routinely taken a public wait-and-see stance whenever he's been asked if Miller can flourish in Fangio's defense the way Jackson, Greene, Ray Lewis, Pat Swilling, Patrick Willis and Khalil Mack have.
For example, Fangio was asked during the Broncos’ recent OTAs if Miller could have his first 20-sack season in the defense.
“If he does all the little things that are necessary to do that, he’s definitely got a great chance to do that," Fangio said. “But the little things are going to make the difference for him. It’s not just on the field, it’s off the field. Preparation, rest, all those things, being attentive to the details and technique. If he does that, yes, the sky is the limit."
Miller, now 30, has made no secret that he doesn’t want his historic Super Bowl 50 performance to his peak.
“We can always say what we’re going to do and how it should be, but you have to do it in games," Miller said. “I want to do more, I want [Fangio] to coach me. I’m with him all the way, I think they know I want be coached. But I have to show them too, do what I can do on every play. I can’t just talk about it or whatever. I have to do it."