Posted Fri Jan 7th by Kris Burke
As Jim Harbaugh nearly turned into the Brett Favre of coaching before finally accepting the head coach position with the San Francisco 49ers, the one question at the top of Broncos fans minds is still nowhere near close to being answered:
WHO WILL THE BRONCOS HEAD COACH BE IN 2011?
So far, we have seen Harbaugh’s hat thrown in and then out of the ring, Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey cancel his interview, and then interim coach Eric Studesville and Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell schedule interviews for Sunday.
That’s not exactly what I would call a stellar group to choose from.
Still, there is hope. Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway has made it known that he prefers someone who either has previous head coaching experience in the NFL or is an ‘up and coming’ assistant and/or coordinator.
Fewell served as interim head coach for the Bills last season and Studesville coached the final four games for the Broncos this year. Neither one really turned heads in their audition periods and both don’t seem likely to get the job in the end.
Thus, I submit two names for Elway’s approval. One he coincidentally mentioned today that he would talk to and another that I really think Elway SHOULD talk to.
Those names are Houston Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman.
Yes, both are offensive minded coaches and a fair share of the Broncos woes lay on the other side of the ball. Still, they do have Tim Tebow to develop and need a coach with a strong record of working with quarterbacks.
Let’s take a look at Dennison first.
This man is no stranger to Broncos fans. Dennison was an assistant with the Broncos dating all the way to 1995 and served with the team until Mike Shanahan was dismissed following the 2008 season. He started as an offensive assistant in 1995 and 1996, coached the special teams from 1997-2000, coached the offensive line from 2001-2005 and was offensive coordinator from 2006-2008.
Oh yeah, and Dennison was also a linebacker with the Broncos from 1982-1990.
Elway knows the man quite well. He worked with him as a player and knows his capabilities as a coach. The chemistry between the two men should return rather easily.
But what about Tebow? Well, until he was traded to Chicago, Jay Cutler was a budding superstar under Dennison and the Broncos offense was always one of the best in the game. Some of this credit obviously has to go to Shanahan but Dennison was far more than a figurehead on the coaching staff.
In Houston, Dennison turned Matt Schaub into one of the league’s elite passers after he came over from the Atlanta Falcons. Tebow has all the intangibles a coach dreams of and also has a lot of God-given athletic ability. A pairing of Dennison with the now second year Broncos quarterback seems to be a match made in heaven.
All that said, there are still some downsides to making Dennison the man in Dove Valley.
Even though he played linebacker, he has never coached on the defensive side of the ball. He would need a VERY strong defensive coordinator to help turn the Broncos’ unit around and with Wade Phillips ironically now in Houston, there are not many strong candidates out there save maybe Mike Singletary. The Broncos also could try and get Dom Capers away from the Green Bay Packers, but it sounds like coach Mike McCarthy is hell bent on keeping the defensive staff together and who can blame him?
Dennison is also lacking head coaching experience that Elway said would be preferred in the Broncos’ next head guy. He’s been the offensive coordinator under two offensive minded head coaches. Gary Kubiak and Shanahan both called the plays in Houston and Denver respectively, and Dennison would likely be doing the play calling himself in Denver. Would he be up to the task?
Now let’s take a look at Sherman.
Yes, Sherman is a college coach but let’s not forget he coached the Green Bay Packers for six seasons with the Packers ending up in the postseason in four of them. Sherman is an experienced play caller and also ironically served as offensive coordinator under Kubiak in Houston before taking the head job at Texas A&M.
Some say Sherman’s success in Green Bay came as a result of having Favre under center. That’s all well and good, but the cast around Favre was not much better than average and Sherman was able to get all he could out of them. Favre too had a unique talent of getting the best out of average players, something a certain Broncos quarterback also did in his time at Florida.
As someone who lives in Wisconsin, I can tell you firsthand how often Sherman talked about the Packers tradition and the history of the franchise and how he wanted his teams to fit in with those great teams of the past. After listening to Elway’s introductory press conference and hearing him talk about how he wanted the organization to go back to how it was and to once again embrace the winning tradition that was established before McDaniels arrived, it immediately reminded me of Sherman.
In Green Bay, Sherman had the dual role of general manager and head coach for four years and while the team’s record was outstanding for four years, his botched draft picks that included such busts as Jamal Reynolds and Ahmad Carroll that the team eventually had to bring in Ted Thompson to replace Sherman as GM to pick up the pieces.
Would Sherman want the same dual role in Denver? Not likely. His recruiting skills at Texas A&M have been under scrutiny the last couple years and it seems like Sherman is much better off just coaching the team.
Like Dennison, Sherman also has his drawbacks. He too would need a strong defensive coordinator at his side. Sherman’s defenses in Green Bay collapsed at the worst possible time preventing his otherwise talented teams from reaching their full potential. Sherman prefers the 4-3 and with Denver running a 3-4 currently and with personnel currently equipped to run it, he might need to change his philosophy on the defensive side of the ball to work in Denver.
Of course, this is all speculation at this point. I have complete faith in Elway, general manager Brian Xanders and owner Pat Bowlen to make the right choice for the Broncos going forward. They learned a painful lesson with the messy Josh McDaniels era and I believe they can and will return the organization to the standing it had before McDaniels took the job.
There are obviously other candidates out there. Jon Gruden may finally decide to return to coaching and he would look very attractive to a team with a talented but raw young quarterback. Bill Cowher is still out there, but his demands for final say over the roster like will keep him out of Denver. Then there’s the always silent “mystery candidate” that no one talked about that ends up getting the job.
So who will it be for the Broncos? I have no idea. I’ve given a few suggestions here but it is up to Elway and Co. to make the decision.
Stay tuned Broncos fans. The fun is just beginning.