By Rich Kurtzman
Success breeds success, and in the copycat National Football League, coaches’ astute leadership doesn’t go unnoticed. People want to work with Adam Gase and Jack Del Rio, the Denver Broncos offensive and defensive coordinators respectively, for the way the team has performed over the last few seasons.
Gase has studied closely with Peyton Manning – a relationship which helped Mike McCoy become the San Diego Chargers’ head coach – boosting his credibility within the league. Manning revolutionized offense through his animated audibling at the line of scrimmage, dissecting defenses pre-snap and exploiting them for big gains, touchdowns and wins. Gase has to have soaked up some of Manning’s knowledge over the last three years, two as OC and another as the team’s quarterback coach during the all-time great’s stay in the Mile High.
And all of the awe-inspiring offense that set many records in 2013 is not just due to Manning’s play; some of the credit has to go to Gase’s play-calling. His flexibility to work with a perfectionist in Peyton, and to have the willingness to throw in plays for a Sunday game during Friday practices – which happened in 2014 – are also positives. Which is why he interviewed for head coaching vacancies with the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills on Friday of the team’s bye week.
At the same time, defensive master Del Rio interviewed with the rival Oakland Raiders. Del Rio’s firey leadership propels his players to new heights and his ability to juggle massive changes in personnel is key.
Make no mistake, while either would be a tough loss, losing Del Rio would be a bigger blow to the team than Gase. That’s no slight to Gase, but Manning is the de facto offensive coordinator, anyway, able to call nearly any play in the playbook at the line of scrimmage. The Broncos lost McCoy in 2012 and were fine with Gase – better even – and there’s no real reason to worry their offensive production would see a major drop if Gase does leave.
With the league so heavily tilted in favor of offenses, though, it’s increasingly important to have defensive schemes to slow down opposing attacks. Del Rio’s proven he understands how to disrupt the timing of opposing offenses by sending blitzes and isn’t afraid to do so. It can’t be missed that Del Rio was blessed with a ton of talent in DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward just this offseason. All three are playmakers who have game-changing ability every time they’re on the field. But give Del Rio credit for getting them all to mesh—to meld into the unit of men who were already in Denver and to buy into his system of defense.
Denver went through six different defensive coordinators in the seven years before Del Rio was hired in 2012, and there’s something to say about consistency to players in terms of scheme as well. Undoubtedly, Del Rio’s defense – even with the revolving door of players – must be credited with the supreme success during this era.
For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.