BRONCOS

Maybe the Broncos’ Mr. Right is already in their midst: Jerry Rosburg

Jan 25, 2023, 2:13 AM
Jerry Rosburg...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

There is no perfect coaching candidate. In fact, for each of the men the Broncos interviewed in person, there’s a prominent, “Yeah, but” accompanied.

YEAH, BUT … he just turned 68 years of age and hasn’t coached since 2019 …

YEAH, BUT … he has never been a head coach, it’s not the defense that needs a new set of eyes overseeing things, and what is his plan on offense? …

YEAH, BUT … he coached a team that blew a 28-3 Super Bowl lead and saw diminishing returns in the years that followed …

YEAH, BUT … his last stint as a head coach over a decade ago was a disaster, ending with a 10-game losing streak, and what’s the plan for Russell Wilson? …

YEAH, BUT … he’s a college coach whose previous job ended with three losing seasons in his last four years …

YEAH, BUT … he was the right-hand man of the shortest-tenured non-interim head coach in Broncos history …

YEAH, BUT … he’ll cost you draft picks and he served a full-season suspension for orchestrating a plan of paid bounties for injured opponents.

There’s a catch to everyone.

If you look for the perfect candidate, you’ll never make a hire. And if you search for the perfect spouse, you might wind up a singleton for the rest of your days.

But sometimes it’s OK to not make a long-term commitment. To have a date for national holidays, and figure out the rest in the future.

You’re not thinking about a year or two away.

And if you’re searching for a coach, that means you’re not seeking Mr. Right. Maybe you just need Mr. Right Now.

That man may be sitting in the Broncos’ midst:

Jerry Rosburg.

***
NO ONE HAS HIS PERSPECTIVE

And no, I’m not talking about the life experience that fueled soliloquies that turned late-season press conferences from a long-since-lost campaign into must-see TV.

It’s about the fact that he effectively was an outsider with inside access for 14 weeks before he replaced Nathaniel Hackett. He was in the staff, but not of the staff.

He focused on game-management issues, which meant his eyes stayed mainly on the offense. But he scrutinized the roster. He put his decades of experience to work.

And he learned enough of the operation to make two key moves in his first day on the job: firing special-teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes and offensive-line coach Butch Barry. Shortly thereafter, he handed play-calling to Justin Outten.

The results were immediate.

Rosburg’s tweaks — including benching returner Montrell Washington — pulled Denver’s special teams out of the NFL basement in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings. The line improved, despite continuing to absorb injuries. And Outten got Russell Wilson moving, emphasized two-back sets and crafted a pair of game plans that kept the Chiefs and Chargers off-balance. Denver averaged 27.5 points per game and notched its first 30-point outing in 21 games.

In not even 48 hours, Rosburg made changes that showed what the 2022 Broncos could have been. The season didn’t have to be the 5-12 disaster it became.

Shortly after the season, Rosburg laid out his plan to Broncos ownership, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. They listened.

And any plan Rosburg presents has the added benefit of coming from someone whose quick changes provided rapid results. There was tangible evidence of the Rosburg Effect. That makes it easier to believe in any future ideas.

***
THIS WOULD ALSO ALIGN GOALS

A 67-year-old coach doesn’t lend itself to a rebuilding project. That’s fine, because the Broncos’ needs are immediate, anyway. Just as Rosburg provided a quick jolt in the final two weeks of the 2022 season, his task would be to have a similar jarring effect on Wilson and the team at large.

And history is not on the side of interim coaches promoted into full-time head-coaching gigs. Rosburg would be the 28th such coach — a tally that doesn’t include coaches such as Hall of Famer Marv Levy, who got the full-time job at midseason of 1986 in Buffalo — in the Super Bowl era.

Of those previous 27 interim coaches promoted to the big chair, just four had winning records in the seasons that followed — including only one of 11 since 1990, former Cowboys interim head coach Jason Garrett.

But here’s the thing: If it doesn’t work out in 2023, the Broncos can move on after a year — from both Wilson and the coach. They can mash the reset button. And whether they are in position to take a quarterback like USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye or they have to trade up to do it, the Broncos can have firm QB-coach-executive alignment.

In other words, you have a contingency plan in place.

If the Rosburg-Wilson pairing works, the franchise is instantly revitalized. Even playing at the level it showed in the final two weeks would likely be enough to be in postseason contention.

And if the relationship doesn’t, a path and a direction avails itself. Without the marital bonds of a five-year contract, it’s easy to cut ties with someone who you only dated.

But that’s a move the Broncos would hope not to make.

Rosburg often spoke of planting seeds.

It wouldn’t be crazy to give the farmer a chance to nurture them.

***

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Maybe the Broncos’ Mr. Right is already in their midst: Jerry Rosburg