The Denver Broncos had to replace a coordinator for a second-consecutive year, thanks to a division rival.
The Chargers hired Mike McCoy as their head coach, leaving the Broncos with a hole to fill at the offensive coordinator position. The Broncos had a few choices for the role, but opted to promote 34-year-old Adam Gase.
Gase was Peyton Manning quarterbacks coach in 2012 and will now call the plays. If Gase calls a bad play, Manning will simply change the play to something that works. Manning is known for changing plays at the line of scrimmage and will provide a nice safety net for the young coordinator.
By hiring Gase over more qualified candidates, the Broncos are giving Manning a promotion of sorts. Manning has the freedom to call an audible on just about any play, which basically means that he trumps any decisions made by the offensive coordinator. Hiring Gase virtually assures that Manning will have to use his power to audible more frequently.
Even Gase knows Manning’s skill is a great thing, saying via the team’s official website:
He does a great job of, when you give him a play, if it needs to be better, he does a great job of putting you in that play. It’s the best situation possible for a guy calling plays, if you call something and it’s not good, he fixes it and puts you in a better play. That’s what he does that’s so great that I don’t think people admire it enough. That’s why you don’t see a lot of bad plays with him.
The Broncos offense really started to take off when Manning was calling the plays at the line in the two-minute drill early in the 2012 season. McCoy got most of the credit for realizing what worked and incorporating more of the passing plays that Manning liked to run in Indianapolis, but it took Manning calling the plays for that to happen.
The Broncos likely opted for Gase because he’s the one option that meant keeping the exact same play book. Gase also likely came cheaper than the alternatives and is a minimal threat to leave for a head coaching position, unless Denver’s offense really explodes in 2013.
Considering that the team will guarantee Manning $40 million over the next two seasons once he passes his physical, the Broncos were wise to go with a young coordinator whom Manning can easily override if the need arises. Gase and Manning will work in tandem to get the job done, but expect Manning to get his way more in 2013.
Any coordinator who works with Manning is basically a co-coordinator. That could be seen as a bad thing, but every team would love the luxury of having a quarterback who can do what Manning does at the line of scrimmage. The Broncos could be even better on offense in 2013 with Gase taking even more input from Manning.
"We're looking to go pedal to the metal, play as fast as possible, be aggressive and score as many points as possible every game," Gase said via the team’s official website.
If Gase is serious, his plans could include more passing in 2013. It would make sense because Gase has coached either quarterbacks or wide receivers his entire coaching career. Gase’s predecessor was much more conservative, and there were times when that hurt the Broncos.
McCoy called pass plays only 55.3 percent of the time in 2012 according to ProFootballFocus data. By comparison the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees passed 64.2 percent of the time, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers threw 61.9 percent of the time and the Atlanta Falcons passed 64.6 percent of the time with Matt Ryan.
The Broncos played with a lot of leads and that likely contributed to the conservative play-calling, but it’s clear McCoy made an effort to remain balanced.
The only team with an elite quarterback that compared was the New England Patriots. Tom Brady passed the ball 57.2 percent of the time, but the Pats also rushed for 4.2 yards per carry. The Broncos rushed for only 3.7 yards per carry in 2012.
Having Manning throw more would not be without precedent since the Indianapolis Colts called pass plays 61.6 percent of the time in 2010 and 62.5 percent of the time in 2009 with him leading the charge. And it’s not like the Denver running game is so productive that the Broncos need to commit to it. The Colts averaged 3.7 yards per carry from 2009-2010, the exact same per-carry average as the Broncos in 2012.
The running back position is very much in limbo in Denver in 2013. Willis McGahee is a year older and will cost $3 million against the cap, according to spotrac.com. Knowshon Moreno will cost $3.5 million. The Broncos could release both players, take a minimal cap hit and try to find on the open market a cheaper complement to Ronnie Hillman.
Gase lacks play-calling experience, but that’s not going to matter. Tom Moore used to give Manning three plays, either two passes and a run or two runs and a pass, according to Chris Brown of SmartFootball.com.
Play-calling is simplified when Manning is the quarterback.
The last thing Gase will want to be known for is screwing up Manning, but he could also get overshadowed by his quarterback and be unable to parlay that success into a promotion down the line. Everything appears to be pointing toward a more pass-happy approach with Gase as an offensive coordinator who is trying to make his mark.
If Gase and Manning conspire to throw more in 2013, Denver’s offense could reap huge rewards.