Denver Broncos: Profiles in Coaching

John RansomContributor IMay 11, 2009

ENGLEWOOD, CO - MAY 03:  Head coach Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos oversees practice during minicamp at the Broncos training facility on May 3, 2009 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

One message has been clear since Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen opted to rebuild the franchise following last year’s 8-8 season: he believes that coaching matters more than any other factor in winning football games.

So today we’re taking a closer look at the guys who will calls the plays, coach the players, and have final say on the Denver Broncos roster and try to bring a winning team back to Denver.  

Head Coach Josh McDaniels

If new Denver Broncos boss Josh McDaniels comes across as a natural head coach, it’s not surprising. After all, his father, Thom McDaniels has spent 25 years as a high school head coach, amassing a 206-74 record at three schools in football-mad Ohio.

“I always lean on my father for any advice that he can give me,” Josh McDaniels said in a 2008 article in the New York Times. “He is obviously the person I molded myself after, and that hasn’t [changed].

The elder McDaniels coached the younger at Canton McKinley High School where Josh played quarterback from 1991 to 1994. Canton McKinley boasts a 22,500-seat stadium appropriate for Stark County, OH, home to the NFL’s Hall of Fame.

After high school, McDaniels attended Cleveland’s John Carroll University, where he switched positions to wide receiver after failing to win the starter’s job at quarterback.

After graduating from John Carroll with a Bachelor’s in mathematics, McDaniels worked as a graduate assistant at Michigan State University under Nick Saban. He joined the New England Patriots’ staff in 2001 as a personnel assistant.

But McDaniels’ big break came after Charlie Weis left the Patriots for Notre Dame. In 2005, at age 28 he went from being quarterbacks’ coach to de facto offensive coordinator, although the move wasn’t made official until the 2007 season.

“When he got the job, he really took the reins,” center Dan Koppen said in the New York Times piece. “It’s not about age. It’s about respect, and the guys have that for him. He feels the game out for what it is and does what’s working.”

What’s worked for McDaniels in the past has been a football philosophy impressed on him by working with Bill Belichick. And just like the influence his father has had upon him, McDaniel plans to stick with what he knows.

"My demeanor, the way I am with people, how I go about my daily business? That's all totally me,” said McDaniels recently on “And my philosophy on how to win? Why would I want to change from what I learned and was taught? It was so successful."

Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan

If McDaniels’ football pedigree is a purebred, then new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s is a champion’s.

The son of former San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints coach Dick Nolan, Nolan was hired in 2005 by the 49ers to coach the team his father once ran. He said at the time, "I realized that growing up around these guys and the way they played the game, that was the reason I loved it."

Nolan played safety at the University of Oregon as a three-year starter.

After college he joined the football staff at Stanford in 1982 and served as linebackers coach at Rice and LSU before moving on to the NFL in 1987 as linebackers coach for the Denver Broncos.

After five seasons with the Broncos he served at defensive coordinator with the Giants, Redskins, Jets, and Ravens. He’s well-known for coaching high-intensity defenses that put a premium on takeaways.

Nolan also proved he had a knack of improving defenses quickly, helping turn around defenses in his first year with San Francisco and the Jets and helping the Giants post 12.8-points-allowed-per-game mark in 1993, his first year as defensive coordinator.

"It's been proven again and again in this league that you can turn around programs very fast," Nolan said in 2005 when hired by the 49ers. "It's reasonable to think we can turn things around very quickly."   


Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy

McCoy’s background is at the quarterback position.

He played quarterback under George Allen at Long Beach State and for two years at the University of Utah, where he says, “the most physically and emotionally draining game I’ve been involved in,” was the 1994 victory of Utah against Colorado State.

After a journeyman career in the NFL and Canadian league, including stops with the Denver Broncos (where he was signed as an undrafted free agent in 1995) and the Amsterdam Admirals, McCoy joined the staff of the Carolina Panthers in 2000.

In 2001 he worked as wide receivers’ coach for the Panthers before moving back to quarterbacks’ coach in 2002.

McCoy tries to improve touch and accuracy by having his quarterbacks “drop their passes into a stack of tires, or sometimes a barrel.”   

Under McCoy, Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme has been sometimes criticized for throwing too many interceptions and lacking touch on his passes.