Jack Del Rio has been named the interim head coach of the Denver Broncos in the wake of John Fox being forced to take a leave of absence from the team to have surgery on a heart valve, per Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com.
I think in a hard situation like this, you motivate yourself. What (coach Fox) meant to all of us in that building, there's going to be a lot of guys fired up to go about our business as professionals. We have good leadership among the coordinators and in the locker room as far as players. I'm not too concerned about the leap we have to make without him.
The decision to promote the defensive coordinator didn't come as a surprise because of Del Rio's head-coaching background. He joined the Broncos staff in 2012 after a nine-year stint with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Del Rio amassed a 73-63 record and led the Jaguars to two playoff appearances from 2003 through the end of November in 2011. Here's a look at how his Jacksonville teams fared compared to the rest of the league on a year-by-year basis:
|Points Per Drive||Yards Per Drive||Points Per Drive Allowed||Yards Per Drive Allowed|
(*Del Rio was fired after 3-8 start in 2011.)
Clearly, Del Rio's Jaguars experienced the typical ebb and flow on both sides of the ball during his relatively long tenure, but he did field some explosive offenses and stymieing defenses.
Here's how the Broncos defense has ranked in those same categories since Del Rio was named coordinator of the unit:
|Points Per Drive Allowed||Yards Allowed Per Drive||TDs Allowed Per Drive|
While the Broncos have noticeably regressed on defense in 2013, it's important to remember that Champ Bailey didn't play until Week 6, Von Miller didn't play until Week 7 and Elvis Dumervil, an integral member of the 2012 defense, was lost to the Baltimore Ravens due to a fax machine snafu in the offseason.
Because to injury, the Broncos played the second half of their 51-48 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5 without safety Chris Harris and captain linebacker Wesley Woodyard. It was a game that certainly didn't help Denver's defensive statistics, as Dallas racked up 522 yards of total offense.
Will the Broncos be better or worse with Jack Del Rio as the head coach?
Overall, Del Rio has done a fine job 24 regular-season games into his stint as the Broncos defensive coordinator.
With the promotion comes more job responsibilities for the new head coach. Fortunately for Del Rio, Peyton Manning is the closest thing to being an on-field head coach/offensive coordinator. That means Del Rio can still focus on the defensive side of the football while implementing a CEO approach to managing the rest of the team.
Del Rio may carry the title of head coach, but it doesn't mean the Broncos will be any different on offense or defense.
He was the most logical choice for the Broncos in this unexpected situation. Denver's front office obviously wanted to maintain the status quo after a 13-3 season in 2012 and a 7-1 start in 2013.
Joan Niesen of The Denver Post wrote the following comments from Del Rio after he led practice for the first time:
"We already lean on each other," Del Rio said of his relationships with the defensive coaches.
Del Rio also said that the blueprint of what the Broncos do has been established and that he won't be deviating from it in his new role.
Don't forget, Fox ascended the NFL coaching ranks with a defensive specialty.
Essentially, Del Rio's simply a steady holdover, a guy who's been there before and knows what the Broncos are trying to accomplish from a philosophical and schematic standpoint on both offense and defense.
With Peyton Manning running the offense at a historic pace and Jack Del Rio, like John Fox, a former head coach with a substantial defensive coaching background, the Denver Broncos made a choice that shouldn't yield much, if any, change while Fox recovers from surgery.
And that's a good thing.