Coaches Corner: Broncos Staff to Feature Mix of Old, New, and Family

Rick KarasContributor IMay 20, 2009

Josh McDaniels seems to have it all, but can't do it all.

Can he?

Even the most decorated, experienced coaches in professional sports have help: assistants, scouts, a secretary.  Someone to hold the headset cord on the sideline.  Perhaps a designated staffer with the Gatorade bucket, ready to be poured over said coach's head after the big win.  Or poured over the official after a bad call costs the team the big win.

Whatever the job, NFL head coaches all have their help.  McDaniels, the new man in charge in Denver, is no different.  Hired at age 32, he replaces Mike Shanahan, a quarter century his senior, and for 14 years, the man who on the surface, seemed to do it all.

He didn't.  He had help.  So does the new guy.

McDaniels arrives from New England with an offense-heavy resume.  His Patriot teams, whether it was with Tom Brady or Matt Cassel under center, racked up the points.  The Broncos racked up points a year ago—as did their opponents.

To get the Bronco defense back to at least somewhat-Orange Crush standards, McDaniels has brought in Mike Nolan as his defensive coordinator.  Nolan comes off an uninspired four-year run as Niners head coach, but he knows defense.  It was his stint as the Ravens defensive coordinator that largely contributed to his getting the Niners job, and Nolan will be implementing a 3-4 scheme. 

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This is Nolan's second tour with Denver; he previously coached special teams and linebackers from 1987-92.  The Broncos went to two Super Bowls during his first go-round, and getting back there will require patience as the team slowly brings in personnel to fit Nolan's system.  He also gives McDaniels someone with head coaching experience to look to as he begins his own career as the man in charge.

Nolan is joined on his staff by another former Bronco staffer, secondary coach Ed Donatell, who comes over from the University of Washington.  Donatell served under Shanahan in the same capacity during the club's Super Bowl years. 

The Broncos went on an AFC West hiring spree in the offseason, plucking one coach from each of its divisional foes.  Don Martindale was hired away from Oakland to coach the linebackers, and Wayne Nunnely comes over from San Diego to coach the defensive line. Special teams will be handled by Mike Priefer, who arrives from Kansas City.  McDaniels hopes all three can give his club an edge during the West wars of '09.

McDaniels is converting the Broncos long standing West Coast offense to his Patriot style of play.  To assist, McDaniels has added Mike McCoy as his offensive coordinator/QB coach.  McCoy served in that capacity the last few years in Carolina,  and helped mold Jake Delhomme into a Pro Bowl QB. 

McCoy comes full circle, as he competed for a spot as John Elway's backup in 1995.  Kyle Orton takes over at QB amidst much controversy after being acquired for Jay Cutler.  McCoy's task, should he choose to accept it (and we assume he has): establish a relationship with Orton and teach him the ways of McDaniels' offense.

It's not all new in Denver.  McDaniels is well aware of the success of the Broncos running game over the years.  To that end, RB coach Bobby Turner remains from Shanahan's staff.  Turner will be charged with shaping Knowshon Moreno into the next Bronco franchise back.  The former Georgia star was selected in the first round, ending the Denver tradition of unearthing a star RB in the later rounds.

Whatever name McDaniels calls his offense, it requires the QB to be upright. The offensive line allowed only 12 sacks in '08.  The Broncos will continue to employ their zone blocking scheme.  Rick Dennison was the line coach.  He stays, enough said.

The head coach won't be the only bright-eyed, youthful McDaniels on the sidelines.  Ben McDaniels joins his older brother's staff as an offensive assistant, after a couple years as a graduate assistant with the University of Minnesota.  Both McDaniels boys were sent on the coaching path by their father Thom, one of Ohio's most celebrated high school coaches.

On the pro level, Bronco fans hope it will be a case of "like father, like son."

With a little help, of course.