The Usual Suspects--Getting To Know the Coaching Staff Incumbents--Defense

While keeping some stability on the offensive side of the ball may seem likely in certain circumstances, there are few, if any circumstances where we can picture retaining any of the defensive coaching staff.  Their crimes include surrendering over 400 points a year over the past two years, and taking a situation in 2007 that could only be described as "rock bottom" and bashing their heads against it until they broke through to defensive hell.

To continue the process of evaluating which coaches are free men, on parole, or sentenced to life, we'll next take a look at a rag-tag lineup of criminal minds and their accomplices, brought before the MHR jury by the crack team of MHR Special Investigators.  They were on the run for two years before they got caught, but the "Great Heist of '08" proved to be their undoing, as they attempted to steal the last jewels of self-respect from a tradition that began with the Orange Crush.

Lets meet these Defensive Schemers.

Bob Slowik, Defensive Coordinator

 

A former defensive back at University of Delaware, Slowik got his start with the Broncos by working with Shanny at Florida.  He worked on the opposite side of the ball coaching the secondary, but a friendship would form that would start a common theme throughout Slowik's career:  following his friends.

He broke into the NFL by  joining highschool teammate Dave Wannstedt on the Cowboys defensive coaching staff, acting as an assistant, and then followed the soon to be much maligned Wannstedt to Chicago where he was promoted all the way to defensive coordinator.

 

Slowik spent a year in Cleveland as the Browns defensive coordinator, continuing a trend of defenses that were in the top half of the league versus the pass, but middling to poor vs the run.

In four seasons (2000-03) coaching Green Bay’s defensive backs, he developed one of the NFL’s most exciting and productive secondaries. Slowik, who also was the Packers’ assistant head coach from 2002-03, helped Green Bay record the highest takeaway total (116) in the NFL from 2001-03. The 2002 Packers defense produced 45 takeaways for the league’s best mark while the 2001 unit tied for the NFL’s second-highest takeaway total with 39.
His secondary led a 2003 defense that held opponents to a 69.0 passer rating for the fifth-best total in the NFL and tied for seventh in the NFL with four takeaways in the red zone. The Packers produced 21 interceptions (fourth best in the NFC) in 2003 thanks largely to the production of Slowik’s defensive backs.

Under Slowik’s guidance, Packers safety Darren Sharper developed into one of the premier defensive players in the NFL and earned two Pro Bowl and Associated Press All-Pro selections (2000 and ‘02).  Sharper earned Pro Bowl honors and was named All-Pro in 2000 when he posted a career-best nine interceptions to lead the NFL and become the first Packer in 38 years to accomplish that feat. In the five
seasons Slowik coached on the Packers’ defensive staff, Sharper accumulated 31 interceptions for the top mark in the NFL during that period.


 During his first year as Broncos defensive backs coach in 2005, Slowik’s group helped the team post a 13-3 record, win the AFC West title and advance to the AFC Championship Game. Denver totaled its most interceptions (20) in four seasons and was led in that category by Bailey, who had a then career-high eight interceptions to tie for fourth in the NFL. Bailey was named an Associated Press All-Pro for the second consecutive year while he and Lynch represented Slowik’s secondary in the Pro Bowl.  Slowik also in 2005 mentored rookie cornerbacks Darrent Williams and Domonique Foxworth, who started a combined 16 games, as well as safety Nick Ferguson, who posted a career-high five interceptions to rank third among NFL safeties. The play of Denver’s secondary helped the club tie for third in the NFL in scoring defense (16.1 ppg.) in 2005.  Slowik’s group of defensive backs also helped the Broncos rank third in the league in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (13) in 2006 and become the first franchise since 1934 to allow only two total touchdowns through its first six games of a season.

A 30 year coach with strong allegiances to friends, family and former assistants, Slowik spent his last two years being awful in every measurable defensive category.  Broncos fans can only hope that he continues his trend of following his friends and former bosses out of town.

 

COACHING EXPERIENCE

17th NFL Season, 4th with Broncos

TEAM                                   Position                              Years

Broncos....................Defensive Coordinator..............2008

            .........DefensiveCoordinatorDBs.....................2007

                 .......DefensiveBacks..........................2005-2006

GreenBayPackers......DefensiveCoordinator...........2004

          ....AssistantHC/DefensiveBacks...........2002-2003

                                     ....Defensive Backs.......2000-2001

 ClevelandBrowns...........DefensiveCoordinator.......1999

ChicagoBears................DefensiveCoordinator.....  .1998

...........DefensiveCoordinator/LBS..........1996-1997

...........DefensiveCoordinator/Secondary.......1993-1995

....Dallas Cowboys....Defensive Assistant....1992

ECU....................................Outside LBs......................1991

Rutgers..............................Seconday...................1984-1989

Drake University........................Secondary.................1983

University of Florida....Defensive Assistant......1979-1982

University of Delaware..Graduate Assistant....1978

Ronnie Bradford, Defensive Backs

As a Broncos Player, Bradford saw only about a season and a half's worth of action after being drafted and cut by the Dolphins in 1993.  He went on to start for Arizona, Atlanta and Minnesota, and may best be rememberd by Broncos fans for his Interception of John Elway in SuperBowl XXXIII.

In his first year on Denver’s coaching staff as a special teams assistant in 2003, Bradford worked alongside Special Teams Coach Frank Bush and helped guide a unit that finished fifth in the AFC in both punt return average (11.3 yds.) and kickoff return average (22.1 yds.). The special teams were highlighted in Weeks 9 and 10 when Deltha O’Neal and Rod Smith scored on punt returns in successive weeks, marking the first time in NFL history that two different players from a team returned punts for touchdowns in consecutive games.

Bradford’s 2004 unit featured an AFC Special Teams Player of the Month (KR Reuben Droughns) and two AFC Special Teams Player of the Week winners (Elam and P/K Micah Knorr) while playing a pivotal role in Denver’s second consecutive playoff berth. Droughns became the first kick returner in Broncos history to win AFC Special Teams Player of the Month after averaging 30.5 yards per kick return in September.

He directed one of the NFL’s strongest special teams units in 2005, a year in which Denver went 13-3 en route to capturing the AFC West title and advancing to the conference championship game. The Broncos tied for the NFL lead in fewest opponent drives started past the 50-yard line (10) while ranking second in the league in opponent starting field position (27.9-yard line).

Bradford’s special teams in 2006 limited opponents to a 6.9-yard average on punt returns, marking the fifth-lowest mark in the NFL and the best by the Broncos in 11 seasons. Paul Ernster, in his first full season handling punt and kickoff duties, had the second-highest touchback percentage (25.3) in the NFL while Elam set a franchise record for field goal accuracy (93.1%) to rank second in the league.

For all intents and purposes, our Special Teams took a downgrade when Scott O'Brien arrived in town, and Bradford was transferred to Defensive Backs in 2007  with Slowik.  As Slowik was also given the job of DC, Bradford probably handled the majority of the DB work, and then was made the sole DB coach after Slowik was promoted.

Since his transfer, we have gotten less out of Special Teams and less out of our DBs, indicating that Bradford may have enjoyed continued success if he had been allowed to continue to head up the ST staff.  Overall I would say the jury is out on his contributions, but unless he is pulled to the ST side of the ball, or someone like Champ speaks on his behalf, I would guess that a new coordinator would spell the end of Bradford's days in Denver.

COACHING EXPERIENCE

6th NFL Season, 6th with Broncos.

TEAM                                 Position                             Years

Denver Broncos........................................DefensiveBacks......................2008

........................Assistant Defensive Backs..................2007

....................Special Teams..................2004-2006

...............Special Teams Assistant...................2003

 

 

Jacob Burney, Defensive Line

Burney spent five seasons (1994-98) with the Cleveland Browns / Baltimore Ravens franchise as its defensive line coach. He was hired by the Browns in 1994 and oversaw a defensive line that contributed to a defense that allowed only 204 points, nine rushing touchdowns and 3.6 yards per carry that season.

During Burney’s tenure as defensive line coach in Carolina (1999-01), the Panthers showed a knack for creating turnovers with the defense posting 74 takeaways from 2000-01 that ranked as the fourth-highest total in the NFL during that period. In 2001, Burney coaxed a breakout season from third-year defensive end Mike Rucker, who posted a career-high and team-leading nine sacks. Under Burney’s tutelage, Rucker developed into a full-time starter and set a record for sacks by a Panthers defensive lineman.

In 2003, Burney’s line was a major force on a defense that finished the season ranked among the NFL’s best in several categories. The defense only allowed 277.1 yards a game, which ranked fourth in the NFL,and set a franchise record for third-down defense (29.5%) to place third in the league for that statistic.  Defensive end Bertrand Berry led the team with a career-high 11.5 sacks (52 yds.), and Pryce added 8.5 sacks (47 yds.).
Similar results came about in 2002 when the line helped the defense finish the season sixth in the NFL in yards allowed (301.6 ypg.) and fourth against the run (93.1 ypg.). Burney’s line was represented in the Pro Bowl by Pryce, who made his fourth consecutive trip after leading the team with nine sacks.

Burney’s line once again proved to be one of the NFL’s top units in 2004 as its play helped the Broncos’ defense rank fourth in the NFL for the second consecutive season. The
Broncos’ run defense also ranked fourth in the league, surrendering an average of only 94.5 yards per game. Despite the absence of All-Pro lineman Trevor Pryce for most of the year, the Broncos maintained a solid pass rush throughout the season with defensive end Reggie Hayward racking up a career and team-high 10.5 sacks to rank third in the AFC.

In 2005, Denver’s defensive line was pivotal in the club posting a 13-3 record and capturing the AFC West title en route to advancing to the AFC Championship Game. As defensive line/ends coach, Burney instructed a group that helped Denver rank second in the NFL in run defense, allowing only 85.2 yards per game. Denver held two opponents to less than 20 rushing yards in a game, including its contest at Jacksonville (10/2/05) in which it allowed the second-fewest rushing yards (12) in a game in franchise history.

Burney coached defensive ends for the Broncos in 2006, a year in which Denver was the only AFC team and one of just three clubs in the NFL to have three defensive ends post at least six sacks. Dumervil, in his first season, thrived under the veteran coach’s instruction with his team-high 8.5 sacks marking the third most by a rookie in Broncos history and the third-highest total among league rookies for the year.

In 2007, Burney coached a Denver defensive line that led the AFC (T-2nd in the NFL) with nine takeaways as his group totaled seven fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Dumervil continued his improvement under Burney, tying for sixth in the NFL with 12.5 sacks (most by a Bronco in eight seasons) and tying for the league lead in takeaways (4) among defensive linemen.

I really like Burney's combination of specialization and experience.  This is one coach who does his own thing, and it is ALL he does.  I am impressed with some of the talent he has developed, including Martin Rucker, Pryce, and now DOOM, and I like the idea of him working with our young DEs going forward, and feel like he will be able to get the most out of them.   Once concern I have is how much he benefitted from coaching besides Andre Patterson through 2006, as things haven't been the same since Patterson and his "brown-cos" disappeared.

In my opinion he would be a loss if he gets caught up in the coaching purge.

COACHING EXPERIENCE

15th NFL Season, 7th with Broncos

TEAM                       Position               Years

Broncos....Defensive Line...........2007-2008

               .....Defensive Line/Ends...2005-2006

                 .....Defensive Line.....................2002-2004

CarolinaPanthers..........DefensiveLine.....1999-2001

Browns/Ravens.........DefensiveLine.......1994-1998

Univ. of Tenn....................Defensive Line............1993

UCLA.......................Defensive Line................1990-92

Univ. of Wis...................Defensive Line.............1989

Mississippi State......................Inside LBs........1988

Univ. of Tulsa...................Defensive Line............1987

Univ. of New Mexico.....Defensive Line..1982-1986

Charlie Jackson, Defensive Assistant

Before entering the coaching arena, Jackson was a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. He ascended to the rank of captain while being stationed for more than two years at Los Angeles Air Force Base after serving as a minority officer recruiter at Florida State University.

Jackson joined the Packers after working as assistant defensive backs coach and recruiting coordinator at his alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy, in 2004. He was a volunteer assistant at UCLA from 2002-03, working with defenses that helped the Bruins to consecutive bowl appearances.

As a defensive assistant for the Packers in 2005, Jackson helped Green Bay’s defense improve in nearly every defensive category from the previous year. He worked with a defense that improved from 25th to first in the NFL against the pass (167.5 ypg.) and a unit that ranked seventh in the league in overall defense (293.1 ypg.) after it also ranked 25th the previous season.

Jackson joined the Broncos from Utah State University, where he spent 2006 as special assistant to the head coach. He was hired by the Aggies following a brief stint as defensive coordinator at the University of Buffalo of the Mid-American Conference.

 


2007 and 2008 were tough years for Charlie to make his second stab at the Pro coaching level.  Denver's defense has never looked worse in its history, and Jackson is likely to be just another name that came and went in the storm of coming coaching overhaul that is expected on the Western front.

From the looks of his resume it would appear that Jackson was looking to move into football management, rather than higher rungs of the coaching hierarchy, and for what it is worth, I hope that he will still have that shot, and that the ball and chain that is 07-08 won't drag down yet another young person.  It has already doomed some pro-players, and a young guy like this shouldn't have it be his defining moment in his career.

But I think a safe expectation will be that Jackson already has his resume circling the league and is trying to get on somewhere else.  Don't look for him to stick around under any circumstances.

COACHING EXPERIENCE

3rdNFL Season, 2nd with Broncos

TEAM                   Position                 Years

Broncos...DefensiveAssistant.....2007-2008

Utah State...Spec.Assist.to HC..........2006

Univ.ofBuffalo...DefensiveCoordinator.......2006

GB Packers...Def.assist./QualityControl..2005

USAF..assist.DBsRecruitingcoordinator...2004

UCLA......volunteer assistant....2002-2003

Bill Johnson, Defensive Line

Instructing the Falcons’ defensive line from 2001-06, Johnson helped the club post the seventh-highest sack total in the NFL (3rd in NFC) with 242 quarterback takedowns during that period. Atlanta twice ranked in the league’s top 10 in both fewest rushing yards per game and fewest rushing yards per carry allowed, doing so during the 2004 and 2006 campaigns.


Johnson also instructed two Pro Bowl selections during his time with Atlanta in defensive end Patrick Kerney (2004) and defensive tackle Rod Coleman (2005). Coleman’s 28 sacks
under Johnson’s tutelage from 2004-06 marked the highest total by an NFL defensive tackle and were 7.5 more than the next closest player. Kerney tied for ninth in the league with 53
sacks while working with Johnson from 2001-06 and three times recorded at least 10 sacks in a season (2001-02 and ‘04).  In 2006, he helped Atlanta rank ninth in the NFL in rushing
defense (103.6 ypg.) to mark the club’s lowest such figure since 1998. The Falcons ranked sixth in the league in yards per carry (3.8) in 2006, also their best average in eight years.


Johnson’s defensive line with Atlanta in 2005 was led by Coleman, who earned the first Pro Bowl selection of his career and led all NFL defensive tackles with 10.5 sacks. Johnson’s
group also helped Atlanta lead the NFL in third-down defense (30.2%) that year.
Atlanta reached the NFC Championship Game during the 2004 season and featured a Johnson-led defensive line that paved the way for the club to lead the NFL in sacks (48) for the first time in franchise history and tie for eighth in the league in run defense (105.1 ypg.). Kerney ranked fourth in the league with a career-best 13 quarterback takedowns to earn Pro Bowl honors while Coleman tied for the most sacks (11.5) among all NFL interior linemen that season. The Falcons’ 47 sacks in 2002 tied for the second most in a season in club annals, and the team was led by Kerney’s second consecutive season with a double-digit sack total (12). Johnson joined the Falcons in 2001 after working the previous 21 seasons as a collegiate assistant.  His most recent collegiate job was at Arkansas, where he completed his second stint with the Razorbacks as their defensive line coach in 2000.


When Johnson was brought to Denver from Atlanta, they were targeting someone who could do for Tim Crowder what he had done for Patrick Kerney, and in 2006 Johnson worked with Crowder almost exclusively while Jacob Burney handled the rest of the line.  With Crowder playing sparingly his rookie year, but showing flashes, and spending 2008 riding the pine, I think it is safe to say that things aren't working out.

Either Crowder was not the talent and physical specimen that the personnell department thought him to be, or Johnson isn't the coach that he was thought to be.  I am afraid that only time will tell in this regard, though I would like to point out that Kerney went on to Seattle where he kept up his high level of play before the 'Hawks monumental collapse in 08.

Bill johnson is a big guy on a small staff, and from the outside looking in he would appear to be taking up too much room.  I say trim the fat and keep the player.

COACHING EXPERIENCE

8th NFL Season, 2ndwith Broncos

TEAM          Position       Years

DenverBroncos..............DefensiveLine......2007-2008

Atlanta Falcons...........Defenseive Line...2001-2006

Univ. of Ark......................DefensiveLine................2000

Texas A&M............Defensive Line..............1992-1999

Univ. of Ark.....................DefensiveLine......1990-1991

Louisiana Tech.......DefensiveLine...........1988-1989

Univ. of Miami...............Graduate Assistant.......1987

McNeese State...................Outside LBs..........1986

                           ...........Defensive Line................1985

Northwestern State.....Defensive Ends...1982-1984

                       ...........Graduate Assistant....1980-1981

Jim Ryan, Linebackers

Before joining the Broncos, Ryan served as the head football coach at Regis Jesuit High School (5A) in Aurora, Colo., from 2002-04 after working as a volunteer assistant with the school from 2000-01. As head coach, Ryan led Regis to a 14-2 record in conference play, including a 5-0 mark in 2002. He was named the Denver Broncos High School Coach of the Week in October of 2002 after guiding Regis to four consecutive conference victories that clinched a playoff berth for the school.

Ryan previously worked as president of the Denver Broncos Youth Foundation from 1992-95. In that position, he helped establish the Denver Broncos Academy as an alternative educational institution for troubled youth. Ryan also has been involved with sports broadcasting, hosting a sports talk show on KKFN-AM 950 and providing commentary for radio broadcasts of University of Colorado football and men’s basketball games.

For the latter part of 2004, Ryan worked with a Broncos defense that finished the year ranked third in the AFC (4th in NFL) in surrendering an average of only 278.7 yards per game. He primarily assisted Defensive Coordinator Larry Coyer in coaching the team’s linebackers as the unit played an integral role in securing the franchise’s second consecutive playoff berth.

In 2005, Ryan served as a defensive assistant on a Broncos team that went 13-3, captured the AFC West title and advanced to the AFC Championship Game. Denver’s defense was one of the strongest in the NFL against the run, ranking second in the league in that category (85.2 ypg.), and tied for third in the league in points allowed (16.1 ppg.).

Ryan was a defensive assistant with a 2006 Broncos team that finished the season tied for eighth in the NFL in scoring defense (19.1 ppg.). Denver allowed the fewest touchdowns (2) through its first six games of any franchise since 1934 and was particularly stingy in the red zone, ranking seventh in the NFL (44.4%) in opponent touchdown percentage inside the 20-yard line.


Though he took a coaching diversion to the Offensive side of the ball as an assistant in 07, Ryan was back with the LBs in 06 after Jim Bates "turned down" the job.  The hometown favorite and longtime Colorado native was actually prioritized for the job over the more experienced, but distinctly Bates"ish" hiring of Joe Baker, who replaced Ryan as an offensive assistant in 08.

There is no doubt in my mind that Jim Ryan can speak to and get the attention of the LBs on our squad, especially the young ones, but also DJ.  Ryan's experience with the organization, and at all four LB positions no doubt gives his voice the ring of credibility to DJ.  Our young LBs this year were a lone defensive bright spot, and though they were rookies they came in prepared, enthusiastic, and ready to hit.

So while Ryan may be a stretch of a promotion from HS coach, he seems to have the goods early on to live up to the duties expected of a LBs coach, and judging by the play of our rookies, he may even have what it takes to develop talent in this league.

But no one is asking me, and a new DC will have his own people to consider promoting.  Can Ryan compare to the apple of the new coach's eye?  We can only wait and find out.

COACHING EXPERIENCE

4th NFL Season, 4th with Broncos

TEAM Position Years

Denver Broncos.........Linebackers..............2008

                                                  .....OffensiveAssistant..........2007

                                .....DefensiveAssistant......2005-2006

                                  ....DefensiveAssistant.............1998

RegisJesuitHS(Colo).....HeadCoach....2002-2004

...Volunteer Assistant....2000-2001

Ryan Slowik, Assistant Defensive Backs

Not a whole lot that you can say about this kid, except to wonder if he minds his daddy getting him his job.

Maybe I'm being harsh, but you are talking about someone who did nothing as a "student coach" for a tiny school, where he was coaching after he was injured as a single season starting safety.

From there he payed his dues, worked hard to climb through the ranks, sweated, slaved....oh, wait.  No he didn't.  His dad got hired by his friend Mike Shanahan, and than gave the poor kid a call and next thing you know, Ryan Slowik is helping his dad coach up the  Denver Defensive backs.

After doing that for a while, the kid was set to test out his new wings by assisting Scott O'Brien on the special teams side of the ball in 07.

Great.

Do I need to remind any of you about that terriffic game in Chicago last year, you know the one...  where the special teams that had "played a key role in sev-
eral Denver victories" [courtesy Denverbroncos.com] proceeded to throw away the game in epic fashion, and in the process effectively end the season and destroy that precious jewel known as hope?

 

Yeah.  I didn't think so.

 

 

OK, maybe I'm being to harsh on someone and something that I don't know enough about.  But I don't think so.  No other situation on the staff symbolizes the dysfunction that was grinding the gears of the Broncos more than the "Slowik connection" both father and son.

When Slowik the lesser was moved back to defensive backs assistant (You telling me that even Scottie 'O didn't want him?  Sheeesh.) you have to ask yourself what that accomplished, as a future HOFer failed to reach the ProBowl, even on name recognition, because the secondary was playing at epically awful levels.

And dare I bring up the safeties?  I have never seen that kind of positional dysfunction on a "good" team before, and I hope I never do again.

Goodbye Slowiks.

COACHING EXPERIENCE

4th NFL Season, 4th with Broncos

TEAM                               Position                           Years

DenverBroncos..............Assist.DefensiveBacks..........2008

                           ....Special Teams Assistant.............2007

                                 ...Defensive Assistant....2005-2006

U.ofWisconsinOshKosh..........StudentAssist.SecondaryCoach.............2004

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