Good morning, Broncos Country!
So while I've been trying to keep up with the coaching carousel (which is ridiculous, by the way) but also avoiding Sports Center (as I'm prone to do after any Broncos loss) I have gone on a "30 for 30" binge and can highly recommend it.
And because of it, I've had an epiphany about the Broncos coaching situation - Jimmy V needs to be our next head coach.
Don't worry, I am aware he is both a former college basketball coach and no longer living.
So not actually Jimmy Valvano, but him personified in our next head football coach.
While watching Valvano's incredible story, I was struck by both his uncompromising belief in his team while also being a genius in-game tactician - two traits that would be very useful in Denver's new head coach.
Valvano's well-known gregarious personality is appealing - especially for the media - but that's not what the team needs most (though, a little fire on the sidelines would be just fine with me, and who wouldn't enjoy watching an NFL coach run around the field looking for someone to hug after a Super Bowl win??)
But it's the Valvano X-factor that is highlighted again and again in NC State's improbable run to win the 1983 NCAA basketball championship. The young coach so effectively utilized the talent he had - and did so by making in-game adjustments time and time again - that the Wolfpack beat opponents who were far superior in talent.
And he didn't do it just once, he did it over and over and over in that tournament, proving it wasn't just luck, it was better coaching.
Beginning with a surprising victory over Virginia and its superman Ralph Sampson, NC State won the ACC with a a mind-boggling defeat of Michael Jordan and the Tarheels, which was the Wolfpack's only hope for getting into the NCAA tournament that season.
And in all nine wins on the way to its championship, Valvano led his talented-but-not-star-studded group in seven comebacks - all games they were losing in the final minute, including the NCAA Final against Houston's "Phi Slamma Jamma" roster that boasted future NBA Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
That 1983 Final was everything that is great about sports, but it also would never have happened with just enthusiasm. One game maybe, but not nine. It was Valvano's solid plan of attack for each opponent and a willingness to completely adapt to the game being played out in order to beat the opponent on the court right then. AND, he coached those boys to definitely go down "kicking and screaming" as they won so many games at the buzzer.
Now how great would that have been last Sunday?
Obviously the nuance of coaching an NFL team is not the same as college basketball, but the NFL coach who has the "Valvano gene" to be both a motivator and a schemer is the one I want.
Let's try this out on the top Broncos coaching candidates so far, using what I'm going to call the Valvano Gene Index (hey, it's late, best I could come up with!)
Dan Quinn, Seahawks defensive coordinator
- Stats of note: Please. 43-8 is the only stat we need to know.
- VGI: A-. Quinn used to be the defensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins under Nick Saban (you know that guy at Alabama who mostly only wins championships?) Recently Quinn noted that the thing he learned from Saban was the importance of having a very clear vision of how you want to play football. I'd say Quinn learned the right vision from Saban.
- LLV take - This is sorely needed from a head coach who will inherit a locker room full of talent and a desire to get to the Super Bowl, but no clear vision/motivation on how to actually do it.
- Stats of note: Lions defense - top D against the run (69.3 yards a game), second in total defense (300 yards per game) and second in scoring defense (17.6 points a game)
- VGI: B+. In a text from a Detroit reporter to Denver Post reporter Ben Hochman - "[Austin] relates to players very well. Smart. Willing to incorporate player ideas into game plans and in-game adjustments. Not an ego problem. He's a risk, like any first-time HC (head coach), but he's a smart coach who won't alienate a locker room. With the Peyton factor, that Jim Caldwell will recommend him should be good for Peyton."
- LLV take - Good stuff. Little concerned by the "incorporate player ideas" because that can be a disaster, but I do like the in-game adjustments factor.
Gary Kubiak, Ravens offensive coordinator
- Stats of note: Other than being backup to arguably the greatest quarterback in history and having been on the Broncos coaching staff before under Mike Shanahan, Kubiak has put together a very effective offense at the Ravens - and doing it mind you, with Joe Flacco. But his main accomplishment was utilizing Justin Forsett and turning the Ravens' run offense that was 30th in the NFL in 2013 with Ray Rice into the eighth-best run offense this season.
- VGI: B/B+ Kubiak is known for his offensive "stretch zone" scheme that preaches "run to set up the pass" and utilizes a lot of play-action passes. Implementing it in Baltimore this season completely revamped that offense and allowed Flacco a nice bounce-back season while Forsett became a star in the backfield.
- LLV take - I'm not as versed in Kubiak's in-game adjustment ability as many of you, but I do like his preparation. He gets his team ready for the game to be played, which was very evident in Baltimore's two play-off games this season. Though the Ravens came up short against Tom Brady and the Patriots, Kubiak's offense scored a whole lot more points against the Pats than Gase's.
Adam Gase, offensive coordinator, Denver Broncos
- Stats of note: Peyton Manning.
- VGI: C- (D if you look only at the Indy game). Throughout the season, Gase's game plans were frustratingly difficult to figure out. One game it's 60 passes, then suddenly it's 20. Finally there was the 40/20 split that is characteristic of a truly "balanced offense." But just having balance is not the sign of a good game planner. Hovering around that balance is good for many reasons, but it also needs to be implemented with an actual scheme that can adjust to the defense and coverage coming its way.
- LLV take - Repeatedly this season, Gase's comments to the media indicated just "needing to see what would happen in the game," yet when things did happen in the game, there was zero response to deal effectively with it. Instead it was the same chorus of plays and the same frustrating results. (because, uh, the defense knew it was coming too).
Heard Broncos impressed with the vision Adam Gase laid out during his interview today. I'll have more on CBS4 in three minutes.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) January 16, 2015
Vance Joseph, Cincinnati Bengals defensive backs coach
- Stats of note: Well, he was a former CU Buffalo backup quarterback-turned-defensive-back who played two years in the NFL as a defensive back.
- VGI: NEIY (stands for, "not enough information yet.") Joseph is apparently known in the NFL ranks as an up-and-comer, so he must have some smarts. Having coached DBs with the 49ers and Texans before joining the Bengals, he had two standout defensive backs this year in George Iloka and Reggie Nelson.
- LLV take - I know nothing about him except his defensive backs certainly did their job against the Broncos in that pathetic Week 16 game, so there's that. If Elway likes him, I'll listen.
Even if the Broncos only "survive and advance," next season (as was the mantra of that 1983 Wolfpack team), I'd still take that if it gets the same result NC State got - a championship.
Jimmy V led his team to win games it was not supposed to by using its own strengths, bringing out a more dominant team's weaknesses and always ready to shift momentum when necessary with something different.
The Broncos need their Jimmy V.
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