The Denver Broncos continue to assemble their leadership as they transition from John Fox to Gary Kubiak. On Monday, all three brand new coordinators were introduced to the media for the first time. John Elway has assembled his dream team and now the biggest question is whether that dream team will include Peyton Manning in 2015.
First to the podium was Rick Dennison, who, after some pleasantries, delved into whether the roster fits the zone-blocking scheme he is likely to employ next season. Dennison elaborated saying, "I think the challenge every year going in is figuring out what your team does best, whether it’s zone, man or gap. We’ll go and do what we do best based on personnel and we’re really just scratching the surface about looking about personnel and who we have. We have to accumulate the team first. Once we accumulate the team, we’ll figure out what we do, run and pass."
After a few stupid questions about Peyton Manning and whether that changes what Dennison is working on for the next 30 days, we got a few better questions about play calling in general that are probably worth mentioning here.
"I hate to be sounding like a broken record, but we’ll do what we think is best to win," said Dennison, "We’ve thrown quite a bit in certain years when that was the best option. So certainly we’ve done that in the past and if that affords itself, that’s what we’ll do. Whatever it takes to get first downs and points, that’s what we’re going to get done"
Kubiak and his staff will adjust to give this team the best chance to win. This means halftime adjustments, in-game adjustments, personnel adjustments - whatever it takes to win. I can't be sad about that.
Then, of course, there is kicking and screaming. Dennison was first asked about the team's mental approach and to this he dodged a bit in a good way, saying, "I can’t speak for anything that happened here last year. That’s not my job. All I know is when we go into the game, they’ll have confidence, they’ll know what they’re supposed to do, they’ll know how we want them to do that and they’ll play hard. That’s what we’ll ask them to do. And it’s worked for us in the past and I think it’ll continue, especially under this roof with the Broncos—two championships and certainly we’re not satisfied with that. We’ve got to keep working for those."
Then when pressed on the idea of going down kicking and screaming like Elway had mentioned, Dennison didn't dodge the question when he replied, "That’s a part of playing hard. That’s going to be part of the thing that we consider that they’re accountable for: Play hard, great effort. And they’ll know that Day One."
He also balked at measuring the Broncos to another organization like the New England Patriots, saying it was counterproductive to even attempt to do such a thing. I would agree, but I also think the Broncos should strive to replace the Patriots as the model franchise in the NFL when it comes to competing for championships. I could go for 10 AFC Title appearances in 13 years or whatever Tom Brady has done since 2001.
Wade Phillips was next up on the podium and personally, I languished at the move, but at the end of the day Phillips is one hell of a coach in the NFL and that kind of experience certainly has its positives.
Right off the bat, Phillips was hit with a question about the Broncos wanting Vance Joseph over him as defensive coordinator. Phillips' response really went a long way to endear the guy to me again. He replied, "I think John and ‘Kub’ and myself all feel like Vance [Joseph] is a bright young star. But I believe I’m of first magnitude myself. I think that’s the way they judge brightness of stars, anyway. So it worked out great. It worked out great for me and I think I’m going to do a great job for this team."
Just when I was getting excited about Phillips as our defensive coordinator, he cherry picks his '91 defense that lost 10-7 in the AFC Championship game instead of the '89 defense that lost 55-10 in the Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers when asked about the pressure for him not to mess things up.
"I don’t think there’s pressure not to mess it up. I think it’s to get them better. I’ve had a lot of great defenses, some of them here. The ’91 defense here was one of the best I’ve ever had," Phillips recallrd, "We lost 10-7 in the playoff game in Buffalo but I think we threw a screen pass for a touchdown to them. That’s how they got 10 [points]. We had a great bunch. I’ve had a great bunch everywhere I’ve been. I’ve been lucky to get into the right situations with good players and I think we have them here."
After the nostalgia was over with, we got down to brass tax and the 3-4 defense Phillips intends to employ. First was being reunited with DeMarcus Ware and the opportunity to work with Von Miller. To this, Phillips elaborated, "Anytime you’ve got great players, that’s what you’re looking for: difference makers. That’s what you look for. You’ve got to utilize their talents and that’s what we’ll try to do with those guys. DeMarcus, obviously has been a great talent and tremendous player and I was lucky to have him at the time we had him in Dallas. I’m really privileged to have him again. And then Von Miller, I think his arrow’s going up and he’s really a super player already."
It all comes down to turning Von Miller loose on the quarterbacks. I like this more than seeing Von Miller in man coverage on T.Y. Hilton in the red zone in the playoffs.
"That’s what you do. That’s what a defensive coordinator is in the NFL. You take the talent of the players you have and the really talented ones, you do what they do well and let them do it. It’s not the scheme itself, it’s the players. Some schemes don’t vary with players, you have to have this cookie cutter guy that plays with poor technique and he plays this way. Well, [Texans DE] J.J. Watt, you don’t play him that way. I think it’s just a part of what I do and what you need to do to be successful is utilize the talents you have on defense, whether it’s cornerbacks, safeties, whatever it is. Utilize their talent and that’s what we try to do and we’ve been pretty successful with that."
Phillips also coached J.J. Watt and people want to know if this 3-4 will create opportunities for impact plays for both Ware and Miller.
"There’s no doubt about it. I think everybody knows we’re going to a 3-4. The outside ‘backers, you want them to be the rush guys. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of really good ones. [DE] Simon Fletcher here had  sacks and I think he set the sack record here for a long time. So we can utilize the guys that have talents to rush. I’ve always said, ‘Hey, if he can rush well, if he’s a really great rusher, let him rush.’ It seems simple but sometimes people want to drop them in the pass and all that stuff. It’s also the cornerbacks, what they can do; It’s what [CB Chris] Harris [Jr.] can do, what [CB Aqib] Talib can do. It’s whatever they can do really well, then we’re going to utilize that."
Then, to cap this all off, Phillips commits to nothing by saying he'll do anything he needs to do to exploit matchups. Holy Hell, I think I've died and gone to heaven.
"It’s a game of matchups; you try to get the best matchup one-on-one that you can, to start with. You can scheme enough to get somebody free at times. A lot of times you have to bring more than they have and that’s just all-out blitz, which we don’t do a whole lot. People misconstrue that, but we don’t really blitz all-out everybody a whole lot. We still have somebody back there that can help. But we have some pseudo-blitzes where it looks like we’re blitzing everybody but we’re not and things like that but it’s what your players can do and if they can play man-to-man really well, if they can play zone really well, if they can rush the passer, if it’s five-man rush, if it’s three-man rush—we’re going to try to utilize what we have ability-wise on our team."
"We’re aggressive. Defensive players, they’re aggressive by nature.," Phillips responded when asked if he'll be aggressive or conservative against pass-heavy offenses, "I think you take something away from them when you don’t let them be. And aggressive doesn’t mean blitzing all the time, but it does mean coming off the football—everybody coming off the football. You won’t see a square stance from a defensive lineman, so to speak for people who know football, where you’re reading. This is an attack defense, and that’s the way players like to play. You get the best results out of that and I think you play the best that way so we’ll be that way."
Okay, so its official. I am already in love with the Wade Phillips defensive philosophy. I forgot how much I loved me some Steve Atwater back in the day.
To close things out, Joe DeCamillis also said some things, but special teams isn't really something I care about until they do something bad to ruin the game. I did like this nugget from his presser, however, to a question about the identity of his special teams units over the years.
"We want to play faster than our opponents. When they look at it on tape I want them to know that we’re going to be a fast team and a physical team. The other thing about it is you want to be very fundamentally sound. Any time a coach turns on the film I want them to say, ‘Wow, that guy—technique-wise—they’re excellent at what they do.’ And that really kind of fits in to what ‘Kub’ (head coach Gary Kubiak) is asking for, too. We came in and talked and that was something that was important to him and we want to carry that on and get better."
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