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Kicking Off the Head Coach Search

Posted Jan 7, 2011

In his introductory press conference, Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway outlined some of the qualities he'll be looking for in the next Broncos head coach. Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell and Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville are the latest additions to the team's interview list.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway spent a significant portion of his introductory press conference on Wednesday talking about restoring and preserving the Broncos' tradition.

The Hall of Fame quarterback made sure to emphasize that committment extends to the franchise's search for its next head coach.

On the day he took over his new post, Elway outlined the search process and stressed the care necessary to find the most qualified candidate to lead Denver into the future.

"I think the key thing is we want to find the right guy," Elway said. "The quicker we find the right guy, the better off we're going to be. Whether that's the first guy or the third guy we interview, it's important to find the right guy. We want to be thorough with it."

Elway indicated the team received permission to talk to Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell, and Fewell will meet with team officials regarding the job on Sunday. Interim Head Coach Eric Studesville, who guided the Broncos through their last four games this season after assuming the post on Dec. 6, will interview the same day.

They join Falcons Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey -- who will interview Friday in Atlanta -- on the list of candidates who have scheduled interviews. All three have previous head coaching experience -- a characteristic Elway called preferable.

Elway indicated those are just a few of the candidates from a longer list the team has been working to trim down. When asked, he acknowldedged that Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and Chargers Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera are also on that list.

Earlier this week, Elway -- a Stanford grad -- was in Miami as an honorary captain as the Cardinal won the Orange Bowl to finish the season 12-1.

Elway said he mentioned to Harbaugh that the Broncos would be interested if the Stanford coach decided he would like to coach in the NFL. The Broncos executive said he hoped to place a follow-up call to Harbaugh about his interest in the position later in the day.

NFL.com reported that Harbaugh was scheduled to meet with the 49ers regarding their head coaching vacancy on Wednesday.

"I do have a call in to (Harbaugh)," Elway said, "so I hope to hear back and see what direction he is going to go."

Elway said he will continue to work with Owner and Chief Executive Officer Pat Bowlen, Team President Joe Ellis and General Manager Brian Xanders throughout the search process. All three were present during Wednesday's press conference.

He said the team would do its best to keep updated on the team's progress, characterizing the search as part of the team's committment to transparency.

In addition, Elway pointed to several qualities he will be looking for in the next head coach.

Elway said Xanders has done research on the success rates of offensive and defensive-minded head coaches over the past 15-to-20 years and concluded there was not a significant difference. The newest Broncos front office member said he'll focus on getting the best coach available regardless of their background.

The son of a former college head coach, Elway said he would like a coach who understands the dynamics of a locker room and can manage a variety of personalities to get the best out of players, "almost like a psychologist." He also stressed the importance of assembling a quality staff of assistants around the new head coach.

And Elway made sure to note another trait of the ideal candidate.

The two-time Super Bowl champion said the team needs a person committed to preserving its unique relationship with its fanbase.

"The head coach is going to have to understand his responsibility of what it means to be a Denver Bronco head coach," Elway said, "and the relationship that we have with the fans and the relationship the fans want to have with the head coach."

Whether team officials find that coach quickly or need a little time, Elway said there will be no restrictions when it comes to the search. If the right candidate is coaching for a team that makes a deep run in the playoffs, the Broncos are willing to wait.

That attitude reflects another part of the Broncos tradition Elway said he's eager to continue.

"Mr. Bowlen has always done everything he can to have the best football team and best coach he can possibly have," Elway said. "That will be the same with this next coach."

Here is a closer look at the two newest candidates to schedule interviews with the Broncos:


In his 13th NFL season, Fewell directed one of the league's most disruptive defenses in 2010.

With Fewell as the defensive coordinator, the Giants finished seventh in the league in total defense and fifth in sacks. During his first season in New York, his defense allowed an average of 310.8 yards per game and sent Justin Tuck and Antrel Rolle to the Pro Bowl.

Before joining New York, Fewell spent four years upstate as the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills. That included a stint as the team's interim head coach for the last seven games of the 2009 season.

The Bills posted a 3-4 record in that time, and the defense finished the year ranked second in the league in both touchdown passes allowed (14) and interceptions (28). Fewell, a former defensive backs coach with three different NFL teams, helped coach rookie Jairus Byrd to a league-high nine interceptions and Pro Bowl berth in 2009.

"We have had a lot of contact with different people throughout the league trying to find names that different people think and Perry has been on most of their lists," Elway said, "so we are excited and looking forward to interviewing him."

Fewell will interview with the Broncos the same day as another coach he's quite familiar with.

In Buffalo, Fewell and Studesville worked on the same staff, and in his introductory press conference, Studesville noted that he called Fewell on the night he accepted the Broncos interim head coach position to talk about what to expect.


Studesville joined the Denver staff as running backs coach in 2010 and assumed the interim head coach title on Dec. 6 when Josh McDaniels was relieved of his duties.

The Broncos went 1-3 in the four games with Studesville at the helm -- the win coming on Dec. 26 against Houston thanks to a spirited second-half comeback led by rookie quarterback Tim Tebow.

The coach made it his mission to bring energy to the squad during a difficult time, and after Sunday's season-ending loss to San Diego, he reflected positively on his and the team's efforts down the stretch.

In his four-week stint as head coach, Studesville repeatedly talked about his first experience as a head coach as a positive, learning experience. At both his introductory press conference and final postgame media session, he called the opportunity "a tremendous honor."

"I have given everything that I possibly have to the last four weeks," Studesville said. "Every part of me, every ounce of effort has been put into the past four weeks and I am proud of that -- I am very proud of that fact."

In 2010, the Broncos showcased one of the league's most improved rushing attacks during the second half of the season. After a slow start, the Denver rushing attack posted a nearly 2 yards per carry increase during the season's final eight games.

Overall, Studesville has been a running backs coach for 10 of his 14 NFL seasons, guiding four players to a total of seven 1,000-yard rushing seasons. His running backs have registered 34 individual 100-yard rushing efforts, including a pair by Knowshon Moreno this season.

On Wednesday, Elway said he thought Studesville did a "fantastic job" leading the team down the stretch. He added that spending the morning reviewing personnel with Studesville gave him an even better picture of the coach's personality.

"I really liked Eric a lot," Elways said, "and understood the respect that the players have for Eric."