Denver Broncos News: Broncos' Mailbag


Mason's Mailbag: The coaching change, defense and more

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

I'm confused on why we would go with a defensive-minded coach over an offensive coach. Yes, our defense took a very small step back this year but it was our offense that let us down. So why go with a defensive coach?

-- Ethan Squires

You never go into the process thinking, "Our offense was in the league's bottom quarter, thus, we must hire an offensive coach." That's like going into the draft and saying, "We must draft a specific position with our first-round pick." It fences you in unnecessarily. The Broncos interviewed three coaches -- one versed in offense (Kyle Shanahan), one with a defensive background (Vance Joseph) and one from special teams (Dave Toub). That serves as a reminder that the seach has to be about finding the best coach, not the best coach from a specific area.

Furthermore, there have been myriad instances where a team hired a coach on one side of the football, and saw massive improvement on the other side -- and ultimately became defined by it. Take the Baltimore Ravens under Brian Billick; as a coordinator in Minnesota in 1998 he guided one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history, then had nine mostly successful seasons in Baltimore that were defined by defense.

So you look for the best leader with the best plan -- which includes hiring assistants. Getting Mike McCoy, Bill Musgrave and Jeff Davidson, all of whom are proven, all of whom have Broncos connections, is an excellent start.

Given that the last two coaching searches on Elway's watch resulted in coaches who directed the Broncos to the Super Bowl, I think he's earned the benefit of the doubt. Even a Hall of Fame general manager like Jim Finks only found one Super Bowl coach (Bud Grant) in four hirings, so hiring two in your first two searches is an accomplishment.

(NOTE: Finks quit the Bears in 1983 in part because owner George Halas went around Finks to hire Mike Ditka.)

Since 1978 -- the year of massive rules changes to open up the passing game -- there have been 239 coaching departures (not including interim coaches). Of these, 79.9 percent (191) were firings, forced resignations or contract expirations in which the coach did not want to leave. Another 19.2 percent (46) were voluntary resignations, retirements or moves to the front office. The remaining two departures were trades.

(Note: The trade for the rights to Bill Belichick counted as a voluntary resignation, per his famous "I resign as HC of the NYJ" note prior to the Jets trading his rights to the Patriots.)


With the concussion protocol solidly in place, what are your thoughts on this scenario?**

The person who knocks a player out of the game via the protocol, is out of the game for as long as the other player is out?

-- Pete Rutt

Forgive my bluntness, but that is a terrible idea, because quite a few concussions are a natural outgrowth of the collisions that are inherent in a sport in which players are fully padded and wearing helmets and face masks.

Example: A defender makes a proper form tackle on a runner. In the process of bringing the runner to the ground, the runner's head collides with the turf and leads to a concussion. It would be ridiculous to remove the defender from the game for playing within the rules.

If the hit causing a concussion is illegal, there is a disciplinary process -- fines, potential suspensions, etc. -- that can take care of any necessary punitive measures.

I understand that everyone is down on the offense, but why is no one talking about the failure of the defense in 2016?

They were 29th versus the rush. That's horrible. All I hear is how dominant the defense is. What I saw was a defense that couldn't get off the field. It was also slow starting. Dominant?

-- Bob Bemoras

I think there's been plenty that has been said about the defense's struggles against the run last year, as well as its slow starts. I've written and talked about both matters. So have other reporters on the Broncos beat.

But to say that the defense had a "failure" of the defense is an over-the-top shot. Most of the league would willingly exchange defensive personnel and performance for that of the Broncos in the time it takes for Von Miller to whip around the edge and strip-sack a quarterback who doesn't move off his spot.

"Failure" is a term that should be reserved for units and areas of the team that are among the league's worst. One could say that the offense had a failure in 2016, and there are myriad numbers to prove that.

But while there were areas of the defense that can improve -- and you pointed some of them out -- there was not a "failure of the defense" over the course of the 2016 season. Not when the defense only accounts for 280 points allowed -- 17.5 per game.

Not sure if you answered this question in a recent mailbag but have you heard any outside free agent names the Broncos might be looking at? I know it's still a bit early in the process, maybe the better question is what positions do you think the Broncos will address in free agency instead of the draft?

-- Ben Morgan As for positions, the offensive and defensive lines should be the focus. Remember, a key aspect of the free-agency plan will be to emerge with a starting lineup without any gaping holes, giving the team more flexibility in the draft to pursue the best available players and react to an unexpected drop (as was the case with Shane Ray in 2015).

Submit a question for the next Mailbag!

The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.





This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content