On Tuesday, as Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett and the Broncos introduced their three new coordinators, new offensive coordinator Justin Outten reflected on his unique path through the NFL ranks. There are probably very few NFL coaches who have spent eight years as a high school coach and teacher, as Outten did at Westfield High School near Houston.
And while that's perhaps an unconventional coaching path, Outten said he'd have had it no other way.
"Being a high school coach was probably the best decision I ever made as far as going down to a lower level," Outten said Tuesday. "I was a graduate assistant at Syracuse, and I knew I wanted to teach and coach. The responsibility you take on as a teacher separate from being a coach is just [learning] the organizational skills and making sure that everybody is on the same page. You get to see the different learning styles throughout that classroom. I was specifically working in the special ed department, so I was dealing with a wide variety of different learning styles."
As a coach, Outten also worked tirelessly to fill several roles to help the children who wanted to play football. Because of the makeup of the school, that meant more than just concerning himself with the responsibilities on the field.
"At that high school itself, it was a free/reduced lunch situation and there were a lot of guys that didn't have anywhere to lay their heads most of the nights," Outten said. "I learned a lot from those kids. I actually learned more from them than they probably learned from me. You're not only a coach, but you're also a mentor. You're [also] a father figure [and] you're an educator. You're always dealing with a ton of different gymnastics throughout the entire day. That's what I loved about it. No day was ever the same. You've got to find ways to get things done. You've got to make sure they're getting to practice, and you've got to make sure they're eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Those are the things that you really don't see on the outside until you're immersed in it."
After that time, Outten began his NFL career as a coaching intern and then an offensive assistant with the Falcons before working as a tight ends coach with the Packers beginning in 2019. This will now be his first chance to lead an NFL team's offense, but that experience at Westfield will certainly have an impact on his coaching style.
"It really prepared me organizationally in finding creative ways for guys to learn and keep it interesting," Outten said. "That attention span at that age — there's a lot of social media and a lot of things on their mind so you've got to find ways to connect with those kids. I thought it was very beneficial."
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Could Chandler Jones be the next star Broncos pass rusher? Pro Football Focus' Arjun Menon thinks so; the outlet, which ranks Jones as the fifth-best free agent, projects Jones to head to Denver in free agency.
"Chandler recorded an 87.3 pass-rushing grade, 10.5 sacks and 47 pressures in 2021 but also generated a 42.5 run defense grade," Menon wrote. "His run-defense grade has steadily declined since 2019. The Broncos need a premier pass-rusher opposite of Bradley Chubb following the Von Miller trade, and Jones can be that guy."
Menon also writes that Denver could be an ideal landing spot for linebacker De'Vondre Campbell.
"He recorded an 86.0 PFF grade — a career-high and the second-highest linebacker grade in the NFL this year," Menon wrote. "He was particularly effective in the run game, notching an 82.0 run defense grade while also missing only two tackles."