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Rick Dennison brings familiarity, championship pedigree


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** When Gary Kubiak was hired as the Broncos' new head coach, it marked a homecoming for the former quarterback and offensive coordinator who spent 20 years in the organization between 1983 and 2006.

Rick Dennison's return to the Mile High City evokes similar feelings, after Dennison played linebacker for 11 years and coached for 15 years in Denver between 1982 and 2009.

"This is where I really want to be," Dennison said when introduced to the media for the first time on Tuesday. "There was never a year where I wasn't at least a month in Colorado, with the summers or whatever. So it's an exceptional opportunity to come back and work for the Broncos."

The strong relationships Dennison has developed with Kubiak and Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway over the years stem from the trio's playing days, when Dennison says he "used to ride the coattails of the quarterbacks."

"If they got a chance to go play golf somewhere, I got to go with them," Dennison said with a smile. "It's just one of those things. I got to know them as we played and we became friends.

"Then when I got an opportunity to come here in '95 when [former Head Coach] Mike [Shanahan] took the job and Gary came over as the offensive coordinator, I got a chance to be on the staff. It just worked out that way."

In 20 seasons as an NFL head coach, Dennison has worked with Kubiak for 16 of them: 11 in Denver, four in Houston and last year in Baltimore. Over that span, the pair has contributed to 11 playoff victories against only seven defeats, highlighted by wins in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII with the Broncos when Elway was the quarterback.

Kubiak called plays in those Super Bowls and did the same in Houston, where Dennison was the offensive coordinator. Dennison said it hasn't yet been worked out who will hold that responsibility moving forward, but either way, the pair will be comfortable.

"I love working for Gary," Dennison said. "He's an easy guy to work for. He's got great people skills. He knows how to treat people and he knows how to win football games. So what's not good to work for that?"

Former Bronco Rick Dennison has been named the Broncos' new offensive coordinator. Check out photos from his career as a Broncos player and coach.

The staple of offensive schemes run by Kubiak and Dennison in the past has been a strong running game primarily using zone principles, with play action passes and bootlegs built in to capitalize on an over-aggressive defense. That style helped seven different running backs gain more than 1,000 rushing yards in a season between 1998 and 2006, with the majority of backs being late-round picks or undrafted free agents.

But Kubiak and Dennison have also shown the willingness to air it out when it suits their personnel. Matt Schaub led the league in passing yards per game in 2009, a year after ranking fourth in that category and a year before ranking fifth. As his teams have shown in the past, Dennison noted Tuesday that they will cater to the players on the roster more than they will to any scheme.

"I think the challenge every year going in is figuring out what your team does best, whether it's zone, man or gap," Dennison said when asked about run blocking. "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.

"I look forward to working with whoever's underneath the roof. John [Elway] and those guys will give us a good team and we'll go from there."

To start with, that team should include the longest-tenured Bronco on the roster, Ryan Clady, who spent his first two years in the NFL with Dennison as a coach, including as his offensive line coach in 2009.

"I was obviously a part of the group that drafted him and the two years that I was with him he played very well," Dennison said of the left tackle. "He's got a great talent and like the rest of the guys, we'll get him going in the right direction, make sure everyone's on the same page and play hard and play fast."

Including Clady, Dennison inherits an offense that could return as many as six players who were named to the 2015 Pro Bowl. Dennison's last final experience on the Ravens' staff was coaching at the Pro Bowl, where he was able to meet some of his future players. One of those was C.J. Anderson, who like Ravens Pro Bowl back Justin Forsett, went to college at Cal. Forsett introduced the two in Arizona.

"I like the kid, just watching the film," Dennison said of Anderson. "It's hard to say where we're going, but obviously he had a great year last year, phenomenal year at the end. [He's] one of the many players that I look forward to working with in Denver."

For the next few weeks, the new staff will settle in as they get to know each other and evaluate personnel already on the roster. Many of the new coaches, like Dennison, share a history with Kubiak. Several also have been a part of championship teams, experience that Dennison considers extremely valuable.

"I think that's great because you have an idea of what it takes to get to that point (winning a Super Bowl) and then you can make adjustments," he said. "I like the staff right now because I have a lot of experience with them, not only in Houston. "I love the ties to Denver because I think that's what it's about. There's a passion, there's a history with Denver and understanding what it takes in this building."

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