After only two seasons leading the Broncos, Gary Kubiak did what few other coaches have – left the NFL on his own accord and retired. He cited health concerns as his reason, having suffered from a complex migraine condition and a mini-stroke back in 2013 while with the Texans. With Kubiak gone, so have his associated staff and the Broncos are turning over the coaching staff despite two straight successful seasons including a Super Bowl win in 2015.
The Broncos turned to Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph who had just one season with the Dolphins directing their defense. Though Joseph played quarterback and running back at the University of Colorado, he was turned into a cornerback during his two seasons in the NFL as an undrafted rookie with the Jets (1995) and then with the Colts (1996).
His entire coaching resume is on the defensive side of the ball. He was a defensive back coach in college and since 2005 when he joined the NFL with the 49ers. Stints in San Francisco, Houston and Cincinnati led to him taking over the defense in Miami last year. Joseph inherits a defense that ranked #1 against quarterbacks and wide receivers last year – a far cry from the Miami unit that ranked below average in every category.
Joseph is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks and was expected to be pursued by the Chargers and 49ers as well. He brings in youth and a well-respected defensive mind to Denver. Joe Woods was promoted up from being the defensive backs coach and will call the defensive plays. There isn’t much to fix with one of the best defenses in the league and not much should change on that side of the ball. The Broncos will remain a 3-4 base defense.
Joseph tabbed Mike McCoy to run the offense. He was fresh off his release by the Chargers after being the head coach for the last four years. McCoy was the offensive coordinator in Denver from 2009 to 2012 prior to taking the San Diego job. So he’s returning to the same job that he already held. Only this time he doesn’t have Jay Cutler or even Kyle Orton.
The wide receivers remain strong with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders but all other skill positions still need to be sorted out. He has to decide between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch and says that it will be an open competition this summer for the job. McCoy is considered especially good with quarterbacks and he should help Lynch realize his potential if only eventually. McCoy will have full command of this offense since Joseph will run the team and only dabble with the defense. The Broncos also added Bill Musgrave as quarterbacks coach – he’s overqualified there after running the Raiders offense last year.
The Broncos will also be moving away from the zone blocking scheme preferred by Gary Kubiak to a power scheme used by McCoy and new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson. The “one cut” style of the offense will give way to a slightly more complex but hopefully more effective rushing efforts.
McCoy is expected to improve the passing offense by impacting the quarterback success. But he is another coach more inclined to use the strengths of what he has than forcing players to fit into a particular scheme or role. McCoy had obvious success with Antonio Gates in San Diego but his previous stint in Denver never made much use of the tight end position which has already declined in Denver once Peyton Manning stopped playing.
McCoy should upgrade the passing game which will benefit Thomas and Sanders. His other primary goal will be to craft an improved rushing offense that fell off last year. There is hope that the blocking change will benefit both C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker. Anderson’s lone big year was in 2014 and then two years in the new offense with Kubiak in control resulted in disappointing performances.
The bottom line – the offense should improve but the newer scheme will take some time to reach its potential, more so with a young, lesser experienced quarterback to run it. The effectiveness of the rushing offense is likely to improve with a change in blocking but the running backs won’t see a major increase in any production unless the passing effort improves.