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Sant-Miller: Broncos shake up coaching staff

| Sunday, January 18, 2015

No team is more interesting right now than the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are revamping their entire coaching staff after a strong season, something you typically see from a 5-11 team, not a 12-4 team. Most prominently, the franchise lost head coach John Fox after the team and Fox mutually agreed to part ways.

In four seasons in Denver, Fox produced a record of 46-18 and led the team to the postseason all four years. Not too shabby. On the surface, that’s the kind of guy a team should fight to keep around, but John Elway and Co. didn’t seem to interested in doing so.

If you were a head-coaching candidate, a team with so much success over the last four years is an appealing option, right?

All that glitters is not gold. In my opinion, if I were a potential head coach, I would avoid Denver.

When starting your tenure as a head coach, you ideally would like to have some room for error. Often, a new head coach installs an entirely new scheme on both sides of the ball. Players need to adjust to both a new coaching style and a new system, and as a result, it’s hard to imagine they will be maximizing their talent on day one. Clearly, Denver isn’t leaving much room for error after moving away from Fox. It’s a “win now” feel for the Broncos.

Second, a new head coach would like some salary cap room when starting. This allows for coaches to bring in “their type of guys.” A coach wants players who fit the new team identity, as well as the new schemes. Denver is right up under against the cap, so the new coach who takes the reigns will have very little roster flexibility.

Granted, Denver has a strong roster. Rarely is there a vacancy with such a strong roster already in place. Though wins are often attributed to coaches, Denver’s impressive success over the last four years must be primarily attributed to the men playing between the lines. So tip the hat to those guys. Realize that not much needs to change, talent-wise.

Those are two nitpicky reasons, not enough to sway anyone. If that were all there was swirling around the Denver job, any human with a brain would leap at it. No, the problem is under center.

What is Peyton Manning going to do?

His numbers were great this year, and he started the season on fire. Yet due to injuries and declining arm strength, his performance fell sharply as the season went on. Currently, he is undecided on what to do next season.

Whether he comes back or whether he leaves, as a head coach, it’s a tough spot to be in. If Manning comes back, you’re faced with a high-injury-risk superstar. If he’s back, and you build an offense around him, but No. 18 gets injured, your season is in deep water. Manning is the guy who you can build an offense around. No, Manning is the guy who builds your offense and keeps it standing. Without him, your team is in trouble.

Even if he stays healthy, he is 38 years old. You can’t expect to be a long-tenured head coach and to build an offense around someone who will only be around for another year or two. So even if Peyton’s back, you have to start planning for life after Peyton.

If he isn’t back, you have to get someone else. Fast. This team is built to win now. You can’t just throw Joe Schmo in there and expect to win the Super Bowl. With escalating cap numbers on most of the talented players on the roster, you don’t have time to groom a rookie. There are not a lot of available passers who can make a splash right away. You’re talking about the hardest position to fill. Rarely can you find a successful coach without his trusty quarterback by his side.

So if you’re looking at long-term career prospects, you have to roll the dice on Manning’s health, hoping he stays healthy and that you can groom someone under him for the next couple of years. Yet, you’re also rolling the dice on Peyton himself. Will he be back? Or will he retire? You have to choose the job before he makes his call.

Without a quarterback, Denver can’t make real noise in the playoffs. That’s what the franchise’s front office wants — no, expects. Why is this an unappealing job? Because your success involves rolling the dice, twice, on a 38-year-old quarterback with serious injury concerns. Does his body hold up? Is he even in the building? Whoever signs up for the job hopefully has answers to those questions, answers that I lack.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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