Winning Broncos assistants become popular

EDDIE PELLS AP National Writer Published:

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Welcome to the Denver Broncos 2013 job fair.

Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has interviews for vacant head-coaching jobs set up all weekend.

If a few things fall certain ways, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio could be next on a few teams' lists.

Such is life as an assistant coach of a winning team when there are plenty of losing teams out there looking for a turnaround.

Executives from up to four teams -- Cardinals, Bills, Eagles and Bears -- could wind up in Denver this weekend to visit with McCoy for what will essentially be a get-to-know-you interview for both the coach and the interested suitors.

McCoy has become as coveted an interview as there is since "Black Monday," the day seven NFL teams fired their coaches. He can afford to be picky. Knowing as much, he says he'll be asking as many questions as he answers when the process starts.

"If you're going into a new situation, you've got to make sure it's the right one," said McCoy, who interviewed with Miami last year and was, for a time, thought to be the leading candidate there. "It's not just about taking any job."

This year, McCoy coached the fourth-ranked offense in the league, a unit that scored 30 or more points in all but five games this season. True, he had Peyton Manning on his side, which can make almost any coach look like a genius. Just as impressive were his accomplishments in 2011, when he turned Tim Tebow into a playoff quarterback, reconstructing the playbook in midseason into a 1950s-style, run-based offense that won nine games despite the league's 31st-ranked passing offense.

"That's our job as a football coach, is to take advantage of your talent and that's the No. 1 job I have here," McCoy said. "We've got to make adjustments as a coaching staff, as players, and figure out, 'What do we do best as an organization?'"

Other highlights on McCoy's resume are his nine years as an assistant for John Fox and a glowing endorsement from Manning.

"I think he's ready. I think he's paid his dues," Manning said. "Mike's a good leader. He's had some good coaches that have been mentors to him, different coaches that he's worked with in his years in the NFL that I think he's incorporated some of their leadership philosophies and his own philosophy."

Del Rio's path back to a head-coaching job could be a little trickier. So far, Del Rio said, there have been no requests for interviews this weekend, though things often develop quickly and unexpectedly on a coaching search.

He wasn't on anyone's radar when Jacksonville hired him in 2003, after three years as linebackers coach at Baltimore followed by a year in Carolina as Fox's defensive coordinator.

Over the nine years with the Jaguars, Del Rio went 69-73 and made two playoff appearances -- a tenure with plenty of ups and downs, but during which he built a solid reputation as a coach who knows defense and connects with players. This year, he reunited with Fox, took several pieces already in place and molded them into the third-ranked defense in the league, led by Von Miller, who finished with a franchise record 18½ sacks.

If he leaves, Denver will be looking for its eighth defensive coordinator in eight years.

"If it happens, it happens," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "It's really not my place to put my opinion on it."

But if Del Rio is to become a head coach again, he wants it to be with the right team, not just the next team that's looking.

"I'm certainly aware of the different strengths and weaknesses of different places," he said. "I know my own abilities, certainly much greater than I did when I was made a head coach 10 years ago. You gain experience in this league and you grow. I don't spend a lot of time looking through other people's football teams and what their issues are and how you'd solve them."

If asked to do that, however, he would.

Fact is, he simply loves coaching, which is why he returned to the field this year, the season after he got fired while still under contract in Jacksonville.

"I'm actually paying to be here," Del Rio said. "I could be laying on a beach somewhere making more money. But I took this job because I wanted to work. I do have a passion to teach, to help young men be better, and to be part of a team."

NFL rules call for all interviews of assistants on teams with a playoff bye to be complete by the end of the weekend. The Broncos added a caveat for their assistants, telling teams they'd have to come to Denver for the talks instead of having their assistants travel.

In one case, the Broncos shut down an interview opportunity -- when AFC West rival San Diego asked about talking to director of player personnel Matt Russell for its open GM position.

Regardless of whether the Broncos coaches and executives are doing interviews, they insist there is only one focus: helping this team get to the Super Bowl.

"Everyone has individual goals, as a coach and a player, but it's team first here and we still have a lot left here," McCoy said. "Hopefully, one day I will become a head coach but we still have a lot of football ahead of us here and we'll see what happens down the road."

Notes: LB Wesley Woodyard, who led the team this season in tackles and a willingness to talk, was named the 2012 winner of the sixth annual Darrent Williams Good Guy Award, given by the Denver chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association to the player who best exemplifies the late cornerback's cooperation with the media. ... RB Willis McGahee walked through the locker room Thursday with a big wrap on his surgically repaired right knee but without any noticeable limp. He's eligible to return to action if the Broncos reach the AFC championship.

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