ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos are going from one great offensive mind to another. And they couldn’t be more different.
Since 1995, when Gary Kubiak started coordinating the Broncos, he slowly developed “his” offense, which would eventually be known as the “Kubiak offense.” Based on the principals of running the ball and play-action pass, Kubiak’s offense found a great deal of success in the league, specifically with the Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens.
However, in Kubiak’s two most recent years in Denver, 2015 and 2016, the players he was given never truly aligned with his offensive scheme, which led to an overall subpar offensive output. Now that Kubiak has retired, the Broncos have chosen their new offensive path moving forward, and it seems they wanted the opposite of what they’ve had the past two years.
“I want a guy that fits the scheme to the players. I want coordinators that put players first and schemes second,” new head coach Vance Joseph said at his introductory press conference on Thursday. “If it doesn’t fit the players, let’s not do it. My thought there is ‘players first, scheme second.’”
To fit this scheme, or lack of scheme, the Broncos wasted no time hiring Mike McCoy late Thursday night to be the offensive coordinator. McCoy, the former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Broncos from 2009-2012, was most recently the head coach of the San Diego Chargers. Although the Chargers as a team didn’t succeed during his time, compiling a 28-38 overall record, his offense was always relevant.
“I’ve known Mike a long time. Mike is a hell of a play caller,” Joseph said on Thursday.
His most impressive feat as an offensive mind may very well have taken place during his time in Denver when he showed the utmost versatility as an offensive leader. In his four years in Denver, he comprised offenses that were quarterbacked by Kyle Orton, Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning and was able to find success in all of them. McCoy is the gold standard in ‘players first, scheme second.’
This versatility from leading a run-heavy, option-style Tebow-led offense to a pass-first Manning led offense is exactly what the Broncos were looking for. McCoy has proven that he puts players above the scheme, and Joseph looks for him to continue that during his second stint in Denver. Along with being versatile, Joseph expects McCoy’s offense to be aggressive.
“I want an offense that is attacking,” he said. “I want to score points. Points win. Obviously, defense wins championships, but you have to score points. I want an offense with swagger, and I want an offense that’s up-tempo and has a chance to score a lot of points.”
And Joseph, thanks to general manager John Elway, believes that McCoy has all of the pieces needed to make a high-scoring offense, right away.
“We have players. We have two receivers that are All-Pro players and good offensive lineman,” he said. “We have two young quarterbacks that are both competitive. It first starts there…It comes with a confidence. It comes with a swagger of ‘hey, I’m going to score 28 points today.’ That has to be the standard. That’s what we expect to do. Obviously, that’s a work in progress. Again, building the staff to go score points, but we do have the players in place to do that. That’s encouraging.”
Along with everything else that McCoy brings to the offense, one of the most important reasons he was brought back to Denver, if not the most important, is to develop the young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Not counting his time as head coach or offensive coordinator, where he worked very closely with the quarterbacks, McCoy has six specific years as a quarterbacks coach. Joseph believes McCoy has the talent at that position to succeed.
“With Trevor, it’s a guy that’s smart; great footwork, great detail in his game. You can see it how he plays. He makes little error with the football,” the head coach said. “Then you’ve got Paxton, who’s a big, tall, slinger of the football; athletic. They’re so different, so hopefully we can kind of build a system around both of those guys and have them compete, and whoever is better plays. That’s fair.”
Since both quarterbacks are so different, depending on which one wins the job will determine what the offensive system will look like. Whatever that ends up looking like under McCoy, it is almost certain to look nothing like the offense from the past two years, just as the new head coach wants.