Sunday’s matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs will be Denver Broncos interim head coach Jerry Rosburg’s first game as a head coach at any level of football, but it this challenge is far from his first rodeo.
Prior to coming out of retirement to join ex-Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett’s coaching staff, the 67-year-old Rosburg spent 18 seasons as a special teams coordinator, including 11 with the Baltimore Ravens on John Harbaugh’s staff.
Harbaugh himself was a standout special teams coordinator under Andy Reid from 1999-07, while Reid was head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
During his time with the Ravens, Rosburg's special teams unit led the NFL in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA) three times (2012, 2015 and 2017) and with the exception of two seasons (2008 and 2011), his unit never finished lower than fifth.
Reid actually mentioned Rosberg’s time with his pupil, Harbaugh, during his Wednesday afternoon presser.
“[Rosburg] actually worked for John Harbaugh for a number of years,” noted Reid. “[He’s] one of the top special teams coaches in the NFL and a good football coach, period, but a tremendous special teams coach.”
So what can we extrapolate from this?
Unfortunately, not a lot. Despite Rosburg’s pedigree as a special teams coordinator, Denver is currently ranked dead last in the league in special teams DVOA at -3.9%.
From a piece written here at Arrowhead Pride by our own Nick Schwerdt, Reid said that he wanted his team prepared for anything.
“With the coaching changes, I mentioned to the team that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to see, so you’ve got to be ready for anything and everything — and make sure you bring the energy that you need to take care of business.”
The Broncos' overall scheme should not change much under Rosburg since Denver retained both their offensive and defensive coordinators when Hackett left.
On Thursday, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy echoed the words of Reid.
“Defensively, they’ve done a hell of a job all year long,” said Bieniemy. “They have good personnel on that side of the ball, [and] they’ve done an outstanding job of coaching those guys up so we’re not taking our foot off the pedal.”
Bieniemy continued on to say that it doesn’t matter who is calling the shots on the other sideline; the Chiefs need to show up on Sunday ready to play
“We’ve got to make sure we’re getting back to playing fundamentally sound football and making sure that we’re converting on third downs and making the most of opportunities when presented. So I’m counting on the Denver Broncos to come out and play hard, to play fast and to compete their [butts] off against the Kansas City Chiefs.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo acknowledged that things could be a little more tricky than they were the last time these two teams met.
“Sometimes you can make it a little bit more challenging because you don’t know what the changes are going to be,’ admitted the defensive coordinator. “Everybody needs a game to see what the new head coach is going to do, the coordinator is not changing. You know we’re looking for some continuity there or some similarity between the last time we played them and this time, we just got to be ready for anything.”
Spagnuolo said that instead of worrying about what the Broncos will try to do on offense, he wants his defense to leave its mark on Sunday.
“I mean, in a lot of ways, we make it more about what we’re doing and what we should do and how we should execute and making sure that from the chin to the hair line, we execute things the way we need to do and then continue to play fast.”
The thing you can’t be sure about or prepare for until you’re in the game is how aggressive Rosburg might be.
Will the Broncos attempt a fake punt or an onside kick? Will they go for it on fourth down?
Rosburg is 67 years old, and these are the last two games in the regular season. This may be his only opportunity to be the head coach of an NFL football team, so it should be no surprise if he and the Broncos come out and play as if they have nothing to lose.