The NFL is a copycat league and with the hiring of interim head coach Jeff Saturday of the Indianapolis Colts, fan bases around the league are now baffled whether the legendary former players can lead their franchise, despite a lack of coaching experience.
After all, in his first game as an NFL head coach, Saturday’s Colts beat the Las Vegas Raiders on the road, 25-20. Saturday’s appointment as Indy’s head coach for the rest of the 2022 season drew criticism from former players, coaches and broadcasters, such as Bill Cowher and Joe Thomas.
Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett takes a proverbial hot seat after a poor 3-6 start to the season as the Raiders travel to Denver in what can only be considered a game in which the losing team’s coach is fired. Social media is currently buzzing with candidates who could potentially serve as Denver’s temp if Hackett gets his cards in the running during the off-season.
On Tuesday, the former and current Broncos offensive line Fox Sports Commentator Mark Schlereth was asked by co-host Mike Evans what he would do if he was offered the Denver interim head coach mid-season on Saturday.
Schlereth’s notes were noteworthy. This is what I picked up.
Create an offensive identity
“Well, the first thing I’m going to do is identify who’s calling the game and what I want the offense to look like,” Schlereth said in 104.3. fan show Schlereth and Evans. “We’re going to take ourselves out of the running game. We’re going to take ourselves out of the area game, so I want to be able to manage that through combinations of people, through formations, through movements. I want the defense to get going every game. What I want to be able to Doing it is running the same thing over and over until we can become experts at it.Once we become experts at it, what I want to do is be able to create additional runs from that, I want to be able to create run passes from that, So that everything looks the same. So, we can maximize our ability to create big plays in the passing game based on having defenses defend for something. It’s like the adage, “If you don’t defend for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
The three-time Super Bowl champion, who won a ring with the Washington “Hogs,” immediately addressed the elephant in the room: the Broncos’ non-existent running game. The Broncos are the only team in the league not to record a 20-yard rushing all season, recording a total of 932 rushing yards in nine games for an average of almost 104 yards per game while recording only five rushing touchdowns.
Schlereth said, “In the end, we’ll win the physical battle. You know what those kicks are gonna be at some point? Much like Jeff Saturday, the 60-yard run. It happens.”
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Redirect Russell Wilson game
While many Broncos’ bad, dull, dysfunctional optics are the result of poor training, Wilson’s performance has been very poor so far. Instead of completing easy, quick passes to the receivers below, Wilson played hero ball, taking big shots down the field with little success over and over.
“My message to him would be, Ross is not going to survive this way, and you need to earn the right to play like Drew Brees.” “Then I let the movie do the talking,” Schlereth said. “Let’s put it down, let’s watch it together, and you’ll get a very honest assessment of where you are as a player. I’d tell him we’re going to get him off the running game, we’re going to tie him down from the dropback and the gun game. We’re going to take advantage of his sport and what we’re doing well, what we know we’re going to create. Then we’ll give him chances Outside the pocket for his easy throws. We’ll get him some chances inside the pocket for easy throws, and we’ll take a lot of the load off him on the line of scrimmage.”
Wilson’s physical attributes resemble Bryce’s, specifically his height, but his latest theatrics suggest a new brand of irresponsible and admirable recklessness, something we rarely see in Wilson’s career. This season, the nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl winning QB has passed for 1,980 yards and seven touchdowns, with five interceptions and a completion percentage of 57.4.
Wilson has also been sacked 29 times and has been sticking to football for an extended period of time, which translates to desperate football. It’s no secret that many QBs prefer passing the long run for their own personal benefit.
So, how about listing “Let Russ Cook” synonymous with Wilson’s trademark No. 3?
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“Every time you cook, we get burnt food back, that’s what we get,” Schlereth said of Wilson’s theoretical rebound if Schlereth was a head coach.
While Wilson’s performance continues to slump with one of the league’s worst offenses, I don’t subscribe to the theory that he’s been washed up or that the game has passed him by. He simply does too much in an overly sophisticated and ineffective offense that seems forced upon him by the coaching staff.
Accountability for missed penalties and assignments
It is a default lock in every Broncos game as there will be a plethora of offensive penalties. Last week against the Tennessee Titans, there were four false start penalties bringing the total for the year to 19, which ranks first in the NFL in that category.
While mistakes are bound to happen, the Broncos quickly got used to harboring the umpire’s dirty laundry without any consequences from Hackett and his buddies.
“There’s going to be consequences, if he’s a head coach,” Schlereth said. “If you make stupid plays, you can’t play. Those are the realistic consequences. If you can’t appear on special teams play, guess what? You can’t play. I don’t care if you’re a player.” Basically, I don’t care. I have other guys who are hungry and wanting to play, and they will get to play.”
Denver’s special teams weren’t immune to penalties either, with players like rookie running back Montreal Washington suffering from fumble issues and mental errors. Hackett describes these penalties and mental fouls as “self-inflicted wounds,” and many wonder how much pain the team can take.
Adapt and modify as needed
Like it or not, Schlereth is the most eligible former Broncos player to be considered as a coaching candidate for this losing franchise. The guy has previously consulted on several NFL teams, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better student and analyst for the game.
Although his football mind is respected and appreciated among his peers and the rest of the league, I suspect Broncos manager George Button would give ‘Stink’ a call-up to be head coach if the need arose, but that’s not because he’s underqualified.
Schlereth’s no-regret analysis, criticism, and insight will be on display Sunday as he calls the Broncos-Raiders Fox Sports. Schlereth is also a former teammate of Saturday’s during their time at the ESPN together and remains strong in his praise and faith in his friend as interim head coach of the Colts.
“I don’t have to plan the game ever once,” Schlereth said. “But I’ve been in enough of those games, been in enough of those situations to know what works. Your biggest problem as an insult is that you’re playing with a third-team offensive tackle, basically a rookie right guard who’s tough at best because he’s a third-rate player, A third-team offensive center, left guard who has his issues, a second-team left tackle. Your first order of business is not to the liking of Ross Wilson. Your first order of business is to mitigate the potential disaster that is that group up front.”
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