Denver Broncos  

 

Denver Broncos putting trust in new coordinator Adam Gase

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Maybe it's not the kid in driver's ed being given the keys to a race car and told that anything less than taking the checkered flag at the Indy 500 would be an abject failure.

But for 35-year-old Adam Gase, becoming the Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator most assuredly comes with strings attached.

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Last season, with Mike McCoy as coordinator and Gase as quarterbacks coach, Denver's offense ranked second in points and fourth in yards. The Broncos enter 2013 with an all-time great at quarterback in Peyton Manning. They added one of the NFL's most prolific pass catchers of the past half-decade, Wes Welker, to supplement what is perhaps football's best tandem of young receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker). They have a $57.5 million left tackle, Ryan Clady, anchoring the line.

You can say that Gase, who got the job after McCoy left to coach the San Diego Chargers, won't have much of a honeymoon period.

And you can also say that, for now, he's not worried much. Maybe because he can't be.

"I mean, coaches are in a box, man," he said, on this chamber of commerce practice day. "You're in it for where you are. Right now, we're in the training camp box. We're focused on tomorrow -- or this afternoon, really, because we gotta go to walkthrough. And then when the next day comes, we'll focus on that. And then when it's time to focus on (Saturday's preseason game against) Seattle, we're prepared for that. You start worrying about all the other crap, and it doesn't do anything for you."

The cynic could assert that, in simple terms, Gase's job is to avoid steering this luxury liner into an iceberg.

The reason that neither he nor the Broncos view this situation like that should go a long way toward explaining how he landed in this position -- with the keys to the Ferrari -- in the first place.

"Adam spent more time with Peyton Manning than anybody," said Gase's boss, Broncos head coach John Fox. "That's what people don't understand. 'Coordinator' is just a title. I think it was a logical move, in that he's a very bright mind, he had a great relationship with Peyton as his position coach, and rather than start from square one -- we could've hired anybody; anyone would want this job -- it seemed like a natural step to let Adam do it."

See, the point about Manning is part of a larger equation here. Gase was also the Broncos' receivers coach when Decker and Thomas were rookies. He worked under former Broncos head coach -- and current New England Patriots offensive coordinator -- Josh McDaniels, whose system is what Welker is most familiar with. In his fifth year in Denver, Gase is among the most tenured staff members, with relationships up and down the roster.

All of that is just what the doctor ordered here.

Last year, the offense was still evolving after three solid years of tumult and change. The starting quarterback, who was playing in a new system for the first time in 14 years, was coming off multiple neck surgeries. All that showed early, too.

That this year's significant adjustments aren't going to shake the overall stability of the group is important. It'll help early, Gase thinks, and make the Broncos better late in the year -- in fact, it has already paid dividends.

"It doesn't feel like, 'Hey, you're being vaulted into this position,' " he said. "It's more, 'As a group, hey, we're staying together.' We can continue going on the path we were going last year, as far as getting better on offense, making sure we're clicking on all cylinders when we get to Week 1, instead of getting to Week 5 or Week 6 and still feeling our way out. Now, it's like, we're sticking together, and we should be good right from the beginning."

That's not to say it'll be easy. Gase knows it won't be.

The standards are high to begin with, based on the previous results, but the stiffest challenge for the Broncos' new offensive coordinator might just come from within. Gase can recall what McDaniels told him about the pressure associated with coaching Tom Brady. Gase already had a taste of that with Manning last year, and he's well aware that the heat will now be turned up a notch.

"(McDaniels) would tell me stories, he would have to go in and say, 'I gotta be on this, I have to know the running game, because (Brady is) gonna ask me this, this and this,' " Gase said. "And when you are associated with an offense with a quarterback with experience that has his background, that has so many things that he does recall -- 'Hey, I remember when so-and-so did this' -- you almost have to anticipate the possible things he could ask you. You gotta be on it."

There are a few reasons that the Broncos trust Gase will be.

First, there's the relationship he's forged with Manning -- both are "competitive perfectionists," per Fox. Second, he's earned a reputation in the building as a bright, rising star. Third, Gase is used to being the young guy in the room. At 29, he was quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions -- who had a 35-year-old signal-caller, Jon Kitna, running the show at the time. That experience taught him that you'll be fine if you can help the players improve.

Gase sees plenty of places where improvement is needed. The Broncos must avoid slow starts and build consistency in the running game. They have to be better on early downs, so they're not trying to climb out of self-dug holes late.

However, room for improvement is, to be sure, limited. And that's where so many would see pressure on Gase. But that's where he sees opportunity.

"You got a great coaching staff," he said. "You have a lot of guys that are working in the same direction, and that makes my job, the position coaches' jobs, we all do our part, and try and push it in the right way, push it in the right direction."

You could definitely say that he's gotten a little bit of a head start when it comes to that.

And if his job is just to keep it going, well, then he seems fine with that, too.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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