Broncos may need 7th coordinator in 7 seasons

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) - It's become an annual rite of winter in the Rocky Mountains.

With Dennis Allen reportedly preparing to leave Denver to coach the Oakland Raiders, the Broncos may soon find themselves searching for a seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons.

Other men who have filled the Mile High musical chair in the last six seasons are Larry Coyer (2006), Jim Bates (2007), Bob Slowik (2008), Mike Nolan (2009) and Don Martindale (2010).

The Broncos were hoping they had finally found some continuity with Allen. But the 39-year-old up-and-comer apparently impressed Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, much as he dazzled Broncos coach John Fox a year ago when he landed his first coordinator job after rising through the ranks in New Orleans and Atlanta.

Possible replacements for Allen could include Broncos linebackers coach Richard Smith and former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio.

Allen helped the Broncos rebound from a dismal 2010 season during which they finished at or near the bottom on most major defensive categories as they staggered to a franchise-worst 4-12 record.

Improving across the board under Allen despite a spate of injuries, most notably in nearly doubling their sack total to 41, the Broncos won the AFC West title and upset Pittsburgh in the playoffs before losing to New England.

The Raiders hadn't discussed the Allen reports as of Wednesday, and the Broncos have been mum on the matter since reports surfaced Tuesday night that the Raiders and Allen were hammering out details of a contract.

At his season-ending news conference last week, however, Fox said Allen deserved the opportunity to interview for NFL head coaching jobs and he praised Allen for the work he did "with the lack of an offseason, a pretty radical change on defense going from the 3-4 to the 4-3."

"So, I thought he did a tremendous job," Fox said.

A week ago, it appeared the coordinator the Broncos would lose this offseason was Mike McCoy, who drew interest from the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, as well as the Raiders, for the work he did in adapting Denver's offense midseason to fit the unique skill set of scrambling quarterback Tim Tebow.

The Rams and Raiders sought permission from the Broncos to speak with both of their coordinators, and Fox insisted losing one or both this offseason wouldn't stunt the team's progress.

"That's my job, to bring in replacement coaches, if it were to get to that," Fox said last week. "It's no different than a year ago, when it was my job to hire them. Anytime you win, it's a tribute to that success and you're going to lose coaches and you've got to find good replacements."

The leading in-house candidate is Smith, who previously served as defensive coordinator in Miami and Houston, and another strong possibility is Del Rio, who was fired as the Jaguars' head coach in November.

Del Rio was Fox's first defensive coordinator in Carolina in 2002, and he also left after one season, when he was hired by Jacksonville. His departure didn't bother the Panthers, who promoted defensive line coach Mike Trgovac and went to the Super Bowl in 2003, losing 32-29 to New England on a last-second field goal.

As Broncos players cleared out their lockers last week, they praised the work Allen had done in quickly turning things around in Denver.

Star cornerback Champ Bailey said he was glad Allen was drawing interest from around the league, "but at the same time, to be selfish, I want him to be here because I want that stability."

Connect with AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter:

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.