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Getting to know a Denver Broncos coaching candidate: Aaron Glenn

Andrew Mason Avatar
January 13, 2022


Aaron Glenn is not one to pass the buck.

When it comes time to take responsibility for a defensive performance that falls short, without fail, the Lions defensive coordinator put the onus on himself — even when it was a matter of execution or injuries, not coaching, that led to a shaky performance.

That’s what the best leaders do. When things go well, they praise the players responsible. When the outcome falls short, they shoulder the blame. It’s all about accountability.

Never was that more true for Glenn than in the wake of the Lions’ 16-14 Thanksgiving Day loss to the Chicago Bears last season.

Most of the attention focused on Detroit calling two timeouts in succession, leading to a 5-yard delay-of-game penalty. But a secondary cause of defeat was what happened after the timeout: a 7-yard completion that moved the chains, permitting the Bears to drain what was left of the clock before a game-ending, game-winning field goal.

The Lions had the Bears in third-and-4. Glenn had seven defenders at the line of scrimmage; five rushed, while two dropped into coverage. But none of the four defensive backs on the play lined up within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage; in fact, all were at least 6 yards back.

Effectively, the Lions conceded the first down.

Seven days later, when Glenn had his weekly press conference, he pointed fingers at no one but himself.

It wasn’t a matter of execution; Glenn took responsibility.

“I wish I would have told [Lions defender] Will Harris to challenge in that situation. I should have told him that. But we called pressure (blitz) and he was just playing off,” Glenn said on Dec. 2.

“Sometimes we put so much blame on players, but man, listen, that guy is just now learning.”

He didn’t just tell the media this. He made sure Harris knew that, too.

“I told him, ‘That wasn’t your fault, man, that was my fault — because I put you in that situation as a new player playing that position,'” Glenn said.

“So, I’ve got to make sure I help that player, as far as how to operate in those situations.”

Leadership is about pointing the way. But it’s also about demonstrating humility and taking responsibility. These are attributes to be praised, and Glenn, who played 15 seasons as a defensive back before joining the NFL coaching ranks with Cleveland in 2014, has done that.

Glenn had a five-season stint as New Orleans Saints defensive backs coach before following Dan Campbell to Detroit as defensive coordinator. On the surface, the results weren’t great; with a depleted defense, the Lions finished in the league’s bottom four in scoring defense, total defense, yards per play and first-down rate allowed.

But it’s Glenn’s leadership, his growth as a teacher, his first-hand experience to relate to players and his willingness to fall on the sword that fit into what Broncos general manager George Paton said when he prized leadership as the No. 1 attribute he seeks in a new coach.

Before one dismisses Glenn’s candidacy, note this: Another long-time NFL player got his head-coaching shot after four years as an NFL assistant, including one as a defensive coordinator in which his unit was dead last in scoring defense on a 4-12 team.

That coach was Mike Vrabel, and he hasn’t had a losing season since, with his Tennessee Titans now the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.

One way or another, Glenn hopes to follow that path.

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