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Getting to know a Denver Broncos coaching candidate: Brian Callahan

Andrew Mason Avatar
January 15, 2022

FIFTH IN A SERIES

Brian Callahan has a bit of Peyton Manning in him.

Not that he can see the field in the same way as the Hall-of-Fame quarterback. No one can reasonably expect to ingest, process, study and retain information in the same way as Manning. Manning’s brain is his superpower. His attention to detail is unmatched.

But the degree to which Manning worked and prepared is something that others around the great No. 18 can mimic. And after four seasons working with Manning as a Broncos offensive assistant, Callahan has tried to convey those lessons to the quarterbacks with whom he has worked in the six seasons since, most prominently the Bengals’ 2020 No. 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow.

“The ‘no stone unturned’ type of mentality that Peyton had that was required of all of us that were around him,” Callahan said told ESPN in December. “I thought that’s been probably the biggest foundation of how to prepare a quarterback how to play in the NFL and what’s required of the staff, what’s required of the quarterback.”

Callahan uses footage of Manning to help teach Burrow, particularly on pre-snap checks and calls. This isn’t particularly surprising, given how Callahan’s career has been tied with that of Manning.

He worked six seasons for the Broncos under four different head coaches: Josh McDaniels, interim coach Eric Studesville, John Fox and Gary Kubiak. As an offensive assistant and quality-control coach, he often worked closely with Manning.

It was that connection which helped Callahan make the leap to his first position-coach assignment. Shortly after Super Bowl 50, Callahan left to join the Detroit Lions as quarterbacks coach, working under then-head coach Jim Caldwell, who guided Manning as a quarterbacks coach and later head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2002-11.

Callahan then served one year as the Oakland Raiders’ quarterbacks coach in 2018 before moving on to the Bengals in 2019 as offensive coordinator. Callahan doesn’t call the plays; head coach Zac Taylor, a former assistant to Sean McVay with the Los Angeles Rams, handles that work.

But Taylor knows that he must be a head coach for the entire Bengals roster, even though he calls the offensive plays. As detailed in a CLNSMedia.com story from last summer, Taylor leans on Callahan when he must focus his attention on tasks other than offensive game-planning.

“The nice thing about having a head coach that calls the plays, they still have to do all the things that head coaches have to,” Callahan told CLNSMedia.com. “Roster management, and he still has to worry about anything else that comes up, defense, special teams. Those things are all things that he has to think about during the week.

“So, he relies on me specifically to advance everything else. So, offensively I move forward with the plan and then he catches up as he has time.”

This means that a significant chunk of the offensive plan falls on Callahan’s shoulders. Even though he doesn’t call the plays, he sets “everything else,” as he noted.

“I do a lot of previewing of each situation,” Callahan explained last August. “So, I’ll put out a list of first, second down passes together, and it’s usually a really long list of things, and then I’ll get together on Tuesday night and take an hour and a half to go through and cut that list. He says I like these things here. I have these ideas. I’m going to put in here. We just kind of flow through the conversation.”

Callahan hasn’t called plays at an NFL level. But as an offensive coach, he’s done just about everything else. And he spent decades learning from his father, Bill, a longtime pro and college coach who led the then-Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII.

“Brian Callahan is going to be a top-flight quarterbacks coach, offensive coordinator, maybe head coach like his dad (Bill) at some point in the near future,” Manning told MLive.com in the days leading up to Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

That time could now be imminent.

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