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Largely-anonymous Rick Dennison back in saddle as Denver Broncos' offensive coordinator

Ken Pomponio Avatar
July 18, 2015

 

For a guy who’s been involved in the Denver Broncos’ organization for as long as Rick Dennison has, the team’s offensive coordinator still remains somewhat anonymous.

Since signing with the franchise as an undrafted rookie out of Colorado State in 1982, Dennison  has played for or coached on the Broncos’ staff for 24 of the last 34 NFL seasons. The former CSU tight end-turned-NFL-linebacker is now 57 years old and back for his second stint as the team’s offensive coordinator after holding down the same role from 2006-08 when he succeeded Gary Kubiak, who left to coach the Houston Texans.

Then after serving as the Broncos’ offensive-line coach in Josh McDaniels’ debut season of 2009, Dennison reunited with Kubiak in the Lone Star State, serving as the Texans’ offensive coordinator from 2010-13. After Kubiak and his staff were dismissed following Houston’s disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2013, Dennison and Kubiak landed in Baltimore last season where the former served as the Ravens’ quarterback coach and the latter served as the offensive coordinator on John Harbaugh’s staff.

It’s hardly a surprise then that Dennison and Kubiak are both part of the Mile High homecoming in 2015, with Dennison having worked with or served directly under Kubiak for 16 of his 20 seasons as an NFL assistant.

“I love working for Gary,” Dennison said at his introductory press conference in February. “He’s an easy guy to work for. He’s got great people skills. He knows how to treat people and he knows how to win football games. So what’s not good to work for that?”

In three of the remaining four seasons, Dennison served on Mike Shanahan’s staff, and that joined-at-the-hip history of close ties are the main reason why Dennison still has trouble firmly forging his own coaching identity.

Even this coming season, it’s still expected that Kubiak will call the majority of the Broncos’ offensive plays – as he also did when Dennison was the Texans’ OC from 2010-13.

Still, it doesn’t mean that Dennison can’t lay claim to his own track record of success.

In his seven seasons as an offensive coordinator in Denver and Houston, his offenses have ranked in the league’s top 13 in total yardage six times, and ranked in the top half in points four times.

Dennison’s offenses have had the most success on the ground, ranking among the league’s top-12 rushing teams in six of his seven seasons. And he’s accomplished that with five different leading rushers – Tatum Bell in ’06, Selvin Young in ’07, Peyton Hillis in ’08, Arian Foster in 2010-12 and Ben Tate in ’13 – in seven seasons.

Dennison’s offenses weren’t too shabby through the air, either, with Jay Cutler finishing third in the NFL in passing yards in 2008 (a still-career-high 4,526) and the Texans’ Matt Schaub finishing fourth with 4,370 yards in 2010.

Dennison also has spent six seasons as an offensive-line coach – including a highly successful five-year run in Denver from 2001-05 when the Broncos were a top-10 rushing team each season – so his experience should prove valuable in helping mold the Broncos’ new-look patchwork front five this coming campaign.

And if he can succeed in that while assisting a 39-year-old Peyton Manning and the high-powered Broncos’ attack make a largely seamless transition between coaching staffs, Dennison just might start shedding a little of that anonymity.

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