ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When the Denver Broncos offered Ejiro Evero the chance to take over the team for two weeks as interim head coach, the 41-year-old declined.
The exact reason for his decision is still fuzzy.
“I don’t want to get into too much of the details,” Evero said Thursday. “We just all agreed that the best thing for this team moving forward was for me to continue to work with the defense, be fully invested there. I think that’s where I could have the best value for this team.”
While Evero says it was a group decision, there’s no doubt the Broncos thought he was the best man for the job. After they fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday, they offered the job to Evero. When Evero turned it down, they turned to senior assistant Jerry Rosburg.
Rosburg has his own theory as to why Evero turned it down: loyalty.
“I told him how I respected his decision because of his loyalty and relationship with Nathaniel,” Rosburg told reporters. “My feeling is if that had happened to me with another close friend of mine in my career, I hope I would have done the same thing, but it’s not an easy thing to do. I think he should be recognized for magnanimous act that he did.”
Evero has grown from a defensive quality control coach to a defensive coordinator over the past decade-and-a-half, with stops in Tamp Bay, San Francisco, Green Bay, Los Angeles and now Denver. But before he became an NFL coach, Evero was Hackett’s roommate in college at UC Davis. They took different paths to Denver, but they’re still best friends.
“It’s been hard,” Evero said of Hackett’s departure. “He’s a great friend. He’s family.”
Evero’s stock is trending in up. In his first season as a coordinator in the NFL, his defense is seventh in the NFL in points allowed and fifth in the league in yards allowed. He made an appearance in Tom Pelissero’s list of up-and-coming head coach candidates.
Broncos general manager George Paton said Monday that the team wants to interview Evero for the full-time head coach job.
Does Evero want the interview?
“Yeah, I mean that’s always an ambition. I would say that most coaches strive to attain that position, but I’m not worried about that right now,” Evero said. “But I’m not worried about that right now. Right now, I’m fully invested in this team. We’ve got two more games. We’ve got a great opportunity this week against Kansas City and that’s where I’m completely focused.”
For a young coach like Evero, the chance to lead a team—even for two weeks—can be invaluable. Only 32 head coach positions exist and it’s rare for somebody, especially somebody so young, to turn one down.
For Rosburg, a 67-year-old coach who has spent 40 years in the NFL but was never given the opportunity to be a head coach, this was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Frankly, there are a lot of people who want to be standing up here,” Rosburg said. “[Evero] is highly qualified and he deserved the opportunity to say, ‘Yes.’ He chose to say, ‘No,’ so that’s why I’m standing before you.”
Rosburg didn’t care that his duty is to turn around a team that lost 51-14 to the second-worst scoring offense in the NFL last week, ahead of a game against the top scoring offense and Super Bowl favorite. In some ways, it’s a suicide mission.
“So, who would sign up for this? ‘So you get to coach in the National Football League? OK, here are the Kansas City Chiefs,'” Rosburg said. “Here I am, choose me.”