The Denver Broncos allow fans unprecedented access to the team, which is so much fun to see from the outside but it’s also riveting to see how an organization gets to the peak of the sport, and it starts from the bottom up.
The bottom, in this case, being the Broncos’ four intern coaches that came in for the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. Those four coaches are Reggie Howard, Lee Johnson, Ricky Manning Jr., and NFL Hall of Famer Rod Woodson.
Woodson was in the NFL for 17 seasons, 10 of which were spent in Pittsburgh with the Steelers where he was coached by John Fox (defensive backs coach) for three seasons. He’s now a visible TV personality for the NFL Network, and a guy who certainly knows a thing or two about football.
Howard and Manning were part of Fox’s Carolina Panthers team that went to the Super Bowl in 2003 where they lost to the New England Patriots, but Woodson is undoubtedly the most decorated and well-known name on this list, and he could become part of a very interesting coaching trend that is happening across professional sports right now.
We’re seeing in baseball and basketball specifically lately in some high profile and local situations where players are coming into the coaching ranks, oftentimes at pretty young ages. Woodson has been out of the NFL for awhile now, but still looks like he could play some ball.
With guys like Derek Fisher and Jason Kidd getting huge deals to be NBA head coaches immediately after finishing their playing careers, as well as even the Colorado Rockies hiring former MLB player Walt Weiss as their manager, pro sports teams are not immune to hiring former players to lead their organizations into championship contention. Some of them with little or no coaching experiences.
We hear all the time about players who are ‘coaches’ out on the field, specifically for the Broncos would be players like Peyton Manning and Champ Bailey, who has since moved on to the New Orleans Saints.
Veteran players take on leadership roles, but any athlete will tell you that the grind of coaching can be extremely taxing after finishing a long playing career. As Mark Schlereth put it on ESPN radio earlier in the week, and I’m paraphrasing here, it’s tough to get into coaching as a player because you have just retired from the grind as a player, and then you basically have to start from scratch as a coach.
Not unlike the position as an intern.
With a guy like Woodson, you have someone with Hall of Fame experience who is obviously a very knowledgeable football mind that can relate to players, teach and coach them up, and make an impact on a coaching staff as a former player rather than someone who is simply talented with X’s and O’s.
I don’t know if this is really even newsworthy to many of you. Obviously it’s just a chance for these guys to gain some experience in the coaching realm of the NFL, to see if it’s something they’d be good at or would enjoy. One thing is pretty intriguing about it — these guys were hand-picked by the Broncos’ coaching staff, one that could be seeing some changes coming sooner rather than later with Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase set to be hot coaching commodities after this season is over.
It would be cool to see a former Hall of Fame player like Rod Woodson join a Broncos staff as a defensive backs coach where he could teach the talented young secondary in Denver.