Broncos land a shocking name to coach defensive backs in 2024

The Denver Broncos just landed a pretty big fish to coach DBs...

Guaranteed Rate Bowl - Wisconsin v Oklahoma State
Guaranteed Rate Bowl - Wisconsin v Oklahoma State / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

The Broncos are reportedly hiring former Wisconsin defensive coordinator and Bronco safety Jim Leonhard to coach their secondary, replacing Christian Parker (who left to join Vic Fangio and the Philadelphia Eagles), per ESPN's Dan Graziano.

Leonhard, 41, spent from 2017-2022 as the Wisconsin defensive coordinator and was the interim head coach of the Badgers following Paul Chryst's firing in 2022. Prior to that, Leonhard was the defensive coordinator for the Badgers in 2016. He spent 2023 as an analyst for the Illinois Illini, but only spent one year in that spot. This will be Leonhard's first job in the NFL after spending his eight years prior in the college ranks.

Leonhard spent his entire coaching career prior to 2023 at his alma mater Wisconsin, and is a Wisconsin native. Under his watch, the Badgers defense helped Wisconsin receive a pre-season rank every year he was the defensive coordinator. Amongst notable alumni who played under Leonhard during his tenure, LB Leo Chenal, LB TJ Edwards, OLB Andrew Van Ginkel, LB Jack Sanborn, DL Keeanu Benton, and OLB Zack Baun have all become Sunday mainstays.

As a player, Leonhard was an undrafted free agent who made the Bills' initial 53-man roster in 2005 and spent 10 seasons in the NFL. Most notably to Broncos fans, Leonhard was a Bronco for the 2012 season, a year in which Leonhard hauled in a pair of interceptions and appeared in all 16 games as a backup safety.

Leonhard replaces Christian Parker, who had spent the last three seasons as the defensive backs coach for the Broncos. Under Parker, the Broncos had one of the better secondaries in football. They had developed multiple starting defensive backs, such as all-pro corner Pat Surtain, and 2023 starters PJ Locke and Ja'Quan McMillian. He helped the careers of former starters Fabian Moreau and Kareem Jackson.

Parker was in his first stint as a position coach in the NFL, after previously serving as a Defensive quality control coach for the Packers. Parker leaves the Broncos to go serve as a defensive coach under former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, the same coach who gave Parker his crack as a position coach in the NFL.