ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The long-term impact of an extra set of eyes in the Denver Broncos coaches’ box and another voice in coach Nathaniel Hackett’s headset remains to be seen, but Hackett’s decision to add veteran assistant coach Jerry Rosburg to his staff worked out just fine in its debut on Sunday night.
A whirlwind week that saw Hackett coax Rosburg out of retirement, add him to his coaching staff after two games, and then – with a team effort – fit Rosburg into the team’s game day operations, ended with Sunday night’s 11-10 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
“Jerry was great,’’ said Hackett, in his first season as head coach. “We had been evaluating everything on how we were managing things up to that point. I wanted to be sure I was able to be an efficient playcaller for Russell [Wilson] and the offense.’’
The 66-year-old Rosburg had been retired since he finished out the 2018 season as the Baltimore Ravens special teams coordinator and assistant head coach. But when the Broncos had repeated clock management issues, including four delay-of-game penalties over the first two weeks, as well as multiple incidents of using timeouts when they couldn’t get organized, Hackett called Rosburg to see if he would be interested in joining the Broncos’ staff.
Hackett, who has called the somewhat unorthodox decision to bring someone like Rosburg in after the season has started a "difficult one,'' added he had not worked with Rosburg previously, but got the references he needed to move quickly.
“For me as a coach, all coaches, we want to grow … he’s a guy with a ton of experience that’s run game management before,” Hackett said. “And after talking with him, he was all for it, excited about it.’’
Rosburg spent much of last week in the Broncos’ complex and was in the coaches’ box during Sunday night’s win, and he made an immediate impact.
Trailing 10-5, the Broncos faced a fourth-and-inches from their own 34-yard line with 12:35 left in the game. Wilson had just scrambled for what he believed was a first down, but the ball was marked short and the Broncos lost a replay challenge.
"I thought we had that one first down where I dove and kind of put the ball out,'' Wilson said. "The ball was across, but they didn’t give it to us.''
Hackett said he initially wanted to go for the first down. However, after a discussion with Rosburg, the Broncos punted. The defense forced a punt in six plays and Denver followed with its only touchdown of the game – off a 12-play, 80-yard drive that earned them the win.
“I thought (Rosburg) was spectacular,’’ Hackett said. “ … Again, he’s there because I typically want to be a little more aggressive. He kind of held me back, especially that fourth and inches. I was very tempted to want to go for that, and he was just talking about it, and our defense was playing so well. We were able to punt it … made them drive the field, and we were able to get the ball back and we had that winning score.’’
Over the first two weeks of the season, the Broncos were the most penalized team in the league – 25 penalties were accepted by their first two opponents. That penalty total included the four delay of games, including two on field goal attempts.
The Broncos did not have a delay-of-game penalty in Sunday's win or any issues with timeouts, and Wilson said in addition to Rosburg’s arrival, the Broncos spent much of last week simply trying to increase the tempo of the offense. Hackett has said he hopes Rosburg’s arrival can help him, as the Broncos’ playcaller, be more efficient getting the plays to Wilson while also monitoring the other decisions he has to make.
“We were super efficient getting in and out of the huddle,’’ Wilson said. “All week, we just kind of practiced that. Everybody is learning from each other … we were able to really focus on that in practice, and that translated. We put guys on the sideline and made it like a game every rep of practice, so we got that tempo in and out. That was huge for us.’’
Overall, even a more efficient Broncos' offense found it to be a grind against the 49ers. Denver finished with 261 yards and punted 10 times, but did not commit a turnover, and the offense finished with three penalties – one was declined – in comparison to eight penalties on the offense alone in Week 2 and six on the offense in Week 1.