Broncos Update Insider - 1/5

The Denver Broncos have asked permission to interview Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for the head coaching job.

He's expected to interview Friday since the Falcons are on a bye week. Mularkey is also expected to interview with the Cleveland Browns. He has head coaching experience with the Buffalo Bills from 2004-05.

The Broncos have also said interim coach Eric Studesville will be interviewed.

John Elway will be introduced Wednesday to oversee Denver's personnel department.

But two key players in the reshaping of Denver's future -- from the selection of a head coach, to drafting philosophy and beyond -- will continue to be chief operating officer Joe Ellis and general manager Brian Xanders.

That powerful pair already has given a hint at their expectations moving forward. And one thing is certain: Change is on the horizon after the franchise's first-ever 12-loss season.

"It's disappointing not just for the 4-12 record," Ellis said in the aftermath of the season-ending loss to San Diego. "It's been enormously disappointing because of a lot of things that have happened on and off the field. But we have to put it behind us and move forward right away. We can't dwell on it."

Player arrests, Spygate II, questionable trades, the suicide of receiver Kenny McKinley and the abrupt firing of Josh McDaniels were just some of the ancillary story lines that made 2010 so wholly awful in all aspects.

Xanders admitted that "we have a lot of work to do ... in a bunch of different areas."

"There's a coaching search. There's the draft. There's free agency. These next few months are huge for our franchise," he added.

One of the first decisions will be committing to a quarterback for the long term. Tim Tebow wowed the fans but also showed he has limitations. Kyle Orton wants out, knowing the rookie has transfixed everyone in the city.

It's a long shot but entirely possible that neither is considered the answer.

"The new coaching staff and personnel staff will work that out over the course of the next four to eight months," Xanders said. "We'll figure it out, and we'll make the right decision at the right time."

Elway will oversee that process on the personnel side, and the whole organization will operate under a plan that encompasses several elements.

"No. 1 is stabilizing the quarterback position, build a seriously tough defense with youth and impact players and have explosive players on offense - whether it's receivers, running backs or tight ends," said Xanders, who'll report directly to the Hall of Fame quarterback. "And, to me, it's building a foundation through the draft, then developing your own players and retaining them. That's the long-term approach."

Denver has failed to make the playoffs since losing the 2005 AFC Championship Game, so it's obvious many of its issues have been systemic.

The draft portion, in particular, has been badly botched, dating back to the Mike Shanahan era.

"There's definitely some good pieces moving forward but also several, if not many, places where we're going to have to make improvements," Ellis said. "Everyone in the organization knows that."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The immediate talk about having a group approach to replacing outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil in the aftermath of his season-ending chest injury in August proved hollow.

Dumervil was coming off a 2009 season in which he set a franchise record with 17 sacks and became the first Denver player to lead the NFL in that category.

Even with a season-best five sacks Sunday vs. San Diego, the Broncos finished as a team with just 23 takedowns - ranking last in the league.

"As beautiful as we tried to paint it, losing E in the beginning of the season was huge," safety Brian Dawkins said. "We fought through it. We tried our best to do what we needed to do. Guys did a good job stepping in. But when you lose someone like that, who we depend on a lot, that's a tough, tough pill to swallow."

Selecting a defensive stud with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and getting Dumervil back will be a large part of the defensive rebuilding process.

--QB Tim Tebow believes he benefited from the three weeks he spent as starter from a learning standpoint and just to get a "feel" for the regular season.

"I think it gives me confidence," he said. "It gives me different things to visualize and work on in the offseason and game reps to look at to show where I've gotten better and where I need to work on things."

But while Orton has been understated yet outspoken in his feelings moving forward, Tebow is doing everything possible to stay out of the discussion of Denver's future starting quarterback.

"I don't know," he said, sheepishly. "I'm just going to work and worry about what I can control."

Tebow did mention that he wants to begin working with the new head coach as soon as possible to start assimilating Denver's new offense.

"So when it gets to OTAs, I can really feel comfortable," he said.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--OLB Robert Ayers was walking around the locker room Monday with a boot on his right foot. Ayers said he got stepped on and that the injury isn't considered serious, nor will he require surgery. Ayers missed five games with an injury to his other (left) foot.

--PK Matt Prater was placed on injured reserve in December with a right groin injury but said he's a couple weeks from being fully healed. Prater won't need surgery and believes he tried to hurry back too soon, exacerbating the problem. There is no tear, he added.

--RT Ryan Harris is one of the team's top pending free agents. Harris had an ankle injury that hurt his performance and led to an early benching. But he was reinserted into the lineup late and the team's rushing numbers improved. Harris said Monday he's committed to Denver, but wants to see whether that is reciprocated in his contract situation.

--QB Kyle Orton reiterated Monday that he expects to be the No. 1 quarterback wherever he plays next season. He's entering the final year of his contract, but is looking more and more like a trade chip for Denver in the coming months for a team seeking a solid veteran.

--LB Joe Mays sprained his lateral collateral ligament Dec. 5 and the healing time aligned with the season schedule made putting him on injured reserve the prudent move. Mays won't need surgery on the knee and believes he could have played late in the season.



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