While the majority of the attention of Broncos Camp 2001 will be directed toward returning heroes, seasoned vets and rising young rookies, it will be those pacing the sideline, clipboard in hand, that will ultimately decide the future success or failure of this year's team.
Welcome the new, revamped edition of the Denver Broncos coaching staff.
Gone is defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, whose squad plummeted from Super Bowl Champions to the depths of embarrassment as the league's second worst defensive unit.
Enter Ray Rhodes, equipped with a promising new aggression that should fit well within the Shanahan regime. Having worked together in San Francisco earlier weighs heavy in Rhodes favor, and
Also gone is offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, mastermind behind the lightest, yet most dominate front line in the NFL. Gibbs, an eighteen-year veteran, grew tired of the rigors of NFL coaching, opting for semi-retirement.
Gibbs will attend training camp and assist with play design during the season, but relinquishes every day duties to former special teams coach Rick Dennison, who was groomed as Gibbs successor throughout last season.
As a former player, Dennison is well respected among the players and, with Gibbs' tutelage, should be able to make the transition to his new position without complications.
David Gibbs, Alex's son, becomes the new safeties coach, a position he oversaw as the defensive coordinator at the University of Minnesota. Shanahan is banking on the younger Gibbs to improve Denver's shoddy secondary, hopefully with the same fervor and dedication as his father.
Offensively the Broncos breathed a sigh of relief with the return of coordinator Gary Kubiak. Kubes, as he's know to the team, came seriously close to the head coaching position with Houston during the offseason, but opted instead to continue his reign as Shanahan's right hand man.
Given the fortune of having a healthy backfield, quarterback and receiving corps., Kubiak will field one of the most potent offenses in the league. Various preseason power rankings have Denver ranked within the top five, with some observers' poll as high as the top three.
Steering the ship, as he has been for the past six years, is Mike Shanahan, whose coming off one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory.
Embarrassed by last season's on again off again performance, Shanahan vowed to make the necessary changes, and the firing of Robinson was step one.
The next steps begin to take shape on July 26, at the University of Northern Colorado at Greeley.