There has been much buzz regarding the Denver Broncos recent coaching moves, calling this a "family reunion" that is bound to end in disaster. However, know this-- John Elway would not hire a single person whom he believed wouldn't help his team win a championship, regardless of their previous relationship.
Gary Kubiak was a highly sought after head coaching candidate, before he withdrew his name from consideration. Elway found a way to bring him back to Denver. Rick Dennison knows more about football than most humans that walk this earth and Wade Phillips is one of the most respected defensive minds in the league. None of these men would be in their current positions if they were not qualified to be.
Coach Kubiak recently completed putting his coaching staff together by hiring Wade Phillips to be the team's defensive coordinator. Phillips held the position with the Broncos from 1989-92, before being promoted to the head coaching job, following the ousting of head coach Dan Reeves. Wade was the head coach for the team for two seasons, before being fired for a lackluster season.
Phillips has held an unprecedented eight separate defensive coordinator jobs, over 21 years, throughout four different decades. The Son of a Bum has withstood the test of time and adapted to the different eras of the NFL in a way that few others have been able to.
In addition to his defensive coordinator jobs, Phillips has also been an interim head coach on three separate occasions, to go along with three head coaching jobs (9 years). As a head coach, Phillips led his teams to a cumulative 82-64 record and playoff appearances in five of his nine years, including a playoff victory for the Dallas Cowboys.
In 1989, Wade took over as the defensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos. His efforts helped the team become the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFL, allowing just 14.1 points per game (PPG) -- a huge improvement from finishing No. 20 the season before.
In 1990, the defense allowed 23.4 PPG before rebounding in 1991, allowing 14.7 PPG, good for No. 3 in the NFL. Phillips finished his tenure in Denver (including as a head coach) with the team allowing 19.2 PPG over 96 total games.
Seemingly everywhere he goes, the defense improves. In 1994, the Buffalo Bills ranked No. 22 in scoring defense. But in 1995, under Phillips, they jumped to No. 12. In 2001, the Atlanta Falcons ranked No. 24, but in 2002 they jumped to No. 8 under Phillips.
In 2003, the San Diego Chargers were an abysmal No. 31, but the next year under Phillips, they jumped to No. 11. The 2006 Dallas Cowboys finished No. 20, but the 2007 Phillips-led version ranked No. 13. A pattern emerges.
Finally, Phillips joined Gary Kubiak with the Houston Texans in 2011. The year before taking over the Texans defense, the team finished No. 29 in scoring defense. With Phillips captaining the ship, they jumped to No. 4 in the NFL. J.J. Watt also flourished under Phillips, who was a defensive line coach for five seasons before becoming a defensive coordinator.
Is it possible the Broncos defense regresses under Wade Phillips? Yes. Is it likely? No. The Son of a Bum has a track record of taking over a defense, with great improvement directly following. The Broncos, under Jack Del Rio, were middle-of-the-road, finishing No. 16 in scoring defense allowing 22.1 PPG.
Phillips is a disciple of the attacking 3-4 defense, which relies primarily on the linebackers, the best athletes in the front seven, to make plays. This scheme offers a versatile array of scheme and blitz possibilities and the Broncos have the personnel to execute it.
Phillips is the guy in Denver for the next two seasons, after signing a contract Wednesday. What is to follow, if his history is any indicator, is likely two years of defensive improvement. The short-term pact is also indicative of Phillips being a possible stop-gap option, as Vance Joseph was reportedly the team's first choice.
One potential scenario has Joseph joining the Broncos coaching staff as a defensive assistant in 2016, after his contract with the Cincinnati Bengals expires. This will allow him to be groomed under Phillips to potentially take over the coordinator job for the 2017 season, with Phillips moving to a defensive consultant role.
For now, this is speculation, but regardless of what happens, this much is clear; John Elway is thinking about the present and the future in Denver.