Broncos promote Dennison - hire Heimerdinger

The Denver Broncos on Monday promoted Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison to offensive coordinator and named Mike Heimerdinger as the team's assistant head coach, Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos on Monday promoted Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison to offensive coordinator and named Mike Heimerdinger as the team's assistant head coach, Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan announced.

Dennison, a former Broncos linebacker who appeared in three Super Bowls as a player, was the team's offensive line coach for the last five seasons and has served on Denver's coaching staff since 1995. Heimerdinger, who coached the Broncos' wide receivers from 1995-99, spent the last six years as an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the New York Jets (2005) and Tennessee Titans (2000-04).

Dennison, 47, oversaw a Broncos offensive line from 2001-05 that paved the way for top-10 NFL overall yardage rankings in each of the last four seasons. Dennison's line was integral in the team ranking fifth in the league in total offense in each of the last two years, including a 360.4-yard per game average in 2005 that helped Denver advance to the AFC Championship Game.

The Broncos rushed for an NFL-best 11,644 yards and produced four individual 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the last five years with Dennison as offensive line coach. Denver's offensive line was equally adept at pass blocking under Dennison, surrendering the fifth-lowest sack total (151) in the NFL since 2001 and allowing a franchise-low 15 sacks in 2004.

Dennison worked as the Broncos' special-teams coach from 1997-2000, and his group proved integral in the team winning consecutive Super Bowls from 1997-98. Kicker Jason Elam earned a Pro Bowl selection under Dennison's tutelage in 1998 after converting 85 percent of his field-goal attempts while punter Tom Rouen ranked second in the NFL that year with a 46.9-yard gross punting average. In 1997, Dennison helped Darrien Gordon tie for the NFL lead with three touchdowns on punt returns and rank second in the league in punt-return average (13.6 yds.).

Dennison's special-teams coverage units also were strong as evidenced by the Broncos tying for the AFC lead in average opponent drive start (26.1-yd. line) in 2000.

Dennison began his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant with the Broncos in 1995 and held that position for two seasons. He joined the Broncos' staff after spending three years (1992-94) as an assistant coach on the high school level at Suffield Academy in Suffield, Conn.

A linebacker for the Broncos from 1982-90, Dennison played 128 career games (52 starts) for Denver and appeared in Super Bowls XXI, XXII and XXIV with the club. He was the Broncos' recipient of the Ed Block Memorial Courage Award in 1989.

Dennison played linebacker at Colorado State University in the late 1970s and received both a bachelor's degree (1979) and master's degree (1982) in civil engineering from CSU. He was born June 22, 1958, in Kalispell, Mont.

Heimerdinger, 53, spent 2005 as the Jets' offensive coordinator, directing a unit that was forced to use five different quarterbacks because of injuries and one that lost two starting linemen to injured reserve. The Jets' offense showed improvement toward the end of the season with first-year starting quarterback Brooks Bollinger compiling an 87.7 passer rating and leading the team to a 2-2 record in its final four games.

The Titans' offense ranked among the NFL's most productive units with Heimerdinger as its offensive coordinator from 2000-04. Heimerdinger's offense twice ranked in the NFL's top-10 (2001 and '03) in yards and placed in the top-5 of league rankings in time-of-possession in all five seasons, including No. 1 rankings in 2000 and ‘02. In addition, Tennessee converted 40.6 percent of its third-down attempts under Heimerdinger, good for the seventh-best total in the NFL from 2000-04.

Heimerdinger also coached Titans quarterback Steve McNair to an Associated Press co-Most Valuable Player award in 2003 while running back Eddie George totaled three 1,000-yard seasons in Heimerdinger's offense.

As the Broncos' wide receivers coach from 1995-99, Heimerdinger helped the team capture back-to-back Super Bowl championships from 1997-98. His tutelage helped undrafted free agent Rod Smith develop into a consistent 1,000-yard receiver and eventually go on to become the NFL's all-time leading undrafted player in every career receiving category. Smith and Ed McCaffrey comprised one of the NFL's top wide-receiver tandems under Heimerdinger, who coached both players to 1,000-yard seasons in 1998 and ‘99.

Before entering the NFL, Heimerdinger worked for seven years as an offensive coordinator at the college level. He served in that capacity at Duke (1994), Rice (1989-93) and Cal State-Fullerton (1988).

Heimerdinger coached the University of Florida's wide receivers from 1983-87 and worked with Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan on the Gators' staff in 1983 with Shanahan serving as their assistant head coach/offensive coordinator. Heimerdinger, who was a college teammate of Shanahan's at Eastern Illinois University, also worked with Shanahan at Florida as a graduate assistant in 1980 when Shanahan was the school's offensive coordinator.

Heimerdinger's other collegiate experience came as the wide receivers coach at Air Force Academy in 1981 and as North Texas State's quarterbacks coach in 1982. He began his coaching career in 1975 as an assistant coach at Grant High School in Fox Lake, Ill., and worked there until serving for two seasons (1978-79) as the head coach at Johnsburg High School in Johnsburg, Ill.

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