David Zalubowski/Associated Press
ENGLEWOOD – The Denver Broncos still plan on running an option offense.
Only, this version centers on giving Peyton Manning the option of calling anything he wants.
For the second time in six months, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has to overhaul his playbook to fit the QB under center.
McCoy restructured the offense on the fly last October to better suit Tim Tebow’s unique skill set, switching over to the unconventional read-option. Tebow proficiently ran the system, too, leading the Broncos into the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
But with Tebow a member of the New York Jets and Manning taking over, McCoy has gone back to the drawing board.
Naturally, he’s leaning heavily on the opinion of the league’s only four-time MVP for this revamped scheme.
Any play that Manning feels comfortable running, it goes into the playbook.
Any play he doesn’t, well, it’s gone, ripped from the pages.
“This is going to be a work in progress for everybody,” McCoy said Saturday after the second day of a rookie minicamp. “With Peyton coming in, he’s got plenty of ideas and things he’s done a great job with over his career. Our job as coaches is to adjust to the talent we have and the players we have. We’ll make the necessary adjustments as we go along.
“Build the best system we can.”
With Tebow running the show last season, McCoy was limited in what he could dial up on game day. That’s not a knock on Tebow – he just was green at the position, and so McCoy relied on a steady diet of running plays to take the pressure off him and also kept the tight ends close by to help with pass protection.
Obviously, that won’t be the case with Manning, who was brought in to throw, not hand off. Tight ends Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme were added to catch passes, not simply pass block.
“Tight ends will be more involved,” McCoy said. “They’ll be the main part of progressions.”
McCoy is hoping Manning will be receptive to some of the Broncos’ staples, maybe even come to enjoy working out of a two-back system.
“We’ve had a lot of success with that here, in the past couple of years,” McCoy said. “We’ll pick and choose what we want to do come the opening game.”
In other words, nothing is set in stone.
Nor will a play when it’s called in the huddle.
After all, Manning is a maestro at surveying a defensive alignment and making the appropriate adjustments at the line. It’s one of his greatest strengths – along with his wealth of knowledge.
“When a guy has played as long as he has, it’s not going to take him a long time to figure it out,” McCoy said. “I’ll tell you what: The way Peyton works and the way he wants to work is unbelievable. He doesn’t want to leave any detail out. He’s going to be very meticulous in everything he does.
“It’s going to be different. You’re going to see a different type of football, a different way we approach the game during practice. Peyton, he’s one of the great leaders of the game.”
It’s incumbent upon those around Manning to pick up their game, too. That’s why receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas have been working out diligently, because they very well could be the biggest benefactors in Manning’s arrival.
“They’re like two little kids in a candy shop right now,” McCoy said. “They’ve worked extremely hard this offseason so far. They know an opportunity like this doesn’t come around very often. To be able to play with a quarterback we have now, they’re doing everything possible to make sure they know every little detail of everything we’re doing, getting in the best shape of their lives.”
When the Broncos floundered under Kyle Orton last season, the team went with Tebow, who rallied the squad straight into the postseason and a first-round win over the Steelers.
For that to happen, though, McCoy implemented the read-option offense that turned the NFL on its ear and resulted in the Broncos soaring to the top of the league in rushing. Tebow ran for 660 yards, the most by a QB in Broncos history, in the regular season. The system was similar to the one he ran at Florida, where he won the Heisman and two national titles.
McCoy received not only kudos for the job he did with Tebow, but consideration as a head coach. He was in the running for the Miami Dolphins job before it went to Joe Philbin.
“I learned a lot from the experience,” McCoy said. “But the best thing about it is I’m back in Denver.”