In a quarterback-driven league, disrupting passers, making them truly uncomfortable in the pocket and confusing them with coverage schemes, is absolutely pivotal for defenses.
That’s a central part of the vision and strategy for highly regarded Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
“You’ve got to look at it from the standpoint of the quarterback is the most important position on the field,” Evero said. “If you want to be successful as a defense and you want to be successful in any given game, you’ve got to affect the quarterback. We’re lucky that we have some guys that are blessed and are good players and can rush the quarterback individually, but, at any cost, whatever you have to do to affect the quarterback, because most of the guys in this league, if you don’t get pressure and you give them the time, they’re going to have success. That’s going to be our focal point.”
Eviro, set to interview with the Texans on Tuesday and become the fourth candidate to meet with the AFC South franchise about their head coaching vacancy, carried out that initiative during his first season as the Broncos’ defensive boss.
Evero, the first candidate to interview for the Broncos’ job, has also interviewed with the Indianapolis Colts and is on the Carolina Panthers’ list. The Broncos declined an interview request from the Atlanta Falcons to interview Evero for their defensive coordinator position.
Although the Broncos struggled and finished 5-12 overall, it wasn’t because of the defense. It was largely because of quarterback Russell Wilson not meeting expectations and key injuries. The Broncos had the lowest scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 16.7 points per contest, but ranked seventh in total defense and 14th in scoring defense and second in third-down defense despite trading pass rusher Bradley Chubb. Evero made good use of the talents of standout defensive backs Patrick Surtain II, an All-Pro, and second-team All-Pro Justin Simmons along with Alex Singleton, Josey Jewell, Kareem Jackson, Dre’Mont Jones, Baron Browning and DeShawn Williams.
Evero, 42, declined the opportunity to become the Broncos’ interim coach when his close friend and former Cal-Davis college roommate, Nathaniel Hackett, was fired as head coach. Instead, Jerry Rosburg took over as the interim coach.
“I’m 100% invested in finishing the year off and then take those things as they come,’’ Evero said before the final game of the season. “I do want to be a head coach but the timing is not in my control and I’ll just do what my job is now, which is a defensive coordinator.
“As ready as you could be,. I don’t know if anybody is ever ready to be a head coach in the NFL. Got to figure it out. Same as being a DC. I don’t know if you’re ever ready til you do it. That’s just the honest truth.”
The Broncos were seventh in red-zone touchdown percentage and fourth in three-and-out percentage.
Evero, a former Raiders undrafted free agent safety who has a background with Monte Kiffin, Vic Fangio, Wade Phillips and Raheem Morris, from his tenures with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams, is highly respected by his players.
“Selfishly, I would love to be with Coach ‘E’,” Simmons said. “Whatever that looks like, head coach, back as D-coordinator again. Selfishly, I would love to be with him. He’s helped my game so much this year. You always learn so much more from a new mind and a new set of eyes and the way that he coaches and the way that affects coaches, the assistant coaches around the defensive room. I’m just so thankful for him and his leadership. I’ve learned so much from him, both on and off the field.
“Selflessly, I would really hope he gets that job. Obviously, it would be great if it was here, but for him to get that opportunity somewhere, I think he is more than deserving of it. He is just a tremendous leader. I could be up here for hours just talking about how amazing of a coach and a man he is. I’m just really appreciative of him and he deserves it.”
Evero has coached for 18 years, 15 in the NFL and joined the Broncos after working as the Rams’ secondary coach and pass game coordinator after being promoted from safeties coach. He has coached everyone from Surtain and Simmons to Jalen Ramsey.
A former team captain and Division II All-American, Evero relates well to his players.
“He provides all the qualities you need in a coach,” Surtain said. “He’s a great leader, very outspoken, brings a lot of energy into the room and he’s just a great person in general. A great people person. You can go to him for anything. On the football field, he’s just going to go out there and bring all the energy. He’s going to do what is best for the team.”
The Texans have requested eight coaches for interviews, according to sources: Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, who was their first interview, Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who interviewed Friday, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who interviewed Saturday, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, whose interview request has been granted with the day still being scheduled, New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, who won’t interview this week as he prepares for a weekend divisional-round playoff game in addition to requesting San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who’s currently expected to interview after contemplating the situation, and Los Angeles Rams assistant head coach and tight ends coach Thomas Brown.
“He’s one of the best leaders I have been around,” Simmons said. “I felt like all the of the year for the most part, guys have responded in a really positive manner. I think that’s because of ‘Coach E. I think he’s one of the brightest minds I’ve been around and one of the best leaders. I think he would be at the top of the list for that.”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.