DENVER (AP) - Before accepting the interim head coaching job with the Denver Broncos, Eric Studesville wanted to hear what the boss had to say.
Not Pat Bowlen.
His wife, Staci.
Shortly after being summoned to the owner’s office Monday — a long walk in which he wasn’t sure of his coaching fate after the firing of Josh McDaniels — Studesville was awarded the position, despite never having been so much as an offensive coordinator on any level.
Taken aback, he told Bowlen he needed a quick moment to think about it, then ducked out to call his wife and consult her about the promotion from Broncos running backs coach to Denver’s interim head coach for the final four games of the season.
She anxiously green-lighted it, knowing how he’s always thought about this day, even if he’s been a perennial running backs coach throughout his NFL coaching career.
“He’s ready for the opportunity, ready to make the most of it,” Staci Studesville said after watching his introductory news conference Tuesday.
Eric Studesville has vowed not to be anything but himself — a passionate coach who wants that enthusiasm to rub off on his players and staff.
“I love this game. I want them to love this game,” said the 43-year-old Studesville, a former defensive back at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “I want to get the excitement back in the players and get them completely involved and committed to going forward and finishing up this season in the strongest possible way.”
He realizes this next month is an audition to see if he can lead a team that’s fallen on hard times. But he’s not giving the assignment too much thought.
All he can control is what happens on the field.
In that respect, he’s already made some important decisions.
Kyle Orton, not Tim Tebow, will be his starting quarterback. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will call the plays and Don Martindale remains in charge of the defense.
Other than that, it’s business as usual for Studesville and the Broncos (3-9), who haven’t made the playoffs in five years.
“I see this as a great opportunity right now, right here that I’m looking to maximize,” Studesville said. “Whatever happens after that, we’ll get to that point. Time will get us there.”
Studesville said he spoke with McDaniels on Monday night, receiving a vote of confidence from the coach who hired him this year but was ousted in his second season because of mounting troubles on and off the field.
“He wished me the best of luck and supported me in what I am getting ready to take on,” Studesville recounted. “He indicated that he’s proud of me.”
Studesville has chatted with some of the players, but will address the group in a meeting Wednesday morning, when he installs the game plan for Sunday’s trip to Arizona. He’s still trying to figure out what he’s going to say.
As for his style, it’s pretty basic — just be himself.
“I’m very passionate about this game,” Studesville said. “I love coming to work every day. I love being around the players, the interaction with the players.”
Ready for this?
“Absolutely,” he said.
Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis couldn’t agree more, even if Studesville was a little stunned upon hearing of his promotion.
“I think it was like a baseball bat had hit him right between the eyes,” Ellis said, grinning. “But he gathered himself and he talked to Staci. … He’s going to be a good leader of our squad for the last four weeks.”
Staci Studesville sat near the front of the auditorium, absorbing every word from her husband.
“He’s such a people’s person,” she said, “and players have always responded for him. He’s going to make a great coach.”
There was a time when she was a coach, too. When she had aspirations of possibly running her own program.
After a standout basketball career at Purdue, Staci Studesville became an assistant coach at DePaul. It was then she ran into her eventual husband, who was coaching the secondary at Kent State.
Once they were married, and Eric Studesville began skipping around to different NFL jobs, she decided to step away from coaching.
One coach in the family was plenty, she said.
Far from it.
“It’s provided our family with some great opportunities,” she said. “There’s ups and downs in this business, but with my background, I understand. I understand the hours they work, everything.”
Still, Eric Studesville wouldn’t have agreed to succeed McDaniels without the backing of his wife.
“With any major decision, you need to step back sometimes and look at it and make sure it was right for you,” he said.
Or simply place a phone call.
Immediately after landing at the airport Monday following a conference in Atlanta, Staci Studesville’s cell phone began ringing.
First from friends with news that McDaniels had been fired, the coach who brought the Studesvilles and their 6-year-old daughter, Sydni, to town after spending nearly six years with the Buffalo Bills.
Then came the frenetic call from her husband as she was leaving the airport. He told her to pull over, he had some good news.
“He told me they offered me the job and I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?”‘ Staci Studesville said. “He was really excited and nervous. I said, ‘Just calm down, bring yourself to center. This is what you’ve been working for.”‘
With that, Eric Studesville got off the phone, returned to Bowlen’s office and told his boss he was in.
- By Pat Graham, AP Sports Writer
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