ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos will kick off their search for a new coach by interviewing Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey.
John Elway will be introduced as the Broncos’ new chief football executive this week, and he’ll interview Mularkey in Atlanta on Friday and then return to Denver to speak with interim Broncos coach Eric Studesville about the job on Monday.
The Falcons are off this week after earning a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Mularkey was head coach in Buffalo from 2004-05, when he went 14-18, and has run the Falcons offense since 2008. Mularkey, who spent nine seasons in the NFL as a tight end in Minnesota and Pittsburgh, has also been an offensive coordinator for the Steelers and Miami Dolphins.
Studesville was promoted from running backs coach when Josh McDaniels was fired a month ago and went 1-3 as interim coach. Broncos chief operating officer Joe Ellis praised his performance under trying circumstances, saying Studesville “lived up to our expectations. He did a fine job.”
Studesville was moving out of his head coaching office Tuesday — but only because Elway is moving in Wednesday. In an interview with The Associated Press in that office, he said he’ll return to his old, smaller digs down the hall at the team’s Dove Valley headquarters “until we figure out how everything plays out.”
Although he had a four-week audition for the full-time gig, Studesville isn’t exactly an open book.
“The thing I have to do going into the interview is demonstrate to them what my plan is going forward. I was thrust into this and it was more reactionary, just trying to get done what we needed to get done to prepare our team for football games. But this plan is more what I see going forward,” Studesville said.
“When I first did this, I said I wanted to make some small changes that paid off in bigger ways. But now this is an opportunity to potentially change things if I wanted to change something,” Studesville said. “And so I think that’s what I want to present to them now and what my vision is of changing some things that haven’t gone well.”
For one, that might mean a switch back to the zone blocking scheme and away from the power running game implemented under McDaniels. But Studesville didn’t want to elaborate on what he’ll tell Elway in his formal interview next week.
Studesville spent Tuesday poring over player evaluations and planned to meet with his coaching staff on Wednesday.
The Broncos aren’t in a big hurry to name a new head coach like they were two years ago when Mike Shanahan was fired and McDaniels was plucked from Bill Belichick’s staff in New England and given two jobs at age 32 that he’d never had before: NFL head coach and de facto general manager.
Under Elway’s leadership, Brian Xanders will become an empowered GM with more say on personnel matters than he had with McDaniels, who was jettisoned in the midst of the team’s worst slide in four decades and the embarrassing Spygate II videotape scandal.
Mularkey also will interview with the Cleveland Browns, who fired Eric Mangini on Monday.
The Carolina Panthers also are expected to request permission to speak with Mularkey, who, along with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, has been credited for the quick development of quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ resurgent offense.
The Broncos started rookie Tim Tebow at quarterback for their final three games, and the Browns have rookie Colt McCoy under center. The Panthers own the top draft pick in April and may select Stanford’s super third-year sophomore Andrew Luck if he declares for the NFL draft.
Just as Tebow got his first real taste of pro football over the last few weeks, Studesville said he had a similar indoctrination into being an NFL head coach.
“Absolutely. In essence, it’s on-the-job training or an internship or whatever, but I got a chance to see the coaching profession from a different level,” Studesville said. “It’s truly valuable experience, no different than what Tim was receiving in those games and what he got.
“The more you do something, you see things that you would do differently, better, you can make adjustments. You just have a body of knowledge to draw upon.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)