ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — For many coaches, it’s difficult to admit fault when things go haywire on the football field. They’ll say things like, “Coaches coach and players play,” and suggest that the game plans were great even if the execution wasn’t.
Not Brock Olivo.
Denver’s rookie special teams coach willingly accepts blame for any and all blunders made by his blocking or coverage units and especially the stumbles by his specialists.
“The way I see it is the product that we put on the field is a reflection of me and a reflection of my work,” Olivo said.
When Brandon McManus missed five early field goals that were well within his range and punter Riley Dixon also got off to a slow start, Olivo insisted it was his fault. He said he had to “do a better job of putting Riley and Brandon in better situations.”
The plan against the Chargers last month was to keep speedster Travis Benjamin in check with directional punts. But Benjamin returned Dixon’s line drive right down the middle for a tone-setting touchdown.
“That’s on me,” Olivo said. “We knew that Travis Benjamin was a guy that we had to stop. That was one of our first objectives going into that week. I didn’t do a good enough job of preparing him to do that, apparently.”
When rookie returner Isaiah McKenzie didn’t get under the ball and fumbled his fourth punt of the season in a loss at Kansas City, Olivo said McKenzie had to learn to be lighter on his feet so he could adjust when the wind changes the football’s trajectory at the last second.
Olivo said he was to blame for that, too, because he hadn’t stressed that enough.
“We keep having egregious error after egregious error and that’s on me as a coach,” Olivo said. “It’s attention to detail. We fix the leak on one end of the boat and another one pops up on the other end. I have to dial in and get the guys focused. I’m trying to create a special teams culture here of a bunch of (tough guys). I have to get that out of them. I’m not doing that yet, so I have to step it up.”
McManus said the players know who’s to blame for the blunders, and it’s certainly not their coach.
“We appreciate Brock taking responsibility but when push comes to shove, it’s not his fault for what we do,” McManus said. “If it’s a bad kick, what could Brock have done to change a bad kick? Nothing. So, that’s tough for me.”
McManus appreciates Olivo’s passion, though.
“Being a special teams player in this league, he understood he wasn’t going to be a starter in the NFL and the only way for him to get on the field was through special teams,” McManus said. “So, he tries to get that across to the players here about the importance of special teams and knowing your role and being professional and doing a lot of studying and making sure you do everything right.”
When they do something wrong, they know Olivo has their backs.
Olivo, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant to Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub, was a key special teams player for the Detroit Lions from 1998-2001.
His enthusiasm as a player was infectious and he’s trying to spread that same spirit now at age 41.
With the Broncos (3-5) hosting the Patriots (6-2) and their renowned special teams Sunday night, Olivo took the opportunity Friday to suggest New England was his model, praising in particular Matthew Slater for his “burning desire to make plays.”
“That’s where I’ve come up short. I haven’t created that culture here yet,” Olivo said. “… I’m trying to drive that home to the guys every day. We’ve got to have guys with that attitude like Matthew Slater, that leadership, guys who take pride in special teams.
“We have a couple. It needs to be contagious and it needs to spread throughout that meeting room and be translated onto the practice field. That’s on me. I’ve got to create that. That’s why I’m here. I realize that. And I’ve come up short. So, I owe it to the franchise, this staff and this team to get that thing rolling.”
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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