ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The links and lakes were appealing to Jack Del Rio, just not as enticing as the green grass and white lines of the football field where he’s spent most of his life.
So, after briefly contemplating sitting out the 2012 season, Del Rio decided to jump right back into the NFL fray, replacing Dennis Allen as Denver’s defensive co-ordinator this week.
He could have sat back and relaxed while earning the US$5 million left on his contract when the Jacksonville Jaguars fired him in November.
Now, the Jaguars will pay him the difference between that total and his salary in Denver.
“Yeah, I thought a lot about it,” Del Rio said of sitting out the season. “I had a lot of advice from my friends who are professionals out there.”
They all told him to stay away from the game and take a sabbatical from all those stressful Sundays at the stadium.
“But I love to compete,” said Del Rio, a former linebacker for the Saints, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings before embarking on a coaching career.
Del Rio’s hiring reunites Broncos coach John Fox with his first defensive co-ordinator from Carolina.
“It’s good to be back with him,” Del Rio said. “He’s a good man, he’s a good coach.”
Del Rio left Fox’s Panthers staff after one year and went 69-73 in 8 1/2 seasons with the Jaguars, including 1-2 in the playoffs.
He demurred when asked Monday if he aspires to be a head coach again.
“Right now, I’m excited to be here,” he said. “I had nine good years in Jacksonville. Maybe someday. But that’s really not in the forefront of my thinking. Right now, first and foremost for me is to get settled in here and get to work in terms of evaluating the tape and the season and getting ready for the off-season, personnel and all those things, system adjustments. And getting my family settled.”
Del Rio said the two months he had away from the game were more than enough to make him miss it.
“I certainly had some time to sit back and reflect and I’m very appreciative of the time I had down there, nine wonderful years competing, a great place to raise a family,” Del Rio said. “And so, there was time to kind of reflect on that, kind of decompress a little bit, kind of unwind. I did some of that. And I find myself right now rejuvenated.”
He couldn’t wait to get started, either. So, while the rest of Fox’s staff takes a break this week, Del Rio is putting in long hours at the team’s Dove Valley complex to catch up on the defence he inherited.
Allen left after one year in Denver to serve as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders after his aggressive style helped the Broncos recover from a miserable 2010 season in which they fielded the league’s worst defence.
The Broncos reached the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and upset Pittsburgh in the playoffs before losing to New England.
“They made some strides last year,” Del Rio said. “We just want to build on that and … help this football team win. I feel like last year was a good start in that direction.”
Del Rio is the Broncos’ seventh defensive co-ordinator in seven seasons. Other men who have filled the Mile High musical chair in the last six seasons are Larry Coyer (2006), Jim Bates (2007), Bob Slowik (2008), Mike Nolan (2009) and Don Martindale (2010).
With such annual turnover, it wasn’t surprising when safety Brian Dawkins tweeted, “Love the hire, just hope we can keep him around,” when Del Rio’s hiring was announced Friday night.
“That’s an unusual thing to have happen,” Del Rio said of a team having a different co-ordinator in each of seven straight seasons. “… I can’t really speak to what it was before and I have no idea about what it’s going to be going forward, but I know I’m fired up to be here.”
Coming over from Jacksonville with Del Rio is strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson, who spent the last three seasons on the Jaguars staff.