ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos interim coach Jerry Rosburg has two weeks out front as the guy in charge to speak his mind and it is clear he intends to pull no punches while he does it.
“This organization has been through a lot … this has been a mess,” Rosburg said Friday. “You all know that, fans are tired of it and we made this mess … [And] we’ve got to pick up our own mess, these players, these coaches, we’ve got to pick up after ourselves, we’ve got to humble ourselves and go change this thing. And this is fertile ground, this is an incredible franchise, three Super Bowl trophies, Hall of Famers. It shouldn’t be like this. I may not be around the see them bloom, but this is going to be a rich garden.”
Rosburg, who joined the Broncos in September at the request of general manager George Paton to help with the team’s game-day management issues at the time, was moved into the interim coach role Monday. Nathaniel Hackett, who was in his first year as head coach, was fired Sunday just hours after the Broncos dropped to 4-11 with a dismal 51-14 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium.
Rosburg has joked that in his limited window as the head coach, “I can pretty much do whatever I want. I’m doing whatever I want.”
But Rosburg is not going to let the Broncos coast to the finish line of this disappointing season. He put the Broncos in full pads for practice Thursday and had the grounds crew clear about a foot of snow off the practice fields so the Broncos could still practice outside Thursday and Friday after a fast-moving storm.
The Broncos are already assured of missing the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season and now face the daunting task of playing the Kansas City Chiefs — a team “littered with stars” — on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium, Rosburg said.
However, when asked about his first game in the role of a head coach in the NFL coming against the 12-3 Chiefs, Rosburg said, “I ain’t scared.”
Rosburg, a longtime NFL assistant who spent 11 seasons under John Harbaugh as the Baltimore Ravens’ special teams coordinator, was essentially retired from the league when Paton called him earlier this season after the Broncos’ had repeated game-management issues. Rosburg worked with the team’s analytics department, “guys who got 1,600 on their SATs,” until he was moved into the interim coach role Monday.
He has been assertive on every level since the temporary promotion, including the firing of offensive line coach Butch Barry and special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes on Monday.
On Friday, he addressed several Broncos players this week publicly pushing back against the criticism quarterback Russell Wilson has faced this season in the wake of Hackett’s firing.
Rosburg said wide receiver Jerry Jeudy “is my hero today” for being one of those players.
“I have to mind my vocabulary here, but there’s a lot of crap out there,” Rosburg said. “[Jeudy] dug in and stood up with great courage and conviction about the truth, I would say.”
“Damn right they did,” Rosburg added when asked about other players who supported Wilson. “What’s a signature word? Crap, [the reports are] a bunch of crap. When they see that, I really appreciate guys doing that.”
Wilson, who signed a five-year, $245 million contract extension in September, is on track for a career low in touchdown passes — he has 12 in his 13 starts — and has been sacked a league-leading 49 times.
“Our jobs as coaches and teammates if we really want to make a statement, go make it on Sunday,” Rosburg said. “We’ll play our — we’ll play well and we’ll coach well and we’ll give him the opportunities that he deserves to show what a great quarterback he is. That’s action. All of the other things that we may say, they’ll have no value unless we play that way.”