CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A confluence of factors conspired to create one of the most intriguing coaching decisions of the Broncos' offseason.
Unable and unwilling to meet Wade Phillips' contract demands and in danger of losing arguably their top assistant, the Broncos let Phillips walk and hired Joe Woods as their new defensive coordinator.
The air traffic controller of the Broncos' "No Fly Zone" secondary, Woods brings a reputation as a tireless worker and film rat. Denver players were sad to see Phillips go, but welcomed Woods' promotion on Sunday.
"Joe Woods has natural leadership qualities. Everybody stops and listens when he talks. He's 100 percent focused on winning. I can promise you that no one puts in more time than Joe," Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. told Denver7. "He's a great motivator."
Woods' situation changed just as the landscape shifted for Phillips. The Broncos never reached a deal on a contract extension with Phillips after the Super Bowl 50 victory. The defense shone in the upset, with outside linebacker Von Miller earning MVP honors. Phillips' contract expired last Tuesday. The prospect of him staying was rapidly decreasing, and sealed when an NFC East team, believed to be the Washington Redskins, requested permission to interview Woods.
The Broncos weren't letting Woods go. As such, Phillips received the three-year contract at the top salary he was seeking from the Los Angeles Rams, and the Broncos promoted Woods. Coach Vance Joseph has known Woods for years, calling him a "bright mind." It mirrored the situation in Oakland with Bill Musgrave. The Raiders parted ways with Musgrave, their offensive coordinator, to keep quarterbacks coach Todd Downing.
Woods assumed more responsibility than a secondary coach. He spoke in front of the Broncos full team on multiple occasions, commanding respect.
"He is a great mind. He's extremely passionate, and we won't miss a beat with him," linebacker Brandon Marshall told Denver7.
Added linebacker Todd Davis, "He's a great coach and has been very instrumental in our game plans and schemes in the past. So I am excited about the future."
The Broncos led the NFL in pass defense the past two seasons under Woods. He found a way to motivate accomplished players with strong personalities. They trust him.
"He's a great teacher," safety Darian Stewart told Denver7. "He's more than capable of getting the job done."
The Broncos allowed 185.8 yards per game this season. Houston ranked second at 201.6.
"Some of the young guys, they don't know how lucky they are to have Joe as a coach. He puts in the time. He would change something one week, and I would always ask him why. Guys would challenge him. And he always had the answer," Harris said. "He has the football smarts, and is a leader. Not a lot of coaches can address the team and have everybody listen. He has that."
Benton added as assistant
The Broncos continued bulking up their offensive staff, adding John Benton as assistant offensive line coach to Jeff Davidson. Benton has led offensive lines in the past, including Jacksonville last season. The Jaguars allowed 17 fewer sacks in 2016. Benton is a native of Durango, Colo., and was a four-year starting offensive lineman at Colorado State from 1983-86.