DENVER — Like wild mushrooms in Italy, vampire bats in Romania and avid spelunkers in New Zealand, Mike McCoy and Bill Musgrave have spent a lot of time together – and apart – in darkness.
M&M are football coaches and film critics beckoned to dark rooms to watch plays and players interminably.
Musgrave and McCoy were lured out of the light at Dove Valley for the first time with a guy named John Elway in 1995, and the three have been reunited. The third time is charming for Mike and Bill as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Oddly enough, all three met in Denver 32 years ago as quarterbacks who were gathering daily at training camp with a young offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach – Gary Kubiak.
This is how it happened then:
Elway was the established Broncos quarterback, and franchise owner Pat Bowlen had hired Mike Shanahan as head coach to replace Wade Phillips. Shanahan had worked under former coach Dan Reeves during the Broncos’ Super Bowl run (three) in the 1980s before joining the 49ers.
When Shanahan returned from San Francisco, he brought along Kubiak, who served as Elway’s backup until retiring.
In 1995 the Broncos had veterans Elway and Hugh Millen, but needed another young quarterback. So Shanahan signed Musgrave, a Grand Junction native who previously was a rarely-used reserve with the 49ers behind Joe Montana and Steve Young.
The Broncos’ fourth quarterback became McCoy, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Utah. Actually, McCoy had been a quarterback at Long Beach State (under legendary coach George Allen) until the school dropped football. McCoy transferred to Utah, and his last pass was for a victory in the Freedom Bowl.
Musgrave and McCoy would compete and become friends in July and August, and be roommates when the Broncos traveled to Tokyo for an exhibition against the 49ers. Musgrave survived; McCoy was cut. During his two seasons with the Broncos, Musgrave even started one game for an injured Elway. McCoy would be picked up later in the season by the Packers (after starter Brett Favre was injured). Musgrave’s final season in Denver was ’96 (and he had a brief stint with Indianapolis in ’98 as a practice squad QB), and McCoy would play with the 49ers, the Eagles and the Seahawks, with seasons in the European League (Amsterdam) and the Canadian League (Calgary).
Musgrave became a coach with the Raiders and the Eagles before joining the Panthers in 1999.
He was instrumental the next season in Carolina’s hiring of McCoy as an offensive assistant.
After Musgrave left to become offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia, McCoy eventually would be appointed receivers coach, then quarterbacks coach.
Then, in 2009, new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels named McCoy offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (although McDaniels really would be his own coordinator and call the plays). When McDaniels was fired with four games remaining the following season, McCoy took over the offensive game-planning and play-determining.
Meanwhile, John Fox was fired as the Carolina coach after the 2009 season, and was soon named the Broncos’ head coach by Elway, the new executive vice president of football operations.
Fox retained McCoy as offensive coordinator – in fact, not just in title.
In his own career, Musgrave would come back to the NFL with six different teams as quarterback coach or offensive coordinator – the role he had with the Raiders for the past two seasons.
McCoy became the league’s youngest head coach (39) in 2013 with the Chargers.
In 2015-16 McCoy and Musgrave plotted offenses in the AFC against each other and the Broncos.
Despite the success of the Raiders last season, Musgrave was fired, and because of the failure of the Chargers, McCoy was fired.
In Denver, Gary Kubiak resigned, and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison was fired along with quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp and others – including old friend and ex-head coach Wade Phillips.
The new head coach hired McCoy, then Musgrave. And the triumvirate of Elway, McCoy and Musgrave were back together again.
Yes, it has been a bizarre interlude between 1995 and 2017.
McCoy has been on coaching staffs for every season of the 2000s with 13 different starters – including Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers and, yes, Tim Tebow. Both he and Musgrave had coached Jake Delhomme. During his adventures Musgrave has coached, among many others, Derek Carr, Michael Vick, Matt Ryan, Mark Brunell, Jeff George and Donovan McNabb.
And, now, they must choose between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. It's not as if they haven't done this before. McCoy and Musgrave have experiences with with dozens of NFL quarterbacks, and in dark places.