Will Rick Dennison Fix the Texans' Running Game?
Dennison was Texan coach Gary Kubiak's first choice to be coordinator in 2006 but the Broncos would not give him permission to leave. Dennison and Kubiak are close friends and were hired by Mike Shanahan at the same time. After Kubiak left the Broncos, Dennison served as offensive coordinator until new Bronco coach, Josh McDaniels asked him to work solely with the offensive line. Dennison has a long and diverse NFL background, but over the last decade he has focused on the offensive side of the ball, and more specifically the offensive line.
Since 2006, the Texans have had three offensive coordinators: Troy Calhoun (now head coach of Air Force), Mike Sherman (now head coach of Texas A&M) and Shanahan the younger. When Sherman departed, the Texans brought in Alex Gibbs who helped give assistance and some cover for promoting Shanahan to coordinator at a young age. Shanahan is a bright offensive mind, but It was easier for a first time GM, and a first time head coach to sell a first time offensive coordinator to the fanbase if they had Gibbs they could point to as experienced help.
Now that Dennison has signed on, with his background working with the offensive linemen, the need for Gibbs to stay with the team diminished. The Texans have two offensive line coaches remaining, plus they have Hall of Fame offensive linemen Bruce Matthews as an offensive assistant.
Dennison is pretty much the perfect fit for this Texans team, and the best coordinator fit of the ones the Texans have had since head coach Gary Kubiak took over the team. Kubiak brought over the Mike Shanahan system with him from Denver but has never had the dominant running game that many of those Bronco teams had. Fans have been waiting patiently for the stereotypical Bronco plug-and-play running game to emerge for them since 2006 but it never happened.
The hope with this new hire is that Kubiak now has a peer working with him as offensive coordinator, not a mentor or a trainee. Someone who is very familiar with the offense, blocking scheme and running game.
Former offensive coordinators Calhoun and Shanahan were learning on the job. Sherman was a figure that perhaps Kubiak may have been too deferential to at times, and the hybrid Green Bay power running game mixed with the Bronco passing game didn't seem to work together well. Gibbs helped some with Steve Slaton and the line in 2008, but that was fools gold helped by an offensive line that stayed healthy and together for the entire season. In the last season, Gibbs' role diminished as they were preparing for his eventual departure.
Kubiak has already developed his quarterback, and got his passing game in order, and perhaps with a peer in Dennison who is as familiar with the system as Kubiak, they can develop their running game into what fans thought it might be in 2006. At a minimum, it is likely not to disrupt the progress the team has already made on offense by obtaining a coordinator very familiar with the system. His first focus may be on the play of the guards. Last year's starting guards Mike Brisiel and Chester Pitts both went out with serious injuries, and there's questions whether they will be returning to the team.