Broncos offensive line coach Alex Gibbs will probably retire after this season, his 17th in the NFL, and his departure should not go unnoticed. Gibbs, 59, is quite possibly the league's best teaching assistant of the last 20 years. His coaching helped pave the way for unsung draft picks Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary and Mike Anderson—all middle-round selections—to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 1998, 1999 and 2000, respectively.
The current Denver line includes three starters with four years' experience or less—left guard Lennie Friedman, a second-round pick in '99; right tackle Matt Lepsis, an undrafted free agent who came on board in '97; and right guard Dan Neil, a third-round pick in '97. Nevertheless, the Broncos rank third in the league in rushing, averaging 144-3 yards per game. Gibbs likes end-of-the-roster players best because he believes that their lack of job security will motivate them to improve. He admits to "stealing everything I've ever used in coaching. I've never invented a thing. All I do that's a little special is teach differently than other people."
"Alex," says Denver coach Mike Shanahan, "is as demanding a person as I've ever been around, but he can also put his arm around people and let them know that he cares."
Shanahan knows that he cannot let Gibbs simply walk away, so he hopes to coax him into serving as a consultant next season, working with the line and acting as a mentor to his successor. That replacement is expected to be the Broncos' special teams coach, Rick Dennison.
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