By Aaron Wilson
The Baltimore Sun
4:20 PM EST, January 28, 2014
Rick Dennison was a linebacker by trade for nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, not a quarterback.
Although Dennison has never been a quarterbacks coach before, he's worked closely with them in his capacity as an offensive coordinator.
Now, Dennison is Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's position coach.
Dennison has a unique background as a coach having been an offensive coordinator for the Houston Texans and Broncos and coaching the offensive line and special teams along the way during 19 seasons as an NFL coach.
Dennison is also expected to operate as Gary Kubiak's right-hand man and confidant as the new Ravens offensive coordinator installs his system. Dennison can pass on Kubiak’s terminology, philosophy and plays to the quarterbacks and work in an advisory capacity to Kubiak as they formulate game plans and give input into the direction of the offense during games.
"Dennison is a real smart guy," former Texans offensive tackle Eric Winston said in a telephone interview. "Kubiak and him are close friends. I wouldn't be surprised if Kubiak is in a lot of quarterback meetings, especially at the beginning."
Dennison has drawn praise for his intelligence.
He's a former math teacher who holds a graduate degree in civil engineering.
“I think Rick is a good hire because he really understands Kubiak’s offense,” NFL Films analyst Greg Cosell said. “He’ll be able to get everything across to Joe in the quarterback meetings where they spend a great deal of their time in those individual meetings. There will be symmetry between what Kubiak is trying to get done and what Rick is telling the quarterbacks each day.”
Dennison, 55, interviewed for the Chicago Bears' head coaching job last season that ultimately went to Marc Trestman and is highly regarded in NFL circles.
It’s his connection with Kubiak that could aid Flacco’s transition to a new offense.
“The last few years, being a coordinator with Gary in Houston, I was predominantly in the quarterback room," Dennison said during Monday's introductory news conference. "I know how he thinks with a quarterback, how he coaches a quarterback, having spent my time with him.
"But also I’m going to touch as many areas as I can. I know what kind of system he likes, run and pass, having dealt with it for a long time. So, I’ll try to do as much as I can to help that whole process.”
In 2012, the Texans established a franchise record with an average of 26 points per game. They finished seventh in total offense, averaging 372.1 yards per game as seven Texans were named to the Pro Bowl.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub had a disastrous season last year and was benched as he passed for 2,310 yards, 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
The previous season, Schaub passed for 4,008 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
“Rico is one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL,” former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler said during a radio interview last year, referencing Dennison's nickname. “Great guy off the field. Very, very smart. Intellectual guy. I have a lot of respect for him.”
Dennison is a proponent of the zone-blocking schemes taught to him by Alex Gibbs, the architect of that offense.
Because of his acumen with several positions, Dennison could emerge as an all-around trouble-shooter for the Ravens' offense.
"Dennison can coach running backs," Winston said. "He can coach the line. He can coach tight ends. He can help build the game plan. He's very valuable as a versatile coach."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh envisions Dennison having a multi-faceted role that brings a level of knowledge to each position group.
"We have an opportunity to be really well-organized," Harbaugh said. "We have a chance to tie the whole thing together, and to me that’s the most important thing. We’re going to have a chance to take the quarterback room and tie it to the running back, tight end, the offensive line, the wide receivers. And that’s what Rick is going to give us a chance to do.
"Having been in the system so many times before, he’ll be an extension of Gary in the quarterback room, but also across the whole offense. That’s what got me excited about him. We talked about this. It’s a unique way of doing it, and it’s going to be a really effective way of doing it.”
Flacco is coming off a rough season where he threw a franchise-record 22 interceptions and finished with a career-low 73.1 quarterback rating. He threw 19 touchdown passes for the NFL's 29th-ranked offense.
Flacco was hampered by an offensive line that allowed him to be sacked a career-high 48 times. Starting running back Ray Rice rushed for just 660 yards while dealing with hip and quadriceps injuries.
"Joe has been very successful and done a lot of great things, but there’s a lot of pressure playing that position and a lot is expected of you," said Kubiak, a former Broncos quarterback who backed up Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway. "If anything, I feel very comfortable helping Joe through his years of growth as a player, because I’ve been with so many guys and seen how that has to take place. This league is about rebounding.
"You’re going to have tough times, you’re going to have tough days and maybe some years don’t go the way you want them to go, but you keep battling and it’s about the long haul. There’s no doubt in my mind, when Joe is said and done, he’s already a championship quarterback, but there’s a lot of great things left to happen and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”