By Arnie Stapleton, AP Pro Football Writer
Joe DeCamillis cringes at the suggestion that his stepping in for ailing coach Gary Kubiak this week amounts to an audition for an NFL head coaching job.
He said he’s just being a good friend and a loyal employee.
“When somebody asks you to do something, you do it,” DeCamillis said.
Especially when that somebody is your boss, Denver Broncos general manager John Elway, who’s asking you to help out an old friend.
DeCamillis has spent 28 years as an assistant in the league, most of those as a special teams coordinator. He was also assistant head coach in Chicago for a couple of years. So, yeah, being in charge has crossed his mind a time or two. But this week, he’s only focused on Thursday night’s game at San Diego.
“You always think about it. I interviewed for the Chicago job so you think about it,” DeCamillis said. “I don’t really look as this opportunity as that, to be honest with you. I look at helping an organization and helping a friend and a coach. That’s what I’m doing.
“I’m going to try everything that I can to help this organization get through this little bump in the road, then we’ll go from there.”
DeCamillis was named acting head coach Monday after Kubiak was hospitalized overnight following Denver’s 23-16 loss to Atlanta . Kubiak was diagnosed with a migraine condition that mimics a stroke, and doctors ordered him to take a week off work.
This was the second time in three years that Kubiak, 55, left a stadium by ambulance. When he was head coach of the Texans in 2013, he suffered a mini-stroke at halftime of a game against the Colts. He missed 10 days before returning to work, at first to the coaching booth, and then to the sideline before his firing a month later.
After a year as Baltimore’s offensive coordinator, Kubiak was hired as Denver’s head coach last year and said he’d learned his lesson: to delegate more to his staff. He had no health issues while leading the Broncos to the Super Bowl title.
In a statement after being released from the hospital Monday, Kubiak said he had “great confidence in Joe D., our coordinators and coaching staff and all of our players.” He added that he’d “made a lot of positive changes health-wise in recent years and will continue to listen to doctors.”
Kubiak said he’ll rest up this week and return to work Monday.
Elway said he chose DeCamillis as interim coach this week because it was the least disruptive option. This way, coordinators Rick Dennison and Wade Phillips can maintain their focus on offense and defense, respectively.
Phillips, who has served as head coach in Denver and Dallas and as interim head coach with the Texans, Falcons and Saints, said he wasn’t surprised he wasn’t selected instead of DeCamillis.
“No, not at all. If you look at my interim record, I’d say, ‘Make sure you don’t make him the interim guy,'” Phillips said. “I told you I was a lousy head coach anyway, especially as an interim head coach. So, no, it’s a one-week deal. I think it makes the most sense for Joe D. because we’re involved in offense and defense, Rick and I, so it’s easier for him to do that.”
Besides, Phillips said, DeCamillis deserves this opportunity.
“I’ve known Joe D. for a long time, and I really think he is a head coaching candidate,” Phillips said. “I don’t know why he hasn’t” been one yet like Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who rose through the ranks as a special teams coordinator.
Players and coaches have resisted the temptation to call on Kubiak this week, but DeCamillis didn’t have to look far for some advice.
“The good thing is that Wade has been it three times, so he’s a great sounding board,” DeCamillis said. “He’s a guy that hired me at Dallas, so I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and he’s probably happy that he’s not doing it. He gave me some advice.”
So did DeCamillis’ father-in-law, Dan Reeves, who told him to watch his language but don’t change anything else.
“He did say to try to make sure that you be yourself,” DeCamillis said. “He said that’s the best advice that he got from (Tom) Landry when he started, and so I’m going to try to continue that as much as I can.”