KUSA—The Denver Broncos began the offseason by making several assistant coaching moves in an effort to improve Vance Joseph’s staff.
It turns out, they’re not done. The Broncos will be looking for a new strength and conditioning coach after allowing Luke Richesson to move on and accept a significant position with the Houston Texans.
"It’s bittersweet. I loved being a Bronco,'' Richesson said. "It was so rewarding working with the players. Going to two Super Bowls and winning the world championship, that's what we work for. Nothing beats that.
"But the Texans gave me an opportunity I couldn't pass up. A huge thanks to John Elway and (director of player personnel) Matt Russell. There's some great people working on the staff there, people like (PR director) Patrick Smyth – people don’t understand how invaluable he is to that organization.''
With the Texans, Richesson will not only run their strength and conditioning program but he will also oversee player nutrition and be involved in physical rehab.
Elway, the Broncos' general manager, showed class in allowing Richesson, who had one year left on his contract, to take the new position with the Texans – especially after Houston blocked Wes Welker from interviewing for the Broncos' receiver coach position that was later filled by Zach Azzanni.
In his six years overseeing the Broncos’ strength and conditioning program, Richesson modernized the weight room, training and movement techniques for the elite athlete.
After flying in on the same plane with new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio from Jacksonville to Denver in February 2012, Richesson’s training methods helped solved what had been the Broncos’ long-standing problem with soft-tissue (hamstring, quad, groin) injuries.
“It all boils down to being able to teach movement,'' Richesson said. "Football is no longer three yards and a cloud of dust. The game is played in space and you use whatever means necessary to improve movement, whether it’s strength, flexibility, agility. You still have to approach it that the game is played man-on-man, bone-on-bone so you have to be strong, you have to powerful. But that to me is the separator – can you teach movement? If you can’t teach movement, then you can’t improve someone’s performance.’’
Richesson was especially instrumental in helping quarterback Peyton Manning rebound from neck surgeries that forced him to miss the 2011 season and left him with nerve damage down his right throwing arm. Manning threw 131 touchdown passes against just 36 interceptions in his first three seasons with the Broncos while averaging 4,954 yards a year and posting a 48-10 record.
With Richesson working for three head coaches in John Fox, Gary Kubiak and Vance Joseph, the Broncos consistently ranked among the league leaders in fewest games missed because of injury. The team won four division titles, two AFC championships and one Super Bowl title during Richesson’s term.
It won't be easy for the Broncos to replace Richession, who oozes energy. In their search, Elway and Joseph can start with in-house candidates Anthony Lomando, who has worked with Richesson since 2006, Mike Eubanks, a Richesson assistant since 2007, and Cedric Smith, who has previously been the head strength coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and Texans. Former Broncos' assistant strength coach Jason George, who recently was made available following the Chicago Bears' coaching staff shakeup, could be another possibility.
It’s unclear whether Denver-area sports performance coach Loren Landow, a finalist for the Broncos’ strength and conditioning position in 2012, would be a candidate this time.