Wyoming All-American wrestler Joe DeCamillis is interim coach for Super Bowl champion Broncos Thursday night

By Denver Broncos and other sources | Oct. 10, 2016, 7:08 p.m. (ET)
Photo of Denver Broncos Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis from DenverBroncos.com

With Head Coach Gary Kubiak recuperating from a complex migraine that led to his overnight hospitalization following Sunday's game, Special Teams Coordinator Joe DeCamillis will serve as the Denver Broncos' interim head coach for their Thursday night game against the San Diego Chargers.

DeCamillis did not play football in college. An all-state quarterback and wrestler at Arvada (Colo.) High School, DeCamillis went on to become an All-American wrestler at the University of Wyoming.

As a senior, he was eighth in the 1988 NCAA Championships in Ames, Iowa, competing at 167 pounds for the Cowboys. Seeded 12th, DeCamillis defeated fifth seed Jody Karam of Lock Haven in the second round, 10-5, then was beaten in the quarterfinals by Mike Amine of Michigan. In the round of 12, he defeated No. 11 seed Anthony Cox of Campbell to clinch All-American honors, then dropped his next two bouts. He received the Everett Lantz Most Outstanding Wrestler Award at Wyoming in 1988.

DeCamillis went into coaching football after college, starting his career with the Denver Broncos. He married Dana Reeves, daughter of then-Denver Broncos coach Dan Reeves, who gave him his first chance to work in professional football. He is now in his 28th season as an NFL coach, having worked for six different teams, and now in his second stint with the Broncos.

Wrestling fans can watch him in action Thursday night on national television, leading the Super Bowl champions against divisional rival San Diego.

"I think it will be a seamless transition," Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said at a Monday afternoon press conference.

Kubiak was to be released from a local hospital, Elway said, but doctors have ordered him to not resume full-scale coaching activities until next Monday. It is not yet known whether Kubiak will participate in game-planning by phone, or to what extent he can.

In the meantime, DeCamillis will guide the Broncos for Thursday night's game at San Diego. Elway cited DeCamillis' work in game-management situations with Kubiak and analytics guru Mitch Tanney as a reason why he will be the interim coach, calling it the "least disruptive" alternative.

"Everybody on the staff could have taken it (the interim job); that's how good we feel about our staff," Elway said.

But game management was the "biggest part" of the decision to give DeCamillis the reins, Elway noted.

"We're in constant communication with 'Kub' on timeouts, whether to go for it on fourth-and-1, those type of things. Just a lot of the way the game goes," DeCamillis said. "People say, 'Well, special teams is the only thing you do,' [but] it's not really, because you have to watch the offense and the defense the whole time. I think having the communication with 'Kub' is very helpful in that respect."

DeCamillis and Elway both foresee a "seamless transition."

"Kubes set a template for us," DeCamillis said. "It's seamless, because he's not a micro-manager. He does so many good things for us, and he lets a lot of our guys do their job to the utmost, anyway. So we don't see a big change this week, and we're just going to keep whatever we can do to win a game. That's the main thing."

Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison will take over the play-calling in Kubiak's absence. Dennison and Quarterbacks Coach Greg Knapp have been involved in play-calling with Kubiak since the start of the 2015 season.

DeCamillis has been on NFL staffs since 1989, when he joined the Broncos' staff of Ring of Fame coach Dan Reeves, working in football administration. He became a coach in 1991, working as the defensive quality control coach in 1991 and 1992 before following Reeves to the New York Giants.

The 51-year-old DeCamillis has guided special teams for the last 24 seasons, with the Giants (1993-96), Falcons (1997-2006), Jaguars (2007-08), Cowboys (2009-12) and Bears (2013-14).

He returned to Denver to work under Kubiak last year and immediately guided the Broncos to across-the-board improvement in returns, takeaways, placekicking and kickoff and punt coverage.

DeCamillis delivers on promise as special teams coach
by Ben Swanson, October 23, 2015

Dana DeCamillis isn’t just any Broncos fan. Before she became Dana DeCamillis, she was Dana Reeves, daughter of Broncos Ring of Fame head coach Dan Reeves.

Dan didn’t join his daughter in offering Joe any tips this time, but DeCamillis knows he can count on the man who showed him he could make it in the NFL.

In 1988, Dan and his wife, Pam, headed out on the road to Laramie, Wyoming. They were going to watch an All-American wrestler, but this wasn’t exactly a scouting trip of the normal type for the Broncos head coach.

The wrestler, DeCamillis, had been courting Dana while the two attended the university, and Dan came to the realization that he had better meet this young man if things were getting serious.

“I just knew that she was all excited about this guy she was dating and we hadn’t even met him yet and she was talking about getting married,” Dan recalled. “Wait a minute. We haven’t even met this guy yet!”

DeCamillis was a Denver-area native who had been an excellent high school football player, and a particularly outstanding wrestler, which continued into his collegiate years. He grappled and pinned opponents en route to being an All-American in 1988 as a senior in the 167-pound weight class.

So Dan and Pam watched him wrestle, and they learned what many of DeCamillis’ opponents did during a match against him.

“He was tough as nails,” Dan said.

DeCamillis, who remains sixth in Wyoming wrestling history with 121 career victories, is sure he remembers the match.

“I think I won, I know that,” he said, with a confident smile. “Or did I win? I’m not sure.”

OK, well, regardless of how he came out in the match, DeCamillis came out of the weekend having impressed the Reeves family considerably.

Once DeCamillis completed college, he began work on a graduate degree while helping coach Wyoming’s wrestling team. He viewed teaching as his career path, and so he began immediate preparation with his sights set on becoming a teacher, as well as a high-school football and wrestling coach.

But then he got a call from Dan. The Broncos head coach told him there was a job opening for an assistant position, and he wanted DeCamillis to take it. The Broncos had an innovative strength and conditioning coach in Al Miller, and DeCamillis could pick up essential wisdom and experience.

At first DeCamillis turned him down. He didn’t want it to seem like a case of nepotism, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to handle such a job.

Reeves was insistent, however. He called a second time, and then a third.

“If you can’t do this job,” Reeves told him, “well, I’ll fire you.”

Convinced, DeCamillis joined the Broncos’ coaching staff.

“We had Al Miller,” Reeves recalls. “He needed somebody and Joe had been a wrestler at Wyoming and I had watched him wrestle. […] He was getting out and had a great work ethic and I thought he’d be good, and he really excelled with a good teacher because Al, I thought, was one of the best weight coaches.”

28th NFL Season (6th with Broncos)

Joe DeCamillis enters his 28th NFL season and his second year as special teams coordinator for the Broncos in 2016. He is in his sixth overall season with Denver, where he spent his first four years in the NFL (1989-92).

DeCamillis’ units have accounted for 29 total kick return scores (18 PR, 11 KR) and 37 takeaways during his 23 seasons coaching special teams in the NFL.

Denver’s special teams produced three takeaways, two blocked kicks and one punt return touchdown under DeCamillis in 2015. His unit got significant contributions from across the roster as seven players made at least five special-teams stops and five different players were heavily involved as returners.

Second-year kicker Brandon McManus connected on 30-of-35 (.857) field goals for the Broncos in 2015, including six kicks from 50 yards or longer to tie the franchise record for a single season. He also converted all 10 of his field goal tries during Denver’s three playoff games to represent the second-most conversions in a single postseason in NFL history.

The Broncos also received a boost from the return game as Omar Bolden took back his first career punt for an 83-yard touchdown against Indianapolis in Week 9. Jordan Norwood recorded the team’s second-longest return of the year by contributing a Super Bowl-record 61-yard punt return against Carolina in Super Bowl 50.

Before returning to Denver, DeCamillis spent two seasons (2013-14) as Chicago’s assistant head coach/special teams, instructing a unit that allowed a league-low 18.3 yards per kick return while generating two touchdown returns (1 PR, 1 KR) and three takeaways. In 2013, Devin Hester turned in one of his best seasons under DeCamillis, posting the second-highest kickoff return average (27.6) and the fourth-highest punt return average (14.2) of his career.

Prior to coaching with the Bears, DeCamillis served as special teams coordinator with Dallas from 2009-12. During that time, the Cowboys tied for the most punt return touchdowns (6) in the NFL, including a franchise-record three in 2010 by the rookie duo of Dez Bryant (2) and Bryan McCann (1).

Cowboys punter Matt McBriar earned his second career Pro Bowl selection in 2010 after leading the NFL in both gross (47.9) and net (41.9) punting average, and kicker Dan Bailey converted 61-of-68 field goals during his first two NFL seasons (2011-12) under DeCamillis to rank fifth in the league in that span.

In his first season in Dallas in 2009, DeCamillis led his unit to a fourth-place finish in the special teams rankings compiled by the Dallas Morning News’ Rick Gosselin after the Cowboys were 27th the year before his arrival. He was named the Cowboys’ Ed Block Courage Award winner by his players after being injured in the collapse of the team’s indoor practice facility and returning to coach that season.

As Jacksonville’s special teams coach from 2007-08, DeCamillis’ coverage unit ranked second in the NFL in average opponent field position after kickoffs (25.3-yard line) with 34 opponent returns being downed inside the 20-yard line.

DeCamillis had a 10-year run coaching special teams for the Atlanta Falcons (1997-2006)—the first seven years under Head Coach Dan Reeves, whom he worked for in his first two NFL coaching roles with the Broncos and N.Y. Giants.

Five different Falcons combined for 13 total special teams return touchdowns under DeCamillis, including four by Darrick Vaughn and three apiece by Tim Dwight and 2004 Pro Bowl selection Allen Rossum.

In 2002, kicker Jay Feely set Falcons single-season records for points (138) and field goals made (32) as the club returned to the postseason and advanced to the NFC Divisional Playoffs.

DeCamillis was part of the Falcons’ coaching staff that helped lead the franchise to its first NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIII during the 1998 season.

He coached special teams for the Giants from 1993-96, as the club accounted for the fourth-most kick return scores (6) in the NFL during that period. David Meggett tied for second in the league with three punt return touchdowns during his final two years with the Giants (1993-94), ranking fourth in the NFL with his 11.3-yard punt return average in that two-year span.

DeCamillis began his NFL career in Denver in 1989 assisting with the club’s football administration for two years before serving as a defensive quality control coach from 1991-92 under Reeves.

DeCamillis, who was born on June 29, 1965, is married to Dana, and the couple has two daughters, Caitlin and Ashley.

PRO BOWL PLAYERS COACHED (2):P Matt McBriar (2010), KR Allen Rossum (2004).
*as coordinator or primary position coach


Denver Broncos
Special Teams Coordinator 2015-16

Chicago Bears
Asst. Head Coach/Special Teams 2013-14

Dallas Cowboys
Special Teams Coordinator 2009-12

Jacksonville Jaguars
Special Teams 2007-08

Atlanta Falcons

Special Teams 1997-2006

New York Giants
Special Teams 1993-96

Denver Broncos
Defensive Quality Control 1991-92
Administrative Assistant 1990
Assistant to GM & Head Coach 1989