Meet Ejiro Evero, the coordinator on the rise running the Broncos’ elevated defense
After five years with the Los Angeles Rams, the aspiring head coach is thriving in his first season with Denver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Speak with Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero for just a few minutes, and a thought comes to mind: This guy is going places.
Both razor-sharp and personable, Evero commands a room as well as he does a sideline. Eventually, one could envision him impressing the people who hire NFL head coaches. Of course, that’s something for further down the road.
But perhaps not too much further.
At the moment, Evero is occupied. He’s one of the Broncos’ few bright spots in their otherwise dreary start under rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett.
In his first season as a defensive playcaller, Evero, 41, is leading one of the league’s best defenses. After cutting his teeth as a position coach the past five seasons under Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, Evero joined Hackett, his best friend and college teammate at the University of California, Davis, in an effort to rebuild the struggling Broncos (2-5). The team has missed the playoffs the past six seasons.
If Hackett, who directs the offense, can get things running as smoothly as his buddy has it going on defense, well, the Broncos would be in great shape. The current imbalance, though, is as clear the view of the Rocky Mountains from the Mile High City.
Evero isn’t worried. He believes the Broncos’ best days are ahead of them and coming soon. All-in on Hackett’s vision of the team, Evero has no time for negativity.
“There are a lot of good things happening. And there’s a lot of disappointment happening, too, because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is winning,” Evero said recently during a lengthy interview with Andscape at the Broncos headquarters.
“But I truly believe in everything that we’re doing here, starting with the head coach, and what we’re gonna try to accomplish on offense. And then defensively, we still feel like our best football is ahead of us. As good as things are right now, it’s like, ‘Hey, we could play a lot better.’ That’s our standard and our expectation.”
Last season, Denver’s defense gave up an average of 326.1 yards to rank eighth in the league. With Evero in charge, the Broncos are giving up 286.0 yards and only trail the top-ranked Buffalo Bills (281.5).
In an uncommon move for an NFL coordinator, Evero was quick to praise his underlings in detail and was mindful to stress that everything happens as part of Hackett’s overall plan.
“I’ve just got amazing support from a lot of very talented coaches who’ve helped build this system together,” Evero said. “From day one, I told the players that this isn’t my defense – this is our defense.
“It’s like me, the [assistant] coaches, you guys [the players] … we’re all putting this stuff together and we need everybody’s input. We need everybody’s values. We’re just trying to make the best product.”
The Broncos gave up only 260 net yards during a 16-9 loss to the visiting New York Jets in Week 7. Backup quarterback Brett Rypien, who played for injured starter Russell Wilson, summed up the mood in the locker room while speaking with reporters, saying, “When your defense is playing as well as our defense is, you shouldn’t be losing games. That’s just point-blank period a fact.’’
No lies told.
Evero is excelling just as McVay expected he would.
“Incredibly smart, intelligent, great disposition, demeanor,” McVay said of Evero in an email to Andscape. “[He] knows how to connect with all types of guys, knows how to be able to help them reach their highest potential.
“[He’s an] absolute stud. Least surprised person of how well they’ve done and how great of a job he’s doing leading the defense is me.”
Regardless of how the team fares this season, Evero’s standing as an up-and-comer will remain strong as long as the Broncos’ defense does. In May, Evero, who is Black, was part of the inaugural class of the league’s accelerator program.
Each of the NFL’s clubs chose two participants (one assistant coach and one front-office staffer) for the program launched at the league’s spring meeting in Atlanta, which is intended to accelerate the rise of qualified minority employees in coaching and front-office management. Participants attended sessions on subjects tailored to help them continue to grow in their current jobs, with an eye toward preparing them to be at their strongest when, hopefully, they enter the hiring pipeline in pursuit of positions as head coaches and general managers.
Not surprisingly, Evero has big goals.
“Absolutely. I want to [become a head coach],” he said. “But just like when I was a [quality control coach] and just like when I was a position coach aspiring to do more things, I know that the best way for me to move up is to kick [butt] at the job I’m doing at the moment.
“I’ve got to focus in on this and nothing else. ’Cause the only thing that matters right now is finding a way to win for Broncos. Through that process, if your process is right in terms of being in the moment and being focused, all that other stuff will take care of itself.”
With the Rams, Evero always stayed on task.
After four seasons as the team’s safeties coach, Evero was put in charge of the entire secondary last season and coordinated the defensive passing game under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris. The Rams’ secondary was among the team’s strengths en route to winning the Super Bowl championship.
Evero, who played safety at the University of California, Davis, has also been a quality control coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers. From 2011 to 2015 with the 49ers, Evero filled a number of roles (quality control, offensive assistant, defensive assistant) and helped San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012.
Morris couldn’t be prouder of Evero.
“[He’s] extremely detailed, serious with his players, eased, compassionate [and] coaches with a lot of detail, as far as what the calls could be going through the process with the guys,” Morris wrote to Andscape in an email. “How he presents … to his guys is second to none.
“The things that he’s able to do as far as his communication skills, his willingness to bend and adapt around players … some of those things let me know right away how good he was going to be when he [received his] first opportunity to lead. And nothing makes me feel better than looking out on Sunday, seeing as his units form.”
How long will Evero be with the Broncos? Well, that remains to be seen. Just like the rest of team’s assistant coaches, Evero is committed to helping Hackett right the ship. Clearly, they’re not there yet.
It would be unwise, however, to assume Evero has made his last stop along the coaching ladder. A quick conversation with the man would prove that.