According to recent reports from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, if Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas had their way, Jim Bates would not be the Broncos’ newest assistant coach — he’d be their head coach in Miami.
Such campaigning says a lot about Bates — but they’re far from the only ones to want the veteran of 37 sideline seasons to practice his trade in their midst. Similar calls went out from the Miami Dolphins’ locker room when the then-interim head coach interviewed for the position just hours after a résumé-burnishing win over the New England Patriots. Miami, however, opted for Nick Saban over Bates, and South Florida is still lamenting how that choice turned out.
But here’s what Bates’ charges said about him in December 2004:
Then-quarterback A.J. Feeley, who started down the stretch under Bates: “If you ask everybody around this locker room he’s a guy you want to play for and a guy you want to earn his respect. As a coach, that’s what you want, a group of guys that want to play for you. He’s got my nod.”
Tight end Randy McMichael: “People say we’re a different team under him, and it’s true. I will play for that man anywhere, any day of the week.”
A year later, when Bates was in Green Bay and head coach Mike Sherman was dismissed, players again openly campaigned for Bates to become the team’s head coach.
“I thought he did a great job with the defense and I would love it if Coach Bates got the job,” Packers nose tackle Grady Jackson told the Appleton Post-Crescent last year. “The players really respond to him.”
“Players really love Coach Bates and he has a way of getting the most out of them,” Green Bay tight end Donald Lee also told the Post-Cresent as the Packers conducted their search for a head coach. “He was like that in Miami and he was like that here. There’s no question he’ll make a great head coach somewhere. Hopefully, it’d be here.”
Time will tell how Bates does in Denver. But a good indication of how he’ll fare rests in how so many of his players thought the best course for their team’s future was to have the 60-year-old coach shepherd them through what changes awaited.