Zach Azzanni, Broncos’ longest tenured coach, balances intensity with relationship-driven approach



As the longest-tenured coach on the Broncos’ staff, Zach Azzanni’s survived two head coach firings and was the lone offensive assistant retained by first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

So why has Azzanni been afforded such stability in a franchise defined by recent instability? As Butch Jones puts it, in coaching, the real thing is easy to spot. And Azzanni has “it with a capital I and capital T.”

“When you press play on a Zach Azzanni-coached wide receiver corps, it’s going to be a group that’s tough, that blocks, that has great brotherhood and unit chemistry in that room,” explained Jones, the Arkansas State head man who coached with Azzanni at Central Michigan and Tennessee. “They’re going to be students of the game, they’re going to own their fundamentals and they’re going to own their details.

“(Beyond that), Zach has a unique quality about himself where he can be very demanding because he knows what great looks like, but also, people gravitate towards him because they can feel the passion, the knowledge and the genuine care factor that he has.”

Azzanni, 46, is a football lifer. In his fifth season with the Broncos, Azzanni was once a walk-on wideout at Central Michigan, where Jones first met him when the latter was an assistant coach. Azzanni began his coaching career as an unpaid volunteer coach for Valparaiso in 1998, then started coaching the school’s wideouts the next year. His office was in a closet, and Azzanni’s duties also included painting the field each week and acting as assistant strength coach.

After Valparaiso, Azzanni had stops at Bowling Green, CMU, Florida, Western Kentucky and Wisconsin before cementing his name in Knoxville, where he worked on Jones’ staff for four years under a variety of titles. He jumped to the NFL in 2017 as the Bears receivers coach after the organization cold-called him for the job, with Azzanni’s college reputation seamlessly translating to the pros.

He took a pay cut going from the SEC to the NFL, but said it was worth the better family-work balance that the league affords. And, his ultimate goal has since shifted from being a head coach in college to being a head coach in the NFL.



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