Davis Webb sat on the couch and asked for a depth chart.
This wasn’t his home couch or the quarterbacks room couch. This was the couch beside the basketball hoop and cubicles that form the New York Giants’ pro personnel department workspace.
Each Friday morning last season, Webb visited.
He didn’t spend last year as just the Giants’ third-string quarterback, readying for relief snaps that ultimately came only in a Week 18 start. Webb also delivered advance scouting reports to quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney each Friday evening or Saturday morning for the opponent who loomed not that week but the next.
What coaching philosophies and backgrounds should the Giants heed as they develop a game plan? Which looming cornerback was stiff but flashed good ball skills, and how best should the offense attack him? Webb embraced spirited debate.
“An extra set of eyes that you wouldn’t think would come from someone on the roster,” Giants pro scout Nick La Testa told Yahoo Sports. “He was always so prepared that it was easy to forget he was actually a player, too, with those responsibilities.”
Such depth of study is unusual even for a roster member compensating for scarce physical reps. But it wasn’t that unusual for Webb, whose contributions during his six-year NFL playing career ranged from playing safety for the Buffalo Bills’ scout-team defense to helping the Giants acclimate to head coach Brian Daboll’s offense before the OTA phase in which coaches were fully permitted to install it.
So after news broke Feb. 23 that the Denver Broncos were hiring Webb as their quarterbacks coach, head coach Sean Payton admitted it was “very unusual” to snatch the Giants’ 28-year-old backup for a team whose No. 1 goal this year should be to revitalize 34-year-old Russell Wilson. The nine-time Pro Bowler debuted in Denver last season with his worst career year, his passer rating dropping from fourth in the league to 27th in just one season. Webb is the most surprising hire of the group tasked with spearheading a rebound.
“It was a little bit happenchance, because I didn’t have the tie,” Payton told Yahoo Sports. “Then, the deeper we kept researching [Webb], the more we were like, ‘Holy cow.’”
Yahoo Sports tracked down previous NFL QBs-turned-coaches and Webb’s colleagues to understand: How will Webb’s perspective as a former player shape his perspective coaching Wilson?
Davis Webb’s coaching career unofficially started years ago
Payton doesn’t remember which endorsement came first, Daboll’s or that of Bills head coach Sean McDermott. But after both vouched for Webb, Payton texted Eli Manning about the rookie who backed up Manning in 2017. Another vote of approval.
So the Broncos interviewed Webb for a staff that features a combined 43 years of NFL coaching experience from Payton and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells taught Payton the importance of including fresh and young perspectives on a staff. Payton says such viewpoints leave him “energized.”
The deeper we kept researching [Webb], the more we were like, ‘Holy cow.’Broncos head coach Sean Payton
Webb’s knowledge, communication skills and poise “blew away” the Broncos, general manager George Paton said. Payton also marveled at Webb’s level of organization and detail when learning Webb has kept and organized every game plan from each of his high school, college and NFL stops. Webb’s personal coaching notes accompany each file.
Those 14 seasons span Webb’s Texas Tech years playing for Kliff Kingsbury and backing up Patrick Mahomes as well as his school record-setting campaign at Cal under Sonny Dykes, which capped off a collegiate career totaling 9,852 yards, 83 touchdowns and 34 interceptions.
Webb has collected game plans that Ben McAdoo tailored to Manning; Todd Bowles tailored to Sam Darnold and Josh McCown; and Brian Daboll tailored to Josh Allen. His 67 career snaps and 40 professional pass attempts — Webb did score a touchdown each by air and ground in his lone start on Jan. 8, 2023 — don’t come close to capturing the perspective he carries into his first official coaching opportunity.
Daboll says Webb helped prepare Allen for games in Buffalo with Friday night call sheet reviews. Webb met with running back and tight end groups to explain a quarterback perspective of an install, also staying after training camp practices and season weeknights to throw routes to skill players. When Daboll was hired as Giants head coach after coordinating the Buffalo offense, he brought Webb back to the franchise that had selected him in the third round in 2017.
Tierney remembers a time he was trying to explain a play to Jones and Taylor. The first-year position coach drew blank stares.
“I could tell by the faces I was getting in the room that it wasn’t hitting the way I wanted it to,” Tierney told Yahoo Sports. “And I’m sitting there looking around, and I look at Davis, and just kind of put my head to the side like, ‘What else can I say here?’”
Webb reminded his fellow quarterbacks of an early OTA install when they were to throw to one target if the defense presented a one-high coverage and another if the defense flashed in two-high. “Just do that,” Webb told them, “and you’ll be fine on this play.”
“When he notices people aren’t quite on the same page, he’s got a good way about him to just bring it back to the simplest coaching point,” Tierney said. “That’s why this guy’s going to be a really good coach.”
Webb wouldn’t be the NFL’s first quarterback-to-coach success story.
What Jim Harbaugh, Jason Garrett teach us about Webb’s path
Super Bowl-winning head coaches have risen from the NFL quarterback ranks.
Hall of Fame coach Tom Flores led the (then-Oakland and Los Angeles) Raiders to Super Bowl XV and XVIII titles after Flores played a decade in the league. Gary Kubiak played nine seasons along his path to coaching the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl 50 victory. Most recently, current Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson led the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl LII. Pederson previously had played for the Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, Eagles and Cleveland Browns. Even Payton, who coached the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl XLIV victory, played in three games for the Chicago Bears as a replacement quarterback during the 1987 player strike.
And while it’s more common for players to coach amateur football or take time away from the game before becoming an NFL assistant, two eventual head coaches transitioned directly from NFL quarterbacking in the early 2000s: Jim Harbaugh and Jason Garrett.
The Raiders hired Harbaugh as quarterbacks coach in 2002 after he’d spent the prior 15 years playing in the NFL. Then-Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, who won MVP honors that year, said Harbaugh’s playing credibility paired with his humility and work ethic formed a compelling perspective.
“I just valued his eyes,” Gannon told Yahoo Sports.
Harbaugh would reference his own experience in the huddle when guiding players, spending the bulk of his time developing the room’s depth but also chiming in on game plans to alert which defensive coordinator was prone to bringing pressure and which defensive backs’ overeagerness branded him most likely to succumb to the misdirection of a double move. Harbaugh drew upon playing-days knowledge of former colleagues and opponents.
“I would suggest that the majority of what these guys are doing, really where you can make an impact, is their ability to take what’s on the page, take the concept, take the game plan and really help them process it,” Gannon said of quarterback coaches’ responsibility. “Help them to take ownership of it, help them to be able to play the game faster.”
Sage Rosenfels witnessed a similar impact when Garrett transitioned from behind Rosenfels on the 2004 end-of-season Dolphins depth chart to his position coach in 2005. Garrett had backed up quarterbacks on Super Bowl teams with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, learning offensive principles from Norv Turner, Payton and Jon Gruden.
“Having been around all those different offenses and all those different minds, you can bring various ideas to the table, like, ‘Well, when I was on this team six years ago and we saw this look, this is the play we ran,’ or, ‘This is how we rigged that protection and it actually solved the problem we’re dealing with of how to stop the blitz,’” Rosenfels told Yahoo Sports.
The dynamic nature of NFL offenses demands an intricate understanding of not just schematic theory but also opponent-specific tweaks and real-time application.
Rosenfels believes that backup quarterbacks often are uniquely attuned to the mental game when their physical gifts aren’t sufficient to thrive in the NFL, and thus they’re lasting due to their mastery of a playbook and concepts. Attention to detail is mandatory. Game-plan input to elevate the room can extend job security.
For Webb, it has.
What makes Webb's approach 'refreshing' to Broncos
The advance scouting reports Webb produced as a player are imminently relevant to his current post. The Broncos face six teams this season whom Webb and the Giants competed against last season.
In the past two years, Webb has faced 11 of the 14 opponents on the Broncos’ regular-season schedule.
Before game plans roll out, Webb is weighing in on concept installation and fundamental development. During OTAs, he sent Broncos quarterbacks detailed markups of installs the night before they would arrive at practice, quarterback Ben DiNucci told Yahoo Sports. Which concepts indicate pure progressions for which the quarterback must consider only his receivers, and which come with an alert and thus require more attention to the defensive alignment? Overemphasis is a good problem to have.
When he notices people aren’t quite on the same page, he’s got a good way about him to just bring it back to the simplest coaching point. That’s why this guy’s going to be a really good coach.Giants quarterbacks coach Shea Tierney
Webb also has an Instagram group chat with Wilson, Jarrett Stidham and DiNucci in which he sends clips of rotational work aimed to hone lower-body passing considerations like hip fluidity. Exercise recommendations from University of Virginia strength coach Drew McDuffie and performance coach Nic Shimonek (who played at Tech with Webb) land in their DMs.
“He’s able to see how this new wave of quarterback approaches mechanics,” DiNucci said. “He’s trained it himself the past few years and now is applying some of that stuff to our individual periods in practice and watching film.
“It’s very refreshing.”
Broncos quarterbacks will still garner the vast institutional knowledge that Lombardi, who has coached Drew Brees and Justin Herbert, has gained over 18 years. Payton, too, offered explicit feedback after nearly every OTA snap, DiNucci said. But as has been the case his whole career, Webb will bring a different lens.
“It’s so hard to play quarterback in the National Football League in general,” Wilson said. “And for him, he’s been in different offenses. He’s understood how to play the quarterback position. He’s an incredible teacher, too. A great communicator.
“He’s got a presence.”
“I didn’t stop playing for nothing,” Webb said, per the team website. “I want to accomplish my goals in this new profession, and this is a good first step toward it.”