Del Rio interviewed for USC job during Broncos bye

Jack Del Rio’s stock is soaring less than two years after his

firing in Jacksonville.

The Broncos confirmed Sunday that Del Rio interviewed for the

head coaching job at Southern California during Denver’s bye week.

Fox Sports first reported Del Rio’s interview with his alma

mater.

USC athletic director Pat Haden reached out to Broncos executive

vice president John Elway for permission to speak with Denver’s

defensive coordinator at a time that was convenient for the NFL

team.

Del Rio is leading the Super Bowl-or-bust Denver Broncos while

John Fox recovers from heart surgery.

Within three months, Del Rio figures to have a spacious office

on a college campus or at an NFL complex.

Del Rio was handed a golden opportunity to basically audition

for any number of head coaching jobs when Fox landed in a

Charlotte, N.C., hospital two weeks ago and his doctors determined

he could no longer put off an operation to replace his defective

aortic valve that wasn’t pumping enough blood throughout his

body.

Del Rio was named interim head coach of Broncos 48 hours later

and he immediately decided to keep his defensive coordinator

duties, as well.

Del Rio, who went 69-72 in 8 1/2 seasons as Jacksonville’s head

coach from 2003-11, never had a quarterback with the Jaguars like

he does in Denver in Peyton Manning.

And even though he came from a defensive background built on his

11-year pro career as a star linebacker, Del Rio never had a

defense with the Jaguars like the one he leads in Denver with the

likes of Von Miller, Wesley Woodyard, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

and Champ Bailey.

Although Del Rio and Fox go way back – Fox hired him as his

first defensive coordinator when he got his first head coaching job

with the Carolina Panthers in 2002 – Del Rio is not a carbon copy

of Fox.

He told The Associated Press recently that he isn’t just

channeling Fox during this stretch of games while his boss

recovers.

”You could characterize it how you’d like. I’ve said very

clearly, he’s established a blueprint and I’ve worked with him

before. So, I understand John,” Del Rio said. ”I also understand

myself, having been a head coach for nine years. I can’t possibly

be at my best if I’m going to stop and pause and go, `What would

John do? Oh, uhhh.’ No, I can’t do that.”

The Broncos were impressed by Haden’s approach because college

administrators are under no obligation to seek permission from NFL

teams before reaching out to their coaches. Haden is a former NFL

quarterback.

Del Rio interviewed for the Trojans’ job Nov. 1. The next day,

Fox fell ill while golfing in North Carolina and his doctors moved

up his scheduled heart surgery to Nov. 4, the same day Del Rio got

the interim head coaching tag.

Del Rio is the first known candidate to have interviewed for the

USC job. Haden been secretive about the process.

”I can honestly say that was handled the proper way,” Del Rio

said after Denver’s 27-17 win over the previously unbeaten Kansas

City Chiefs on Sunday night that left both AFC West teams at 9-1.

”They contacted the Broncos, got permission, and we did it in a

manner where they came out here and visited with me during our bye

week so it wouldn’t disrupt anything.

”That’s what took place. Now, my job continues. My focus is

here. It’s an honor to be in consideration for something like that,

but I also feel very honored to be here and be the defensive

coordinator and interim head coach for the Denver Broncos. All of

my attention, all of my efforts and energies are going into the

Denver Broncos right now.

”Down the road who knows where that goes? But that’s certainly

not anything that needs to be discussed other than, is it true?

Yes. It did occur. But that’s really it. I’m acknowledging it

absolutely did, it was handled in a professional manner and now my

attention is completely with helping this football team be

prepared.”

Before Sunday, Del Rio had steadfastly declined to publicly

discuss any possible interest he might have in returning to USC,

where he starred as a linebacker in the early 1980s, earned

consensus All-America honors as a senior and was named co-MVP of

the 1985 Rose Bowl.

USC fired Lane Kiffin earlier this season and Ed Orgeron

returned fun to a dour program – and wins, none bigger than a 20-17

win over powerful Stanford on Saturday night. It was Orgeron’s

fifth win since stepping in for Kiffin in late September.

One thing’s for sure: Del Rio isn’t going anywhere before the

Broncos’ season is over.

Del Rio could be busy coaching the Broncos into February.

Cardiologists and heart surgeons say recovery from aortic valve

replacement and its arduous cardio rehab can take anywhere from a

few weeks to a few months.

If the Trojans and Del Rio want each other – and neither party

has indicated that, at least publicly, so far – USC would have to

wait for him to fulfill his contractual obligations to the Broncos,

which expire after the Super Bowl.

It’s also important to remember that Del Rio has spent 28

seasons in the NFL altogether. And if the Broncos do well under his

watch, there’s no shortage of NFL owners that surely will be

jockeying to interview him for their own vacancies.

Also burnishing Del Rio’s credentials is this fact: since Del

Rio’s departure, the Jaguars are 5-26, making his record there look

better and better in retrospect.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on

Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton