(Note: This is the first of two parts about Darrin Chiaverini taking over as Colorado’s offensive coordinator. Part two, going more into Chiaverini’s plan on offense, will appear in Tuesday’s Daily Camera).
Mel Tucker’s sudden departure from the Colorado football team last month opened a new door for Darrin Chiaverini.
While it’s not the one he wanted most, Chiaverini is embracing the next challenge in his coaching career.
Karl Dorrell was hired as CU’s head coach on Feb. 23, replacing Tucker, who spurned the Buffs to take over the program at Michigan State.
Chiaverini interviewed for the head coaching position and believed he was the best man for the job. It hurt when he didn’t get it, but Dorrell – Chiaverini’s position coach when he played at CU from 1995-98 – made him offer: stay on staff as offensive coordinator and receivers coach.
“Yeah no question (there were mixed emotions),” Chiaverini said. “I told that to coach Dorrell. Obviously, I was disappointed for my situation, but I was excited for coach Dorrell. Our history together at Colorado, I know he’s a good person and he’s a good football coach.
“I think that’s normal to go through those human emotions, being disappointed, but also being excited for someone else.”
Chiaverini, 42, has pushed his disappointment aside for the excitement of his new role.
Hired by former coach Mike MacIntyre in December of 2015 as co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach, Chiaverini held that position for three seasons. He took over play calling duties in 2018, but MacIntyre was fired with one game left in that season. Tucker was hired that December and kept Chiaverini on staff, but no longer as a coordinator; he coached receivers and added the title of assistant head coach.
Now, Chiaverini is back in the coordinator role – although there’s no “co” next to his title this time – and he gets a second chance to call the plays. It’s not the head coaching job he wanted, but it’s a promotion and a chance to work with Dorrell, whom he has respected for years.
“It’s good that we have history together,” Chiaverini said. “There’s a trust factor between both of us, having him be my position coach in college. Obviously I was excited for coach Dorrell when he got the job and knew that this could be a good working relationship for both of us.”
Dorrell thought so, too, which is why he offered the job to Chiaverini, who not only provides staff continuity but gives Dorrell an instant star recruiter. Chiaverini has been ranked a top-25 recruiter by Rivals.com the past three years.
“It’s going to be fun,” Dorrell said of working with Chiaverini. “He was fun to coach when I was here years back. Very dedicated player, paid great attention to his craft. He actually showed, I believe, coaching qualities as a player, just because of how his brain worked in terms of his preparation.”
Chiaverini, who graduated from Corona (Calif.) High School, arrived on CU’s campus as a 17-year-old. He played as a true freshman, worked his way up the depth chart and led the Buffs in receiving as a senior in 1998. He finished his career with 97 catches for 1,199 yards – numbers that still rank among the top 20 in school history.
A fifth-round draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 1999, Chiaverini played four seasons in the NFL, catching 62 passes for 662 yards and seven touchdowns. He still holds the Browns record for most catches in a single game (10) by a rookie
Chiaverini is now in his 14th season of coaching and his fifth with CU. With the Buffs, he has coached five of the top 15 receivers (in terms of career catches) in program history and helped Bryce Bobo, Tony Brown, Shay Fields, Devin Ross, Laviska Shenault and Juwann Winfree get NFL opportunities.
“There’s no doubt why he’s as good a coach as he is, because of how his approach was as a player,” said Dorrell, whose previous head coaching experience came at UCLA from 2003-07.
Dorrell knows Chiaverini’s goal to be a head coach one day and he’s hoping this opportunity can help to get him there. Dorrell, who was CU’s receivers coach in 1992-93 and offensive coordinator/receivers coach from 1995-98, had several of his assistants from UCLA go on to become head coaches.
“I’m looking forward to helping him become a head coach someday,” Dorrell said. “That’s what his strong desire is to be and so I think it’s a great match for both of us. I can help him on one end and obviously groom him to be a play caller and all those different things, too. We’re both really excited to work together.”
In addition to Dorrell, Chiaverini will get a chance to work with new quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf, who was previously the offensive coordinator at Oregon State for nine years and Nebraska for three.
Dorrell and Langsdorf have a combined 56 years of experience coaching on offense, with 22 years of play-calling between them. When Chiaverini was play-caller in 2018, he had a defensive head coach (MacIntyre) and a co-coordinator (Klayton Adams) who had 12 years of experience but never as a play-caller.
“I think it’s good to have guys that have been there and gone through good things and bad things,” Chiaverini said. “They both have had successes, they’ve both had failures. I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures. At the end of the day, you’ve got to continue to grow, continue to learn from the things you did wrong, kind of add onto the things you did really well.
“You want ideas, you want feedback, you want constructive criticism of how we can be better and we’re going to have those conversations as an offensive staff and, obviously, with coach Dorrell.”
Between Dorrell and the five offensive coaches, there is nearly 120 years of coaching experience. Chiaverini is looking forward to utilizing that resource, but he’s also excited to get to the keys to the offense back. His one season as a play-caller, in 2018, produced mixed results, but he didn’t get a chance to learn from it last year. Now he does.
“There’s a lot of good things that we did in 2018; there were things that I looked at that we need to do a better job of,” he said. “You can only go and have those growing pains if you go through it and you experience it.
“I take the good with the bad and look forward to the next chapter of my play calling.”