Marist College has only ever had two people play for a National Football League team, defensive end Terrence Fede for the Miami Dolphins and kicker Jason Myers for the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks. This year, Marist has another name in the NFL– this time in a front office position. Brad Miller was hired in March of this year by the Denver Broncos as the new football strategy analyst.
Miller is responsible for making key in-game decisions, occasionally with assistance from the analytics department. He provides input to head coach Nathaniel Hackett on when the team should use timeouts, how to be the most efficient in two-minute situations, and when to go for it on fourth down – all of which are decisions that can win or lose a game.
The position requires several years of experience in football and the utmost trust from Hackett, the latter of which has already been established because they have been close friends since their college coaching days at Stanford University.
“He and I shared a very small space as coaches and spent most hours working or talking about football,” said Miller. “As a result, I decided to be a head high school coach, he went on his path, and we’ve stayed in very close touch texting after just about every single game and his experiences in the NFL for the past 20 years.”
Yes, the two of them coaching football as graduate students at Stanford certainly is valid experience, but that was two decades ago. As Miller points out, his path was very different from Hackett’s.
After Miller’s time at Stanford, he was the head coach of the Polytechnic School and Flintridge Preparatory School football programs from 2003 to 2008. From 2005 to 2011 he was the director of study abroad summer programs for Florence, Italy at Summerfuel in New York City.
In 2011, it was time for a fresh start, and the latter experience played a key role in his search for a new job. In August of that year, former Marist president Dennis Murray hired Miller full-time as the assistant director of academics and business operations. As part of his new position, he moved to Florence, Italy.
“He’s a very engaging person, very effective at getting things done, very organized, got a great educational background, and a very smart guy,” said Murray. “He’s also very personable, he’s enjoyable to be with and so I saw him as a real potential leader.”
Murray has always been fond of Miller, and even more so after watching how well he interacted and connected with not just students, but also people on the campus in Florence, which stood out even more to him because Miller can speak Italian. For many years, the two checked in with each other a couple of times a year even when Murray was back in Poughkeepsie. There were also times Miller would ask for advice on how to be a better leader and person overall.
As Miller grew more into his role in Florence, he discovered the Italian Football League, the highest level of (American) football in Italy. While it had been six years since he was involved in football, in 2014 he decided to take up a coaching position for the Parma Panthers– a team made up of veteran IFL players, youth prospects, and a few American players.
The catch with joining the Panthers’ staff was that at times he wasn’t even a coach. One year he served as more of a scout, finding players to fill roster spots to try and fill any needs. In another year, he was the person who would simply break down film with players. In seven years with the team, Miller was an assistant coach, offensive and defensive line coach, and head coach.
Miller never cared about the job titles or getting credit for being able to adapt to different roles, all he cared about was helping the organization in whatever way possible. In each of his seven years as a member of the organization, the Panthers finished the regular season with a winning record, including two undefeated seasons, the second of which they won the Italian Super Bowl 40-34 over the Seamen Milano in Miller’s final season with the team in July of 2021.
Fast forward to January of this year, the Denver Broncos hired Miller’s close friend Nathaniel Hackett as the 18th head coach in the franchise’s history. Little did Miller know that Hackett had him in mind for a role in the organization.
Stay with the Parma Panthers and Marist College or be part of an NFL team?
Miller was very torn on what to do, so he turned to Murray to help him come to a decision.
“I got a call from him and he says, ‘I got this decision that I gotta make and I really need your advice,’” said Murray. “‘I love our Italian program, but one of my best friends who was a graduate assistant with me at Stanford just called me and was just appointed the head coach of the Denver Broncos, and he wants to join the coaching staff.’”
At first, Murray thought it was a joke because, despite his experience helping many people make decisions about their careers, none were as big as this one. The two went through the pros and cons, keeping in mind how much Miller loved football. Leaving Florence meant leaving behind the Parma Panthers and his seven years of experience with the team. Leaving Florence meant leaving behind people he cared about and the people he hadn’t yet met. Leaving Florence meant leaving a place he considered home, a very bittersweet acknowledgment as a whole.
But the moment Miller brought up the opportunity to Murray, he knew Miller would never forgive himself if he passed on the job. After a week of back-and-forth, Miller called Hackett and told him he was accepting the offer to become the new football strategy analyst of the Denver Broncos.
“‘He’s very, very intelligent,’” Hackett told The Denver Post when talking about Miller. “‘I’ve always talked to him about different (situational) management stuff and I wanted somebody who doesn’t necessarily want to coach, but do projects and wants to be purely about projects and dive in and be next-level.’”
While Miller does have to plan for every in-game scenario, he has the flexibility to go wherever he feels there needs to be improvement on the practice field. For part of practice, he may watch the offensive or defensive units and at other times he may watch specific position groups. For any issues that there may be, Miller has to solve them for Hackett. Every play call matters. Every route a receiver runs matters. Every style an offensive lineman blocks matters. It is all about getting the details right. If there’s a flaw how can that be tweaked or fixed?
Yes, this all sounds very serious, but Miller’s experienced some light-hearted moments in his time so far. “Sometimes they’ll need extra bodies to just run some routes for the [defensive] backs,” said Miller. “I remember running against elite talent, and I still have difficulty understanding how anyone can get off his press technique.”
Miller even commented on how the food in the Broncos’ cafeteria is like food you would eat at Four Seasons, and that the chefs are some of the best in the industry. They serve three meals a day, provide all kinds of probiotic supplements, and serve some of the healthiest– but tastiest– foods there could ever be. “You combine that with the fact that the majority of us coaches workout together to start the morning at six, I think in the last few months I’ve gotten into the best shape of my life,” said Miller.
Every moment Miller spends with the Broncos seems surreal. He watches players like veteran quarterback Russell Wilson– newly acquired from the Seattle Seahawks– to young defensive backs like Patrick Surtain II play on the fields right in front of him. He sits beside players from different position groups depending on the meeting and watches film with them. Much like the details of a play call, every moment is valuable to him.
With three preseason games and a regular-season game in Seattle under their belts, the Broncos are set to host the Houston Texans in Week 2 at Empower Field at Mile High Stadium. Much like Russell Wilson and a few other players on the roster, Miller will be getting his first taste of regular-season football in front of the home crowd.
With an Italian Football League Super Bowl in his back pocket, the chase for the NFL’s Super Bowl is on. Thirty-two teams but only one Vince Lombardi Trophy. Miller is ready for the challenge and ready to help his close friend Hackett in the pursuit of world championship glory.
Edited by Jonathan Kinane and Andrew Hard
Photo courtesy of Marist Italy Team