The Denver Broncos are in the midst of their 17th search for a permanent head coach in franchise history, with George Paton wrapping up interviews with the sixth and seventh candidates today. Now that the Broncos are compliant with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, we’ve reached the point in the process where the new coach could be named at any time. The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is considered the overwhelming favorite by NFL insiders, even if Broncos Country seems less enthused.
On this week’s episode of Cover2Broncos, Mile High Report’s AJ Schulte and I decided to take a stab at ranking the candidates. With the search closing in on the finish line, it seemed like a good time to sit down and work out where we stood with the information we have.
As someone who agonizes over just about every decision I’ve ever made, I have to admit this was a lot harder than I thought it’d be going in. Only two candidates did not move from their initial ranking at least once as I wrote this piece. Keep in mind that the following list is simply my preference and that while it may not be the same as yours or Paton’s, at the end of the day we all just want the Broncos to hire the right coach.
It sure does seem like Broncos Country wants George Paton to hire Nathaniel Hackett to be the next head coach. pic.twitter.com/v14cReZKR8— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) January 19, 2022
10. Jonathan Gannon - Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator
While I believe the Eagles’ defensive personnel dramatically impacted Gannon’s approach in his first season in Philly, I can’t ignore the fact that five different quarterbacks completed 80%+ of their passes on it. From 1950-2020, there’s only six quarterbacks in Eagles history who completed 80%+ of their passes in a game.
9. Jerod Mayo - New England Patriots inside linebackers coach
Mayo has the shortest resume of any of the Broncos’ candidates and comes from a coaching tree infamous for their failures as head coaches. He does seem to pass the “leadership” test with flying colors, but with the way assistant coaches would eventually move on if his team is successful there’s an element of risk to a Mayo hire that leaves me leery.
8. Brian Callahan - Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator
Like Nathaniel Hackett, he’s the son of an NFL coach and grew up immersed in the game. I love the fact that he worked under McDaniels, Fox, and Kubiak during his time in Denver and then Darrell Bevell, Jon Gruden, and Zac Taylor since. He brings a wealth of experience from multiple backgrounds and that should only help him going forward in his career.
On the other side of the coin, he isn’t a play caller in Cincinnati so it’s hard to evaluate what he’d bring in that regard. Cincy’s offense is limited by their personnel issues on the offensive line and I’m not a huge fan of the way they were so run-heavy early in the year. Additionally, the Bengals offense is abysmal whenever Joe Burrow isn’t in the lineup.
7. Luke Getsy - Green Bay Packers Quarterbacks coach
To most of Broncos Country he was a complete unknown two weeks ago, but now he’s being sold as the key to Aaron Rodgers.
Getsy is a stronger candidate than first meets the eye. While he’s never been a play caller, he’s worked as both a receiver and quarterback coach and has received a ton of praise for his work with both Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. He’s worked under a laundry list of talented coaches and has a direct hand in the Packers’ third down offense. What keeps him from landing higher on this list is merely the unknowns: no NFL play calling experience and only one year calling plays at any level. There’s a distinct possibility Paton wants him for offensive coordinator.
6. Kevin O’Connell - Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator
If the Broncos are looking to move back towards a Mike Shanahan / Gary Kubiak style offense, O’Connell makes a ton of sense. A former journeyman quarterback who wore five different jerseys during his four years in the league, the son of a former FBI agent got into coaching with the Cleveland Browns in 2015. Since then, he’s worked under Jay Gruden in Washington and Sean McVay in Los Angeles. The big question hanging over him is that he’s never officially been a play caller.
5. Eric Bieniemy - Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator
Matt Nagy aside, Andy Reid does a fantastic job grooming coaches for their next role. Bieniemy has been the Chiefs offensive coordinator since Patrick Mahomes became their starting quarterback and deserves some credit for the way the quarterback has gone scorched earth on the rest of the league since. With that said, Reid is Kansas City’s primary play caller and there are significant questions that will need to be vetted regarding Bieniemy’s past.
As I write this, the Broncos are the only team with a head coaching vacancy that officially interviewed Bieniemy, though a trusted source informed me he’ll also meet with the Vikings, Giants, and Jaguars this cycle. There is some belief that he and GM candidate Ryan Poles are a package deal, and I do wonder if Denver’s interest is nothing more than an opportunity for Paton to pick at the process of a division rival.
4. Dan Quinn - Cowboys DC / Former Atlanta Falcons head coach
Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the Legion of Boom during their two Super Bowl trips and won a ring over Peyton Manning’s in Super Bowl 48. After leaving the Seattle Seahawks to become the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons and they made it to Super Bowl 51. He was fired as head coach five games into an 0-5 2020 and became the Cowboys defensive coordinator this year, taking a defense that finished 23rd in Football Outsider’s DVOA to 2nd this season. Dallas also led the league in takeaways.
My concerns over Quinn stem from his time in Atlanta, where the offense declined following Kyle Shanahan’s departure, the defense was consistently mediocre, and the team seemingly underperformed what general manager Thomas Dimitroff did in the draft. With that said, it’s easy to see why he could be the hire. As the only candidate with previous experience as a head coach, it seems reasonable to believe he should hit the ground running in 2022, which bodes well for a franchise desperate to end their ongoing postseason drought at six years.
Quinn was a defensive line coach with the Miami Dolphins during the time Paton was the director of pro personnel. Quinn was reportedly hoping to work with Paton during his time in Atlanta, and he is one of the two candidates who remain from Paton’s initial short list for Vic Fangio replacements in October.
3. Kellen Moore - Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator
Last week I considered Moore one of my two favorites for head coach because I believe he’s the kind of offensive mind that could grow into the position. Given the way Denver may have to build the offense around a young passer going forward, that has appeal. With that in mind, the way Dallas got shut down by DeMeco Ryans for most of the Cowboys’ playoff loss is definitely a concern, as it exposed foundational cracks in Moore’s offense. The first question I’d have for Moore is, “why run Dak without timeouts?”
2. Aaron Glenn - Detroit Lions defensive coordinator
Blame my Michigan roots for this one, but everything I know about Glenn suggests he’s a much better candidate than the Lions’ 2021 season suggests. I was impressed by the way Detroit maximized their personnel when I was studying tape before the Broncos’ game against the Covid-depleted roster in week 14, and that’s a testament to their coordinator.
A first round pick in 1994, he spent the first eight years of his career in New York as a Pro Bowl cornerback before the Houston Texans acquired him in their expansion draft. He spent the next five years in Texas in Vic Fangio’s, Bill Parcells’, and Mike Zimmer’s defenses. After he retired from playing, he spent a season as the general manager of the Houston Stallions before becoming a coach and has spent most of his time since working under Dennis Allen with the New Orleans Saints.
1. Nathaniel Hackett - Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator
The possibility of Aaron Rodgers notwithstanding, the reason I’ve preferred Hackett throughout the process is that he looks like a strong fit for what I believe the Broncos need. He’s been an offensive coordinator for three different franchises by the time he’s 42-years-old and has designed passing attacks around the skillsets of E.J. Manuel, Blake Bortles, and Aaron Rodgers. Matt LaFleur is the primary play caller in Green Bay, but Hackett is a key part of the red zone offense where they’ve been very good and it’s something he also found success with in Jacksonville. Meanwhile, the Broncos finished the 2021 season with one of the worst scoring offenses in the league.
Who do you want the Broncos to hire as head coach?
This poll is closed
Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy
Cowboys DC Dan Quinn
Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett
Eagles DC Jonathon Gannon
Pats iLB coach Jerod Mayo
Cowboys OC Kellen Moore
Rams OC Kevin O’Connell
Lions DC Aaron Glenn
Packers QB coach Luke Getsy
Bengals OC Brian Callahan