With the dust all but settled following the groundbreaking, potential franchise-altering move when Sean Payton agreed to be the new head coach of the Denver Broncos, the new man in Dove Valley has been working to assemble his new staff.
Given his reputation on the offensive side of the ball, it will be imperative that he brings in a keen defensive mind who can keep the Broncos defense at the level we’ve seen the past several years.
Regarding the defensive coordinator left vacant by Ejiro Evero, multiple names have surfaced as potential fits on Payton’s staff, but two in particular are standing out far above the rest in recent days.
The names? The first is Rex Ryan, current ESPN analyst and former head coach of the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets who established his name as an elite defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens from 2005-2008.
The other is Vance Joseph, the man Joe Ellis thought was more qualified to be the head coach of the Broncos than Kyle Shanahan.
The difference between the two is substantial. While both couldn’t break through as successful head coaches, Ryan at least made the playoffs twice and seemed to carry the load well in a division that housed Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Joseph couldn’t find a groove.
More than their head coaching backgrounds, though, is their history of leading defenses. As mentioned above, Ryan spent four seasons leading one of the league’s most fierce defenses in Baltimore. Joseph had a one-year stint with the Miami Dolphins before becoming the Broncos head coach, and then four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals as defensive coordinator.
Ryan’s Ravens finished fifth, first, sixth, and second in total defense in his four seasons. Joseph’s Dolphins defense finished 29th in total defense while his Cardinals defenses finished 32nd, 13th, 11th, and 21st before being released by the team this week.
This shouldn’t be harder than it is. On one hand, there is the resume of a Super Bowl caliber assistant who has been out of the league a few years, and on the other, there is a guy who keeps getting high profile jobs despite the lack of success in those positions.
Now, obviously, there could be other elements at play that would make Joseph a more preferable candidate for Payton, and those should be examined as well.
Ryan, after all, is a very big personality who has made waves off the field, so would there be any internal clashing between Payton and himself? It’s possible, but if Payton couldn’t handle Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, all those years in New Orleans, this is a concern that can probably be scratched off.
There is also the issue of money, as perhaps Ryan enjoys his cushy TV gig and would demand a king’s ransom to get him back on the sidelines. The Walton's, of course, don’t have any issue with spending, but it may make Payton think twice about a guy who could possibly be more after the dollar sign than the chance to win a Super Bowl.
Then there is Joseph himself. The guy has to be doing something right to get all these opportunities. He is a failed head coach and his results as a coordinator have been mediocre at best. And who knows, maybe those numbers between Ryan and Joseph aren’t being accurately analyzed, as for Ryan, it’s easier to look like a great defensive mind when guys like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are on his side. The Dolphins and Cardinals weren’t exactly regarded for their defensive stars, although having guys like Patrick Peterson, Chandler Jones, and JJ Watt on your side isn’t exactly something to scoff at.
Yet, aside from those ‘what-if’ scenarios, it seems very clear that there should be one obvious choice, and it isn’t the guy who obviously wasn't the choice to lead the Broncos back in 2017.
The Neutral Zone: What do the Broncos need most from their next defensive coordinator?
On this episode of "The Neutral Zone," Phil Milani and Aric DiLalla discuss what traits the Broncos should be looking for in their next defensive coordinator and evaluate some of the reported candidates (13:22).
An overview of the Broncos’ impending 2023 free agents
When free agency begins on March 15, the Broncos will have the chance to supplement their roster with new talent. Before that moment, though, Denver must also decide whether to bring back certain players from its 2022 roster.
Mile High Morning: Denver Broncos ranked in top 10 in The Athletic’s NFL franchise rankings
Although the Broncos have fallen on tough times in recent years, the franchise’s overall track record still places it among the league’s best in history.
Agent's Take: Aaron Rodgers, Joe Mixon among 15 players who could be on new teams via trade, as cap casualty - CBSSports.com
Rodgers and Derek Carr lead a list of QBs who could be wearing new uniforms in 2023
NFL free agency 2023: Ranking top 25 offensive free agents as QBs dominate list of players likely available - CBSSports.com
Lamar Jackson headlines a solid crop of free agents on offense
Ravens considered Lamar Jackson's previous advice before hiring OC Todd Monken, didn't directly involve QB - CBSSports.com
The QB is still communicating with Baltimore in some respects
Here's why a DeAndre Hopkins trade may be easier to strike for Cardinals compared to last offseason - CBSSports.com
The star wideout could be shipped out of Arizona