Some ignominy occurred this past Monday, when the Broncos’ Nathaniel Hackett became just the fifth coach since the 1970 merger fired before the end of his NFL first season. While the entire season in Denver has been a disappointment, there’s no moment as bad as losing, 51-14, to a morbid Rams’ team being led now by Baker Mayfield.
An embarrassing performance, a terrible season, one that could only end by firing the coach.
According to NFL odds, Denver is a two-touchdown underdog Sunday in Kansas City, against a Chiefs’ team it hasn’t beaten in forever.
There is new ownership in Denver, with a passionate fan base and one of the best defenses in the NFL. Which new head coach is most likely to land the position? Some of the candidates…
Dan Quinn (-110)
Dan Quinn, the Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, is the odds-on choice, as per NFL coaching odds. He is a good coach, having done a great job with the Dallas defense, especially Micah Parsons. So, the idea of Quinn with the skill on the Broncos defense is appealing.
Quinn was also on the staff in Seattle when Russell Wilson was there. He wasn’t working with Wilson, but as the defensive coordinator, he worked against Wilson in Seahawks’ practice, knowing him well. This may translate into a better relationship than Wilson had with Hackett.
Quinn’s had head–coaching experience (see Atlanta’s blown lead in Super Bowl LI), something the previous three Denver hires (Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett) did not have, and none of them lasted beyond a second season. Going with experience may be preferred.
NFL Sean Payton (+500)
There’s never a coaching vacancy without former Saints’ coach Sean Payton’s name attached to it. He is said to want to get back into coaching, with a team that has a quarterback and isn’t a total rebuild everywhere else. The Broncos seem to tick those boxes, unless what’s happened with Russell Wilson scares Payton.
One other issue about a Payton head-coaching acquisition is the compensation that would be due to New Orleans. Denver has a No. 1 via the 49ers, through the Dolpxhins’ trade (Bradley Chubb). They don’t have a No. 2, meaning the Saints would likely demand that first-rounder.
Does Payton want to take over a team with issues that won’t have a pick until the third round?
Shane Steichen (+1200)
Another offensive-minded coach is Shane Steichen, the current offensive coordinator in Philadelphia. At just 37, he is the opposite of Caldwell, as in young, unproven and a coach of the future. He was the offensive coordinator with the Chargers when Justin Herbert won Rookie of the Year, and he has been a big part of Jalen Hurts’ emergence.
The one thing working against this move is that Steichen is expected to be a hot commodity in the market, and he may have more than one offer. Would he choose the Broncos?
He’s also likely to make a deep playoff run, meaning that he may not be available until February. Would the Broncos want to wait that long? The reason to fire Hackett now, and not in two weeks, is to get ahead of the other teams in hiring. Waiting for Steichen goes against that plan.
NFL Jim Caldwell (+1800)
As with Payton and Quinn, Jim Caldwell has head-coaching experience, and has been successful. He twice took the Detroit Lions to the playoffs, and his coaching tenure as an assistant/head coach also coincided with Peyton Manning’s years in Indianapolis. That’s when Manning won three of his MVP awards.
Manning will have the ear of Bronco ownership and management, and no way he doesn’t endorse a Caldwell hire. One other big reason that Caldwell is a favorite is he’s an offensive- minded coach. A problematic offense with the Broncos, so someone who was Joe Flacco’s quarterback coach when he won a Super Bowl MVP is not bad.
Caldwell is older at 67, and that could work against him. However, the Broncos fully believe they are in a win-now mode, and not rebuilding. So, the longevity of a coaching hire is less important.