Last Sunday, our defending Super Bowl champions missed the playoffs and their coach, Gary Kubiak, resigned from his post, due in part to health issues. Now the question is, who’s going to be the 16th head coach in the Broncos’ franchise history? Whoever it is will inherit a team with deep defensive prowess and, of course, equally deep offensive problems. Here’s a look at the current front-runners:
Kyle Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
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The son of the winningest coach in Broncos’ history, Mike Shanahan, is set to interview with the Broncos on Saturday, although he’s also scheduled to talk with the Jaguars, Rams, and the 49ers. It wouldn’t necessarily be a case of nepotism if Shanahan landed in Denver—John Elway reportedly doesn’t have a good relationship with the elder Shanahan, despite their on-field success. In fact, the younger Shanahan stands on his own legacy. The 12th-year NFL coaching vet has built the Falcons’ offense into the top-ranked attack in the league, while also helping quarterback Matt Ryan mature into a leading MVP candidate.
Shanahan’s high-powered, West Coast-style offense would be an attractive fit in Denver, but Broncos nation might be leery of falling for an offensive coordinator with no head-coaching experience who’s mentored an elite quarterback; it’s too reminiscent of the Josh McDaniels experiment. And the 37-year-old Shanahan might be hesitant to start his first top job in the considerable shadows of both Elway and his own father. His interest also probably hinges on what he thinks he can do with the Broncos’ two-headed question mark at QB.
Vance Joseph, Defensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins
Another high-demand candidate—the former University of Colorado Buffalo has scheduled interviews with the Broncos, Chargers, and 49ers—Joseph is known as a young, energetic, and well-rounded coach. He also has an “in” with the Broncos, as he was reportedly the runner-up when the team hired Kubiak in 2015, has a close relationship with executive Matt Russell, and coached with several current Broncos’ assistants when Kubiak was in Houston.
Joseph’s defense was a big reason why the Dolphins made the playoffs this year, but that background could mean sayonara to Wade Phillips, who has been the glue of the intimidating Denver defense the past two seasons and has an expiring contract.
Dave Toub, Special Teams Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Although he seems like a dark horse candidate compared to Shanahan and Joseph, Toub is scheduled to interview with the Broncos and the Chargers and has been getting league-wide buzz for the first time. The 54-year-old coach made a name for himself during his 13-year tenure with the Bears from 2004–12, where he built an explosive unit headlined by the likes of star returner Devin Hester.
He’s since done the same thing with the Chiefs, and after being considered for the Dolphins and Bears gigs in recent years, Toub appears poised to take his career to the next level. But while he and other special teams coaches have been garnering more interest for head coaching jobs around the league, there’s a perceived risk in hiring a guy who’s spent his entire NFL career only coaching special teams. Having said that, the list of NFL head coaches who started out running special teams includes John Harbaugh, Bill Belichick, Mike Ditka, Bill Cowher, Marv Levy, and Dick Vermeil.
Other Potential Candidates
Stanford head coach David Shaw has been rumored to be in the running, as has Oakland Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, and Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay, a 30-year-old who has been at the controls of an escalating Redskins offense this season and, if hired, would become the youngest head coach in NFL history.
Shaw has proven that he’s capable of inheriting big-time expectations and then delivering on them. Musgrave helped turn Derek Carr into an All-Pro and could wield the same magic again with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, the Bills interim coach Anthony Lynn, and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell are also expected to be in the running.