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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos open the 2022 season with the fourth different head coach in a seven-year period, so it’s not like they’ve not done this whole look-for-a-new-leader thing before.
But this is the first search conducted by general manager George Paton. And whether he’s looking for fist-pumping, worn-out enthusiasm or a quarterback guru or a CEO or all of the above is still unknown. The one word he kept using again and again this week was “leader,” and the Broncos had asked to interview nine candidates across seven teams as the sun rose Tuesday morning.
“Quality # 1 is leadership,” Paton said earlier this week. “We are looking for someone to lead this whole organization, to lead this community and to lead our players. That is the No. 1 trait we are looking for. It is clear that we want the best football coach. I am not worried about which side of the ball and I’m not worried about a playcaller. We want leadership. That’s our No. 1 priority. “
The Broncos have formally asked to interview New England Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and Packers quarterbacks coach / pass game coordinator Luke Getsy.
Many in the league believe the Broncos will also interview Doug Pederson, who won a Super Bowl as the Eagles’ head coach, in the coming weeks. But Pederson is not currently with a team – he is expected to interview the Chicago Bears – so the Broncos can interview him at any time.
Of the group they’d asked permission to speak to, Quinn is the only former NFL head coach (43-42 in five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons), while Moore is the only full-time playcaller on the offensive side of the ball – Packers coach Matt LaFleur charges Hackett and Getsy cold plays during preseason matches. Quinn, Glenn and Gannon are currently defensive playcallers.
All five assistant coaches from the offensive side of the ball are currently working on a version of the West Coast offense, including three of the candidates in the Packers ‘and Rams’ versions, who have direct ties to form Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. Ram’s coaches Sean McVay and LaFleur were both on Shanahan’s Washington staff and use a healthy portion of Shanahan’s playbook in what they do.
The Broncos’ last Super Bowl victory, to end the 2015 season, came under longtime Shanahan assistant Gary Kubiak. It was also the team’s last playoff playoff appearance, and they have not had a winning season since Kubiak’s 2016 team finished 9-7.
Pederson had also run a version of the offense in his time as a playcaller and head coach.
Paton appears to have made a conscious decision among the nine requests to move away from 63-year-old Vic Fangio. Bieniemy is the oldest, at 52, of the nine assistants the Broncos asked to interview with Quinn at 51 and Glenn at 49.
And no matter who Paton finally chooses, after all is said and done, a plan to repair the Broncos’ clumsy attacks is definitely at the top of the list. The Broncos have not averaged more than 23 points per game since 2014 and have not averaged more than 21 points per game since 2015 with three seasons (2021, 2019 and 2017) where they averaged less than 20 points per game .
“The offense – we have to upgrade the offense, we know that,” Paton said. “Whoever we talk to, they need to have a plan for our offensive line. If they are a defensive-minded coach, they need to talk about their plan – their offensive coordinator and his coaching staff and what his vision is with our staff. Everything what goes into it.Attack is of course a priority, but we do not want to take a step back in defense.We also need to lift special teams.We need someone to take over the whole operation and not just be focused on the one side of the ball, although we really need to upgrade on that side of the ball. “
Paton has worked with several of the candidates before, including especially Quinn with the Miami Dolphins and Gannon with the Minnesota Vikings.
Broncos CEO Joe Ellis used the words “energize” and “inspire,” so it’s clear the team wants little more than a football coach diving into the Xs and Os. It wants a tactician who can look good and enthusiastic about the job with more than a few wins.
“I think, from my point of view and from George’s point of view, we need a leader who inspires,” Ellis said. “I think our fans are looking for it and I think everyone can feed on it. George was talking about someone who has a high level of football refinement along with leadership and I think together these two components will inspire people and we should get better. “
Of the previous five head coaches since Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season, only Kubiak and John Fox had head coach experience. Josh McDaniels, Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio were first-time head coaches – at any level – and none of the three lasted longer than three seasons as McDaniels did not even hold two.
Mayo, an eight-year veteran who plays, is the latest to coach the group. He has been on the Patriots’ staff for the past three years after working in finance for a health care company after his playing career ended.
Glenn, Bieniemy, O’Connell and Moore all played in the league before beginning their coaching careers. Glenn played 15 seasons and was a three-time Pro Bowl picker, while Bieniemy had a nine-year playing career with three teams.
“We’re looking for a leader,” Paton said. “Vic was a really good leader, but we’re looking for someone to lead the whole operation. Vic was a great coach and I loved working with him. I loved what he did on the defensive side of the ball. Vic did a lot for “This organization. We do not want to take a step back in defense, but we want to upgrade the other phases of the ball. I can not say leadership enough. We are just looking for the right leader for this organization.”