Less than a year from winning the Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos are looking for a new head coach following Gary Kubiak’s reported resignation due to health reasons. Kubiak, 55, missed a game earlier this season after being hospitalized for what the team called a “complex migraine condition.”
Denver beat Oakland at home 24-6 on Sunday to finish 9-7, but out of the playoffs. In two seasons, Kubiak went 20-11 including a perfect 3-0 in the postseason, culminating with a 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50.
Even though the Broncos failed to make the playoffs, there’s no doubt Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager John Elway thinks his team can be a contender once again in 2017. The quarterback position is a big question mark at this point and the offensive line will need to be addressed, but otherwise the defense remains one of the best in the NFL and there’s plenty of championship experience on this roster.
While there are several other head coaching vacancies right now, Denver has to be considered one of, if not the most appealing opening given the talent on the roster and the franchise’s championship pedigree. Elway should have his pick of candidates, it’s just a matter of which direction he chooses to go.
With that in mind, here are some names to keep an eye on.
Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator, Denver Broncos
Elway could choose to stay in house and if he does, Phillips has to be at the top of the possibilities. The NFL lifer, 69, is 82-64 as a head coach (full or interim) for six different teams, including Denver from 1993-94. He’s just 1-5 in the postseason, but he’s been the mastermind behind the Broncos’ defense the past two seasons, and elevating him to head coach would probably be embraced and celebrated by the players.
Joe DeCamillis, special teams coordinator, Denver Broncos
Just like Phillips, DeCamillis would provide a fairly seamless transition because of his familiarity with the team. In fact, it was DeCamillis and not Phillips, who served as interim head coach for the game Kubiak missed in October. DeCamillis has been coaching special teams since 1988 and has worked for six different franchises. He is widely respected across the league and the timing may be right for him to get his first head coaching job.
Kyle Shanahan, offensive coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
Shanahan has not worked for the Broncos previously, but there’s still quite a bit of familiarity. Not only did he serve on Kubiak’s staff in Houston from 2006-09, the last two seasons as offensive coordinator, he also worked with his father, Mike, in Washington from 2010-13. The older Shanahan is the one responsible for bringing Denver its first two Super Bowl titles with Elway as his quarterback. Kyle Shanahan has spent the last two seasons in Atlanta and this season the NFC South champion Falcons were the No. 1 scoring and No. 2 total offense in the league as Matt Ryan made the Pro Bowl and emerged as a potential MVP candidate. Is it time for a Shanahan to lead the Broncos once again?
Vance Joseph, defensive coordinator, Miami Dolphins
Joseph is in his first season as a coordinator, but again there’s familiarity when it comes to him and the Broncos. He work under Kubiak and Phillips as Houston’s defensive backs coach from 2011-13 and was reportedly among the finalists for the job two seasons ago before Elway decided on his friend and former teammate. Bringing on Joseph would seemingly increase the likelihood of keeping Phillips, which would be a wise move considering defense isn’t the team’s biggest issue. Joseph also has additional ties to Colorado as a former Buffaloes player and position coach.
Sean Payton, head coach, New Orleans Saints
For now, Payton is still employed by the Saints, but that could change this offseason as there have been multiple reports regarding the possibility of him being available to another team via trade. Payton’s name has already been connected to the Rams, but the Broncos’ situation would probably be more appealing to a guy who’s already won a Super Bowl himself. Payton would help address Denver’s most glaring issue and essentially get the opportunity to handpick his quarterback (but don’t count on it being Drew Brees, sorry Broncos fans). New Orleans will no doubt aim high in its acquisition price for Payton, but I don’t expect that to be an issue for Elway if Payton is his choice.
One Other Name to Consider...
Mike McCoy, former head coach, San Diego Chargers
McCoy was fired by the Chargers shortly after their 37-27 loss to the Chiefs to finish 5-11. In four seasons, McCoy went 27-37, including 1-1 in the playoffs. After leading San Diego to back-to-back 9-7 finishes in 2013-14, the Chargers managed just nine wins in 2015-16 (9-23) combined. This year’s team was victimized by a lack of lucky bounces, as San Diego lost eight games by seven points or fewer and seemingly found a way to surrender a late lead in any and every fashion you can imagine.
Before leaving for San Diego, McCoy was Denver’s offensive coordinator from 2009-12 under Josh McDaniels and John Fox. Even though that was four seasons ago, there’s still some familiarity with the players and certainly when it comes to Elway (and vice versa). Whether Elway is a fan of McCoy remains to be seen, but unlike some of the other outside candidates mentioned above, McCoy has one thing going for him – he’s available now.
One Name to Forget...
Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots
Kyle Shanahan is one of many young, successful offensive coordinators that figure to get long looks as teams fill their head coaching vacancies. In fact, when it comes to that group, McDaniels is probably at the top of the list given his track record of success in New England and that he’s been a head coach previously.
However, Denver won’t be one of the teams that will be reaching out to McDaniels’ agent. Or have you forgotten how well that went the first time? If you have, let me refresh your memory – 11-17 from 2009-10 before he was fired, tenure best known for trading away Jay Cutler and trading up to take Tim Tebow in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Been there, done that. Don’t hold your breath on Elway bringing McDaniels back to the Mile High City.