A third straight losing season and 19-30 overall record pretty much forced the hand of the Denver Broncos’ brass on Sunday as they officially fired head coach Vic Fangio. While the move had been weeks in the making, it sets up quite an inflection point for the franchise with a talented roster trying to figure out their quarterback situation while also dealing with one of the most competitive divisions in the league.
Where do the Broncos go from here? There’s a wealth of options for general manager George Paton to sort through and plenty of directions the front office can go as they look to find the guy who can help return them to the playoffs for the first time since Super Bowl 50.
Dan Quinn, Cowboys defensive coordinator
Few assistants have made an impact quite like “DQ” has on the Cowboys, helping spark an incredible defensive turnaround that has resulted in a division title and trip to the playoffs in Big D. He’s got significant head coaching experience, knows how to call a defense and could probably lure a veteran QB to town to help band-aid the team’s biggest sore spot. He’d also bring a ton of energy to a position that’s lacked it for decades in Mile High.
Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator
Young, offensive-minded coaches are in charge of six of this year’s playoff teams and that’s a trend that is unlikely to slow down anytime soon to the benefit of guys like Moore. A college legend a few states north, he’s gone from people questioning him being promoted too early to somebody who is admired for how he adapts and changes his philosophy from week to week. If Denver wants to bet on somebody who can be the guy not just in 2022 but for the next decade while developing the QB of the future, Moore might tick off all the boxes.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
It’s not often you get to pull a double: bring a local legend back while also hampering a division rival’s coaching staff. Such would be the case in hiring Bieniemy, who starred at nearby Colorado as a player (and later assistant) and is responsible for orchestrating that vaunted Chiefs attack on a weekly basis.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
Daboll has been around the league quite a while and has won pretty much all there is to win as an assistant. He’s been picky about his next move but should be an attractive candidate again this cycle after the continued development of Josh Allen and how he’s helped guide Buffalo to back-to-back AFC East titles. Some in Denver might be at odds with hiring another former Patriots staffer but Daboll has branched out over the past few decades and won in a lot of different ways.
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator
The former first-round quarterback can probably bond with a few notable names in the Denver building during the interview process but his work the past few years in Tampa is the real resume he brings to town. There will be plenty of questions about how much hands-on experience he has given Bruce Arians/Tom Brady’s presence but both speak extremely highly of Leftwich and think he’s ready for the leap.
Todd Bowles, Buccaneers defensive coordinator
While it’s not often you go from one defensive-minded coach to another, Bowles might be one of the rare exceptions having won the Super Bowl as a player, front office staffer and coach. He’s got head coaching experience and while the ending didn’t work out in New York, winning 10 games with the Jets has to almost count double. Given what his defense did to Denver’s division nemesis Patrick Mahomes, it’s an option that makes plenty of sense.
Former Head Coaches
Bill O’Brien, former Texans head coach
O’Brien had five seasons of at least nine wins in Houston, four division titles and a good track record at developing quarterbacks — marks the Broncos would crawl over broken glass to find in their next head coach. While he’s proven to be a bad GM, his track record on the field speaks for itself having been a play-caller for a Bill Belichick team that reached the Super Bowl and a Nick Saban team that reached the CFP national championship.
Doug Pederson, former Eagles head coach
It’s not often you can hire a former head coach with a Super Bowl ring but the Broncos could end this search in a snap of a finger if they settle on Pederson. He did great work managing the QB room in Philly on that road to a Lombardi Trophy and also understands how to complement a creative offense by hiring well on the defensive side of the ball. This figures to be a name in demand and could pair perfectly with one of those big-name QBs that should be available this offseason.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Reports have surfaced that the Wolverines head coach would be interested in a return to the NFL and Denver would be wise to quickly ring up the coach who went to three NFC title games in his first three seasons in charge of San Francisco. He would inherit a better situation than he did with the 49ers in terms of roster and would likely find George Paton a much more compatible figure as GM too. An uncertain ownership situation might scare him off but could also double as an interesting item to note given how Harbaugh is perfectly capable of filling any power vacuum by sheer force.
Troy Calhoun, Air Force head coach
A former Broncos assistant coach, his connection to the Gary Kubiak tree would be a big plus in the eyes of some around Denver. His reputation doesn’t get the reputation it should in league circles given he runs an option offense in the college ranks but he did just turn in his fourth double-digit win campaign at a service academy — something any other coach would be hard-pressed to emulate. His name has surfaced a few times in conjunction with this gig and others in the past… could this be the time where mutual interest works for both parties after 15 years up the road in Colorado Springs?
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.