After a dismal season that left fans disappointed, the Denver Broncos needed a change of culture.
Broncos general manager George Paton knew this and acted upon it. He pulled the trigger on January 9th, firing head coach Vic Fangio the day after Denver’s 28-24 loss to the Chiefs.
“I have tremendous respect for Vic and all he’s accomplished in the NFL,” Paton said in a statement following Fangio’s departure. “Over the past year, I appreciate his partnership, friendship, and the tireless work ethic he demonstrated as our head coach. Vic will continue to have great success in this league, and I thank him for everything he did for the Broncos as well as me personally.”
It’s obvious that the staff and players had an immeasurable amount of respect for Vic Fangio, so moving on won’t be that simple.
While the players mentally process Fangio’s firing, George Paton and his crew are on the hunt to find Denver’s next head coach. Who will it be? The Broncos have interviewed 10 candidates and possibly narrowed it down to less. Today, we will take a look at the top 3 head coaching candidates that the Broncos could hire.
3. Kellen Moore
Coming in at number three on the list is Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The former standout Boise State quarterback was hired as Dallas’s offensive coordinator in January of 2019. Moore was familiar with the Cowboys organization, as he played as a quarterback for them for a year in 2015. He also served as their quarterbacks coach in 2018. In 2018, the Cowboys fired offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after a playoff loss, elevating Moore to the role in 2019. In the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys led the league in yards per game. The Cowboys had a down year in 2020, mainly due to star quarterback Dak Prescott going down with a season-ending injury. However, the Cowboys’ offense still managed to place 8th in passing yards per game that year.
Moore rose in popularity in NFL circles as the Cowboys’ 2021 campaign progressed. The Cowboys led the league in total yards, yards per game, total points, and points per game. They were also tied for 2nd-most passing yards and 2nd-most passing yards per game. With the insane success of the Cowboys’ offense and defense, coordinators Kellen Moore and Dan Quinn had teams rushing to interview them. The Broncos were one of them, interviewing both. As a bonus to his exceptional play-calling skills, Moore is only 33 years old. If the Broncos were to hire him, he would be tied for the youngest coach in franchise history. The Rams took a similar route when they hired a 31-year old Sean McVay as their head coach in 2017. They would go on to make the playoffs in 3 of the last 4 years, making an appearance in Super Bowl LIII. Perhaps the Broncos need a young offensive mind like Kellen Moore to find success in the future.
2. Kevin O’Connell
Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell was an unexpected interview request, but it’s positive nonetheless. O’Connell was hired as the offensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams following the 2019 season, where the Rams missed the playoffs with a record of 9-7. The 2019 season is the only year in Sean McVay’s head coaching tenure with Los Angeles that they have missed the playoffs. The Rams clinched the playoffs at 10-6 in 2020, O’Connell’s first year as offensive coordinator of the Rams. The Rams put themselves in the top 6 in points scored per game in 2020.
O’Connell is also an intriguing candidate due to his experience at quarterback, both as a player of the position and coach of the position. O’Connell was in the NFL for a short while and spent his four-year career with six different teams. While he was on the practice squad for most of his career, he still got the experience he would need to be a coach. In 2015, the Cleveland Browns hired O’Connell as their quarterbacks coach. He spent three years with what is now known as the Washington Football Team. In 2017, he was their quarterbacks coach. In 2018, he was their quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator and in 2019 was promoted to their offensive coordinator. O’Connell has experience working with Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel on the Browns, Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith with Washington, and Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford with the Rams.
With Kirk Cousins being a name to watch for a potential trade, Kevin O’Connell could draw him over to Denver if he were hired for the head coaching position because of their Washington connection. O’Connell is certainly one of the stronger candidates on this list and he would be an excellent addition if Denver elects to travel in that direction.
1. Nathaniel Hackett
One of the more intriguing candidates is Nathaniel Hackett, offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers. Despite the duration of his time as offensive coordinator being spent with future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the implications of hiring Hackett are far greater than any other coaching candidate.
One of the bigger offseason question marks is Aaron Rodgers’s future. If you can remember the 2020 offseason, Rodgers wanted out of Green Bay and wanted to find a new home for the 2021 season. He ended up returning to Green Bay as a ‘last dance’ type of situation. However, following the Packers’ playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, questions remain about Rodgers’ future in Wisconsin. If the Packers’ offensive coordinator were to be selected as Denver’s next head coach, it might increase the likelihood of a Rodgers acquisition.
It’s also worth noting that Packers quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy is being interviewed for Denver’s head coaching vacancy. Hackett could end up hiring Getsy as offensive coordinator if he is ultimately hired as head coach. Usually, position coaches don’t instantly upgrade to head coach, which is why there could be an ulterior motive for Getsy being interviewed.
George Paton could have an elaborate plan to grab some of the Packers’ staff with the intent of attracting the legendary Aaron Rodgers to the team. Green Bay’s head coach, Matt LaFleur, states that Hackett is the “glue guy.”
“[Hackett is] so intelligent, knows everything that’s going on, whether it’s in the O-line room, quarterback room, tight ends, running backs, doesn’t matter,” LaFleur said. “I know this: we wouldn’t be where we are today without him.”
Denver has currently interviewed 10 intriguing head coach candidates. According to Broncos reporter Mike Klis, they could have possibly narrowed it down to 4 finalists: Dan Quinn, Nathaniel Hackett, Eric Bieniemy, and Kevin O’Connell. A change of culture is what Denver craves right now. Bringing in an offensive mind like Hackett or O’Connell could be just that. In addition, they could bring along with them a top-tier quarterback. Even if Denver doesn’t go in the direction of an offensive mind and decide to bring Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who is currently the betting favorite, George Paton has an elaborate plan and he knows what he’s doing.