Black Monday is here, and now there are eight NFL head coaching vacancies. Broncos fans finally got their wish as Vance Joseph was relieved of his coaching duties after going 11-21 in two seasons.
But now the work begins. Who will John Elway replace him with? Here is our short list of actual candidates and a few darkhorse hopefuls.
Denver Broncos Head Coach Short List – A Name You Might Not Expect
John Harbaugh – HC, Baltimore Ravens
This is a pipe dream for Broncos Country, and one that probably won’t happen, but coaches have been traded before, just ask Jon Gruden. As it stands, Harbaugh is under contract for another season, has just led his Baltimore Ravens to a division title, and has been offered a contract extension by the Ravens organization. There have been reports, however, stating that Harbaugh has not signed his extension and may choose not to do so, leading some to believe that the Ravens would look to trade him or mutually part ways, as opposed to having an awkward last year of marriage before the divorce is finalized.
If this does come to fruition, and the Ravens deem a trade as the way out for Harbaugh, they will likely ask for a King’s Ransom. Hell, the Bucs gave two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and $8 million to get Gruden.
We could even see a monumental trade package that would include Harbaugh and current backup QB, Joe Flacco.
A sideline that is comprised of John Harbaugh as HC, Gary Kubiak as OC, and potentially Todd Bowles as DC has a nice ring to it. A lot would have to happen, and how much would John Elway and the Broncos be willing to give up?
Very unlikely, but Broncos Country can dream, right?
Vic Fangio – DC, Chicago Bears
How smart is Matt Nagy for ensuring that Vic Fangio stay on his staff when he was hired to be the head coach of the Chicago Bears? Extremely smart. The Bears went from last in the division to first in a single season and have a defense that resembles the ’85 Bears team.
If you want a guy with experience, look no further than Vic Fangio. Yet to have a head coaching gig, Fangio has been a defensive specialist since 1979, holding the title of defensive coordinator for most of those years. Seeing what he has done with the Bears defense, it is easy to see how he would be a great fit in Denver.
The Broncos won Super Bowl 50 on the backs of the defense, and Fangio would go from coaching Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd, to coaching Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. The Bears run a 3-4 defense, and the Broncos are built to run a 3-4 defense. The Bears are built to get after the quarterback, and the Broncos are built to get after the quarterback. The similarities and fits are there.
It is being reported that the Broncos have already requested an interview with Fangio, so the wheels are already turning.
Dave Toub – STC, Kansas City Chiefs
Every year after Black Monday, Dave Toub’s name pops up on the interview trail as a potential HC, and every year he winds up back in KC coaching one of the top special teams’ units in the league. This year, before the season, Toub was given the additional title of Assistant Head Coach, priming him even more for a future head coaching role.
People always seem to be a bit leery about making a special teams coordinator a head coach, but arguably, this can be the best fit. If, and that’s a big if, they hire stout offensive and defensive coordinators, then they can focus on the operation as a whole and leading the entire locker room. The gentleman mentioned above, John Harbaugh, did it, so why not Toub?
And it would be a little victory for the Broncos to take something from their rival Chiefs.
Nick Sirianni – OC, Indianapolis Colts (My Darkhorse, #1 Candidate)
If you do not know who Nick Sirianni is yet, get to know him. At the ripe young age of 37, Sirianni is a young face but he has been around the coaching circuit for quite some time.
He began his career at the college level as the defensive backs coach for Mount Union in 2004. Since then he was on the Kansas City Chiefs staff from 2009-2012 as the quality offensive control coach, assistant quarterbacks coach, and wide receivers coach. He was with the Chargers from 2013-2017 as the quality offensive control coach, quarterbacks coach, and wide receivers coach.
Before this season, he was hired by Frank Reich as the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts. Not only do the Colts have the 7th ranked offense but Andrew Luck has revitalized his career and is a legitimate MVP candidate while the Colts, who many thought would have a rebuilding year and were probably still a couple of years away from truly competing, finished 10-6 and made the playoffs as the final Wild Card team in the AFC. Now, most of this should be attributed to first-year head coach Reich, but Sirianni should receive his fair share of praise, too.
While a gamble, a Sirianni hire would have the feeling of the Sean McVay hire by the Rams a few years ago (a home run no doubt). Sirianni comes from a football family, his father and brothers were and are head coaches. He grew up around the game. He has influence from multiple coaches and coaching styles. He is a tremendous offensive mind and has worked with perennial quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Andrew Luck.
John Elway stated that he wanted experience in his Monday morning press conference. Sirianni may not have head coaching experience, but he has plenty of football experience and would be a breath of fresh air in the Mile High City, my top choice for the gig.
If Sirianni is hired, look for him to go after highly experienced guys for his coordinator positions. Maybe a Todd Bowles or Chuck Pagano for DC, and Kubiak could be in the mix for OC. Another name to look out for, Shane Steichen, current Chargers QB coach who was originally reported to get the Colts OC job last season and has worked with Sirianni.
Mike Munchak – OL Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Mike Munchak was a first-round draft pick back in 1982. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time First Team All-Pro, as a player. As a coach, he has done tremendous things as an offensive line coach with the Oilers/Titans, and currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had a short stint as Heach Coach of the Tennessee Titans from 2011-2013 that saw him go 22-26.
This would not necessarily be a flashy hire, but Munchak certainly has experience and he would bring stability. The hope would be for him to bring in a strong DC, and then a flashy, adaptable OC that could mold the offense to the current times.
Munchak may not be the guy that Broncos Country thinks it needs, but the stability he would bring could be good.
Brian Flores – DC, New England Patriots
Brian Flores is a name that keeps floating around as a possible head coaching candidate, and it is being reported that the Broncos have already requested an interview with him.
Another young candidate, 37, Flores has been coaching since 2004. His entire coaching career has been with the Patriots, this year being his first as a coordinator. For me this is troubling. As great as Bill Belichick is, his coaching tree is awful, to put it nicely. Coaches have tried to replicate what he has done but have been largely unsuccessful. We all know how it worked out the last time the Broncos hired a former Patriots staffer.
While stability and continuity are good, when hiring a first-time head coach, you want someone that has been able to experience different coaching styles, take different things and experiences and then mold those into their own style. There is no denying that Flores is a good football mind and will no doubt get his chance to be a head coach one day, but with his only experience coming from Belichick, and the history of The Hoodie’s tree, Broncos Country should hope that his head coaching career does not begin in Denver.
Jim Bob Cooter – OC, Detroit Lions
JBC’s days may be done in Detroit. After being promoted to Offensive Coordinator by the Lions in 2015, Matthew Stafford and Co. saw an uptick in offensive production. The same could not be said this season, and the offense became stagnant.
JBC is young, 34, and so he will learn to adapt his coaching ways. After the season the Lions had, he is probably low on the head coaching list, but he may still be on there as he does have ties with the Broncos organization. In 2013, he was the offensive assistant, when Peyton Manning and the entire offense had their historic season.
A fresh start could be good for JBC, if not as head coach of the Broncos, look for him to be a name in the running for the OC job.
Kliff Kingsbury – OC, USC
After being recently fired by Texas Tech, Kliff Kingsbury was just hired as the offensive coordinator of the USC Trojans, but this doesn’t mean he wouldn’t answer the door if an NFL team came knocking.
If the Broncos want an offensive minded coach that runs a scheme that is more congruent with the times, then look no further than Kingsbury. Kingsbury was the head coach of Texas Tech for five seasons where he led one of the nations top offenses every year.
What is more interesting is his ties with current Broncos QB Case Keenum. While Keenum is not the quarterback of the future, he is still on the books for next season, and unless a wild trade happens, will most likely be slated as the starter heading into minicamp pending the draft.
During Keenum’s time at Houston, Kingsbury was his OC/QB coach. During his tenure, Keenum became, and still is, the leading passer (yards) in collegiate history. Can he help Keenum replicate this in the NFL? Not to that extent. But would he be able to utilize the strengths that Keenum has and get the most out of him? Certainly.
Oh, and there is the little note that Kingsbury also coached Patrick Mahomes in college, who is single-handedly changing the way the QB position is played. Just food for thought.