Broncos narrow coaching list to a few finalists

Quinn, Gannon, Hackett among strong candidates
Cowboys Saints Football
Posted at 5:48 PM, Jan 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 17:30:43-05

DENVER — After crisscrossing the country from Los Angeles to Providence, the Broncos are moving closer to finding their next coach, trimming the list of 10 to a few finalists.

While the situation is fluid, the plan is to have in-person interviews with more than two candidates this week.

None of the finalists are confirmed.

However, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is expected to be in the group. He has been a slight front runner throughout the process and has attracted interest from six teams. He remains scheduled to interview with the New York Giants on Monday.

Other candidates receiving significant buzz are Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. All of the aforementioned candidates are eligible to hire, with their teams eliminated from the postseason over the past two weekends. There could be more than three finalists, too.

Broncos general manager George Paton said on the team's social media on Sunday that he is seeking a "leader who can inspire and empower." What has followed over the last 13 days has been an exhaustive search with nine in-person interviews and one via zoom with Bengals offensive boss Brian Callahan.

Paton understands the importance of this decision and has promised "to get it right." Stability is required to lift the Broncos from the abyss of six consecutive seasons without a playoff berth and five straight losing seasons. Denver is seeking its fourth coach in seven years following Gary Kubiak's exit for health reasons and the firings of Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio.

When looking to change the culture, energy and attitude cannot be dismissed. Quinn, 51, is caffeinated, coaching with passion and purpose that creates tight connections with players, something lacking under Fangio. Cowboys star rookie linebacker Micah Parsons pleaded with Quinn to stay in Dallas last week.

If the Broncos determine Quinn is the man, they will have to make an offer — it might take five years guaranteed, matching the length of Paton's remaining deal — knowing there could be competition. Quinn, who worked with Paton with the Dolphins in 2005-2006, has been pursued by the Dolphins, Bears, Vikings and Giants. He grew up a Giants fan in New Jersey.

Gannon, a first time defensive coordinator, has emerged as the surprise candidate in this coaching cycle, drawing comparisons to Brandon Staley — a surprise hire by the Chargers a year ago.

Gannon delivered terrific interviews with the Texans and Broncos. At 39, he lacks experience. But he brings a presence and vision for the big picture found appealing by teams looking for a leader of a team, not a specific area. Gannon worked with Paton in Minnesota from 2014-2017 as the Vikings' assistant secondary coach.

Given the Broncos' problems scoring points — 19.7 points per game last season — Hackett could be a fit. The 42-year-old profiles as ready for the next step, and while he didn't call plays in Green Bay, he helped create the game plan and did call plays in Jacksonville. The Packers secured the NFC's top seed and were upset on Saturday.

Hackett has a good relationship with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has advocated for Hackett the past two years. Rodgers, favored to win back-to-back MVP trophies, said he faces "tough decisions" after the playoff loss. The Packers are roughly $42 million over the salary cap. The Packers reworked Rodgers' deal to get him into camp last summer, giving him more control over his future now. He has indicated he would likely make a decision before free agency, which begins on March 16.

For the Broncos to hire Hackett, they would have to trust him, not that he can land Rodgers. But it wouldn't hurt Denver's chances if Rodgers seeks a fresh start with a new team.

There are currently eight NFL coaching vacancies with a few expected to be filled this week.