Who will be the next Broncos coach?

Denver Broncos v Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

Of the three current head-coaching openings for 2023, the vacancy in Denver has become the most intriguing.

The Broncos have brand-new ownership with unlimited financial resources. They have a loyal and dedicated fan base that is starving to end a record seven-year stretch of no playoff appearances since the most recent Super Bowl win.

It’s common for teams who have fired a coach to look for a replacement who is, in one or more ways, the exact opposite. For the Broncos, it becomes critical to avoid hiring a coordinator who has never before been a head coach, given the dramatic differences between the two jobs — and the simple reality that it’s impossible to know whether a competent coordinator can be an effective head coach until landing in that job.

The Broncos surely won’t want to roll the dice on another coordinator who has never been a head coach. They’ll likely look for candidates who have coached successfully, at the NFL level.

Obviously, Sean Payton is the current A-list white whale. But he’ll come with a requirement to compensate the Saints. Setting aside Payton and other current head coaches with other teams (such as Mike Tomlin), here’s a list of potential head-coaching candidates who have shown that they can coach at the pro level, and who are currently available for no compensation other than their paychecks.

The list is alphabetical.

Jim Caldwell: Caldwell led the Colts to Super Bowl XLIV, and he had the chronically dysfunctional Lions moving in the right direction before being replaced by Matt Patricia.

Bill Cowher: He last coached in 2006, a year after winning Super Bowl XL. After lingering on the fringes of returning for several years after that, he settled into his TV role with CBS. It’s believed at this point he’s never coming back.

Tony Dungy: The Hall of Famer retired after the 2008 season, two years after winning Super Bowl XLI. Could the Wal-Mart moguls make him an offer he wouldn’t refuse?

Jason Garrett: He coached America’s Team for nine-plus seasons. He co-existed with an owner so meddlesome he made himself the G.M. His teams competed, making it to the playoffs three times.

Brian Flores: He’d be an intriguing option. However, he has a pending lawsuit against several teams, including the Broncos. And the Broncos reacted strongly to his allegation that he received a sham interview from team representatives who were “disheveled” and who appeared to have been “drinking heavily” the night before. While that was a different Denver regime, it could be hard for new ownership to overlook it.

Jim Harbaugh: He won immediately and consistently in San Francisco, and he still wants another crack at the unfinished business of winning a Super Bowl. Plus, he competed against quarterback Russell Wilson during the first three years of his career. That could help Harbaugh understand how best to deploy Wilson now.

Gary Kubiak: He’s retired, but he was retired when he became the Denver coach in 2015 — winning a Super Bowl in his first year on the job.

Marvin Lewis: Lewis took the Bengals to the playoffs seven times, despite the challenges inherent to leading a team that has a well-earned reputation for not wanting to spend excessive amounts of hard-earned cash. He has 16 years of NFL head-coaching experience.

Dan Quinn: Quinn had the Falcons on the brink of a victory in Super Bowl LI. His Atlanta teams were consistently competitive.

Steve Wilks: Wilks has limited head-coaching experience, but he’s the kind of tough, hard-nosed, old-school coach the Broncos could use. If the Panthers make the playoffs, Wilks quite possibly will get a chance to stay in Carolina as the non-interim successor to Matt Rhule.

Mike Zimmer: He would definitely be the opposite of Nathaniel Hackett. He’d bring an old-school, Parcells-style approach to the Broncos, and he wouldn’t coddle their franchise quarterback. Frankly, Russell Wilson at this point in his career may need a coach who refuses to tiptoe around the highest-paid player (by far) on the team.

126 responses to “Who will be the next Broncos coach?

  1. With Russell’s ridiculous contract and no draft picks for the next couple of years nobody wants that Headcoaching job. The only way its fixable is finding some way to buy out Russell’s contract because at this point Russell isn’t fixable.

  2. Why would anyone even list Cowher and Dungy? Both have been gone so long that putting them on a list like this is just about the laziest thing imaginable. Can you really not come up with better candidates than guys who haven’t coached in 14 and 16 years? C’mon Florio, you’re one of the most knowledgeable football guys out there, you can come up with a better list than this.

  3. If I were a Bronco’s fan I would want either Payton or Harbaugh. Everyone else is a retread.

  4. Is this list satire? Bill Cowher? Marvin Lewis? Mike Zimmer? Those guys are all well into their 60’s and aren’t even in the league anymore. May as well add Brian Billick, Jeff Fisher, and Chan Gailey to the list to round it out.

  5. I do not think it will be any of the retreads listed. The Broncos will go with young, fresh talent.

  6. I’d imagine that the new ownership will go after a big name and proven coach like Harbaugh, but this isn’t a very desirable job and Harbaugh will have his options if he chooses to come back. Other than Harbaugh, this list is pretty uninspiring considering nearly a third of them aren’t coming back.

  7. most of the sports ‘experts’ in Denver are saying Jerry Rosburg won’t be retained as the HC and maybe they’re right…However, lets wait and see how he does. He has the experience & demeanor the club wants and needs…..? He’s not afraid to make changes…
    As to the above list, the retired will remain retired, the ‘personalities’, ‘problem child’ & ‘broken toys’ aren’t needed, that takes the list down considerably. So from what’s left I’d take Zimmer but I also think the list is incomplete…too be continued.

  8. Every name on this list is a retread in some capacity. I agree it’s a bad fit for Payton because why would he want to inherit Russ? But WalMart could offer him so much $$$ he wouldn’t be able to say no… But he would want control over the 53 and I’m guessing Paton would not give that up, so unless Paton gets fired (doubtful) Payton doesn’t make sense. Quinn would be a decent pick if he brought in a big name OC to help fix Russ. Harbaugh would be interesting since he’s never had much interest in total control and might be able to get something out of Wilson. Of assistants who are out there, Steichen in Philly would not be bad since he is widely credited with turning Hurts from a one dimensional QB into a MVP candidate.

  9. Who wouldn’t want to coach a team with first ballot HOF QB Russell Wilson?

    It would be a dream job.

  10. That said, Mike Zimmer would probably be the best fit on this list though. He doesn’t like throwing the forward pass and Russell Wilson can’t throw it, so it could be a perfect fit. Zimmer could play those 9-6 games he always wanted.

  11. Are you joking with this list?? I mean come on Zimmer? Marvin Lewis? why not list Lombardi too?

  12. The only names missing from this dreadful list are Bill Parcells & Marty Schottenheimer. And one is unavailable due to Deceased but I’d still choose him over half your list.

  13. I see your, Tomsula and raise you a Chip Kelly.

    Harbaugh is probably their best bet, but realize his style has a shelf life of 3 years in the NFL.

  14. I’m not a fan of the Payton move because even though the Broncos are perfectly good on picks, only down their first pick this year and that’s it, I’m hoping they hold onto all the picks they got.

  15. The Broncos owner should talk to the Rooney family. When the Steelers hire coaches, they don’t hire off the flavor of the month list. They’ve only had 3 coaches in the past 53 years. All have won super bowls, and all are Hall of Famers. Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin were not well known “A-List” type coaches. But they were all solid, stable guys. I’m not saying they hired the best coaches, but that’s the point. A solid organization can win with any decent coach. The best coaches in the world can’t win without a solid organization. So, before the new owners get too far down the wrong path, they should be putting the emphasis on what matters. Too many teams hire off the “A-List”. There were 10 new coaches out of 32 teams last year, so we know that way of hiring doesn’t work. They hire a new coach, allow him to come in and gut the roster. Then they fire him after a couple years and a new coach comes in and does the same. The Steelers don’t allow that. They have good management in place that can put together a good roster and a good QB. Good players can win with any coach. Good players can win in any system. In any scheme. I don’t understand how an intelligent new owner who knows nothing about football wouldn’t be talking to Art Rooney. Maybe they are. Let’s hope so. You can’t buy a winning team. There’s a salary cap, so having more wealth doesn’t matter. I hope the new owners prioritize winning. Not all do. If they do, then they should have a chat with Mr. Rooney.

  16. Why would anyone suggest Lezlie Frazer?! He’s a proven DC, and proven NOT a head coach.

    But also as a guy who constantly points out Eric Bienemy not getting a shot I’m surprised you didn’t list him here.

  17. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say nobody and I mean nobody on this list will be the Broncos next HC.

  18. It’s funny how everybody makes fun of Jim Harbaugh until their HC gets fired, then he’s magically at the top of their wish list to be the new guy.

  19. Interesting you keep bringing up Tomlin’s name not for this job but a trade.

    As for Dungy, you know him fairly well at NBC. He’d be interested at least at one point in an executive role. Had the Giants hired him, he’d have made Leslie Frazier their coach. A similar scenario could be in play here.

    This is really a great list. Lets add Del Rio, Tice, Sr Shannahan, Edwards, Mora Jr and Clint to go with Gary.

  20. Some of these potential candidates were clearly (only) includes to generate chatter. Based on the nonsense criteria, perhaps Bruce Arians? Jon Gruden? Hank Stram?

  21. Not understanding why you mentioned Tomlinson. He’s not going anywhere. Not to the Broncos; not to anyone other than the Steelers.

  22. No one except the media likes Brian Flores. His players hated him and he was fired by a black GM in a power struggle. I don’t believe his story about his interview with the Broncos for a second. I’m surprised you didn’t immediately push for Eric Bienemy given his Colorado connections. But that would require mentioning an uncomfortable story. The best candidate on this list is Jim Caldwell by far, but he’s not enough of a woke, showboat, look at me type that the NFL wants. He’s a God-fearing, quiet man of respect. The NFL can’t have that.

  23. Jim Zorn with the classic Rah Rah on to victory Classic cringe stuff. He would fit in great with Russ.

  24. The next coach will be a 1-year scapegoat for the impending release of Russ. They have no chance of a winning season and ownership knows it. They want someone dispensable. Any number of coaches fit the bill, but in the true spirit of the NFL, I think this job will go to Steve Wilks, Marvin Lewis, Eric Bienemy, or yes, even Brian Flores to continue the charade of equality.

  25. In no particular order ( Denver fan of 25 yrs & NFL fan of 65 yrs) Mike Shanahan, Frank Reich, Dan Quinn, Mike Zimmer, Bruce Ariens and Gary Kubiak. Payton & Harbaugh no for reason of cost & having to pay NO in draft picks.

  26. How about hiring a college head coach (yes, I know they mentioned Harbaugh)? Jimmy Johnson, Denny Green and Pete Carroll all transitioned to NFL head coach well. Its worthy of consideration.

  27. The Broncos need to make a statement with their next HC hire. They need to find and hire the best African American candidate out there. Personally I am usually against hiring someone based mostly on race.
    But African Americans are way under represented and there are MANY that are qualified. Time to do the right thing and hire the best, regardless of whether it’s a previous HC or a Coordinator. Denver’s new ownership should show the league and the rest of the world that they are not afraid of advancing the leadership of African Americans in the NFL. Yeah I know that can suck for highly qualified white coaches, but there are too many qualified black/brown men that haven’t been hired. It’s time they are.

  28. Cross Steve Wilks off that list. He will be the next Panther HC. Local guy who has the team doing well.

  29. Urban Meyer. He can bring that pole dancer and sign Tebow to replace Russ and complement his religiousness. God will take them to the promised land (if the barstool dancer won’t).

  30. Why is Brian Flores “an intriguing option”? What’s “intriguing” about him? And after the ridiculous allegations he levied against Elway and company when they interviewed him before, the Broncos (and every other NFL team) would be crazy to even be in a room with him. Why put yourself in the position to be accused of something (which would inevitably happen if he doesn’t get the job)? I agree that listing Cowher and Dungy is just absurd.

  31. charliecharger says:
    December 31, 2022 at 2:49 pm
    The Broncos owner should talk to the Rooney family. When the Steelers hire coaches, they don’t hire off the flavor of the month list.
    Wait and see how long a coach lasts in Pittsburgh without a future HoF QB.

  32. Lets See: Payton should cost what the Bucs gave up for Grudem 2 1st rounders and 2 2nd rounders (not to mention hard cash) which make the Broncos much worse with no ability to get talent (Russ’s persona and wages make it not a destination for FA). Harbaugh will cost what $20, $30, $40 million a year and Colts look like a better option with Irsay giving him final say on most everything, flavor of the moment I was in the stall next to McVay in the can coordinator will all be to weak to get anything out of Russ (if there is anything left), pretty much leaves picking through he pile of discards and failed dreams of once flavor of moment coordinators. I will through in one Bill O’Brien should be out of Saben’s fired head coach rehab program.

  33. Lane Kiffin.

    100% serious. This team needs a forward-thinking offensive mind, and whatever you think about his abilities overall or personality, he can coach offense. I think he could salvage Russell Wilson, which is the key issue with this team, and find a young QB who can do gadget stuff off the bench.

    Hiring a boring old defensive mind is not going to move the needle or give you any wins.

  34. Who was the guy who coached the Texans last year? Perfect bridge coach. No expectations and doesn’t mind getting fired after a year.

    David Culley.

  35. wardo says:
    December 31, 2022 at 3:02 pm
    You forgot Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan.


    Oh man. I forgot Dan Reeves died a year ago. Dig him up and stand him on the sideline. He’ll still be better than anyone that would touch the Broncos job with Wilson.

  36. While talking with Rooney, I suggest listening as well. Haslam and Tepper were in the building and saw first hand the Steeler way.
    Lotta good that did them!

  37. I am surprised no one has mentioned Nick Saban. Goodbye, Russell Wilson. Hello, Bryce Young!

  38. No one on that list but the main qualifications are.
    Someone with an offensive background that can sell the idea he can win with Russell Wilson.
    Someone that can be easily discarded if he fails to win with Russell Wilson.

    I dont expect a big name expensive hire.

  39. Lions OC Ben Johnson will get hired for this job.

    There’s no way Cowher coaches in Cleveland. Even if he coaches again, he’s not going to coach a Steelers division rival.

  40. Bobby Flay!! He can help Russ “cook”! Plus, any coach who is any good at all, wants to stay as far away from this dumpster fire as possible.

  41. The good news for Bronco fans is regardless of who gets hired, they can’t be more clueless than Hackett was

  42. Chip Kelly still wants to prove that he can make it in the NFL. I say that they should give him a shot!

  43. Ryan Day and Harbaugh are going to be popular names batted about for openings. Whether or not they’re true candidates remains to be seen.

  44. Trade Surtain to the Jets for their entire coaching staff.

    As someone who follows the Jets that would be a great trade.

  45. steves11 says:
    Chip Kelly still wants to prove that he can make it in the NFL. I say that they should give him a shot!
    If you look at that Philly team that won the Super Bowl in 2018,… that roster was mostly put together by Chip Kelly.

  46. Denver is going to be forced to take a chance on someone who has nothing to lose and no other prospects. Two things are working against Denver. Russell Wilson is proving to basically be an un-coachablr diva and the Broncos owner wants to be another Jerry Jones.

  47. Tony Awesome says:
    January 1, 2023 at 11:12 am
    steves11 says:
    Chip Kelly still wants to prove that he can make it in the NFL. I say that they should give him a shot!
    If you look at that Philly team that won the Super Bowl in 2018,… that roster was mostly put together by Chip Kelly


    Why couldn’t he win with them?

  48. I think both Bud Grant and Marv Levy are still alive, how about either of them? It makes about as much sense as some of the names Florio tossed out there.

  49. Great article, great list! Reading the comments, it really stirred the pot and bubbled the all of the morons up to the top. Keep up the good work!

  50. Forget the retreads and try to get Jonathon Smith from Oregon State. He turned around a perennial laughingstock and got 10 wins this year. One of the best coaches in college football that nobody talks about.

  51. ackattack22 says:
    January 2, 2023 at 3:39 am
    I think both Bud Grant and Marv Levy are still alive, how about either of them? It makes about as much sense as some of the names Florio tossed out there.


    And Joe Gibbs. He’s tanned, rested and ready (unless Lil’ Danny fires Riverboat Ron on Black Monday and hires Gibbs for Act III and signs him to a 15-year contract as a giant middle finger to the NFL and Jeff Bezos on the way out the door…)

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.