The clock is ticking on the NFL’s five head-coaching vacancies. As is often the case, one will make a hire and then the others will follow, often quickly.
Some believe that the Broncos could go first, as soon as Wednesday. They were very impressed by 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who can’t be hired by anyone until his team’s current season ends. Former Stanford coach David Shaw also has emerged as a very viable candidate.
Sean Payton looms over multiple jobs. The prospect of Payton waiting a year has begun to gather some momentum. As of wild-card weekend, we reported that it was a 50/50 proposition Payton would take a job this year or wait for 2024.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn also interviewed for the Denver job. He coached the Falcons for six seasons, taking them to Super Bowl LI. It’s believed that he’d bring former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell with him. Whether former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is on board with that possibility isn’t known.
Shaw has ties to Broncos limited partner Condoleezza Rice. During Shaw’s time at Stanford, she’d help Shaw with recruiting. Recently, Mile Klis of 9News.com identified Shaw as a potential “sleeper” for the job.
Shaw, 50, has NFL experience as an assistant, and he spent 12 years as the head coach at Stanford. Another former Stanford coach with NFL experience as an assistant became coach of the 49ers at age 47. His name was Bill Walsh. Other former Stanford coaches who excelled in the NFL include Dennis Green and Jim Harbaugh.
The Broncos have had three straight head coaches who won the job with no prior head-coaching experience. The most recent coach, Nathaniel Hackett, was a disaster.
While many think the Broncos will now lean heavily toward hiring a former NFL head coach, Shaw’s experience running a major college program for a dozen years could be seen as just as good as NFL head-coaching experience, especially since (unlike recent former college head coaches who failed quickly in the NFL), Shaw has nine years of experience working with NFL teams.
The connection to Rice should not be overlooked, given that she has been directly involved in the interviews with the Denver coaching candidates. Familiarity always helps when rolling the dice on a head coach, and Rice has plenty of it with Shaw.
At a time when the football program needs stability and calm, the fact that Rice has a comfort level with Shaw becomes a real advantage — especially since the rest of the brand-new ownership group has zero experience when it comes to picking a head coach.
As one executive with another team recently explained it to PFT, owners often become overwhelmed with the head-coach hiring process because, despite whatever success they may have had in other lines of work, they ultimately don’t know what to look for when hiring a head coach.
If the Walton-Penner group has seen fit to include Rice as an owner and to involve her in the process, her voice could resonate when its time to make a choice, since the rest of the ownership group won’t even begin to be able to fashion arguments against Shaw or in favor of someone else. Thus, if Shaw is good enough for Rice, Shaw may end up being good enough for majority owners Greg Penner, Rob Walton, and Carrie Walton Penner and limited partners Mellody Hobson and Sir Lewis Hamilton.