As of Tuesday night, word around the league was that the Broncos were closing in on making a decision regarding their next head coach. Five days later, a report has emerged that they’re basically going back to square one.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports that the Broncos have recently done research on other candidates, in the event that the need to expand their coaching search. One candidate, per the report, is Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.
This isn’t normal. Three weeks after the season ended, and five weeks after the job became vacant, shouldn’t be the time to start doing more research on other candidates.
It’s unclear why the Broncos seem to be spinning their wheels. Does no one (other than interim coach Jerry Rosburg) want the job? Are they not pumping enough Wal-Mart money into the position?
Or are there too many cooks in the kitchen? Do some in the ownership group want one candidate (such as 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans), but others want someone else?
Regardless of the specific reason, the perception is that either they can’t get who they want, or they don’t know who they want.
And the process has to be frustrating for CEO Greg Penner (pictured). Although it’s being sold to multiple reporters as “due diligence,” the fact that Penner got on a plane and went to talk to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh in person — after Harbaugh decided after a virtual interview to stay put — suggests that the Broncos wanted Harbaugh more than Harbaugh wanted the Broncos. Penner is sufficiently skilled in appearances and power dynamics to realize that it looks and feels very different if he goes to Harbaugh than if Harbaugh comes to him.
Despite the narrative they’re pushing to the media, it feels as if the Broncos pursued Harbaugh, Harbaugh said “no thanks,” the Broncos pursued him again, and Harbaugh said “no thanks” again.
There’s a good chance it comes down to money. The Denver ownership group is the richest in the league, by far. It’s possible that the top candidates (however many there may be) are expecting something more than the usual amount of lettuce before taking the job.
It’s a given, for example, that former Saints coach Sean Payton wants at least $20 million per year. How can ownership plausibly claim they can’t afford it?
Driving up the expected price is the fact that the next coach will be tasked with the challenge of trying to fix quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s basically hazard pay at this point.
Penner and the rest of the Wal-Mart moguls are getting a lesson in the hazards of owning and operating an NFL team. Big decisions need to be made, time is of the essence, and perception quickly becomes reality.
Currently, the perception is that the Broncos can’t get who they want, don’t know who they want, or some of both.
Here’s an idea. If the search is indeed languishing, take a careful look at what the Bengals defense does tonight against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, and perhaps consider hiring Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo, even if they’d have to wait two more weeks to interview him.