Just a year after winning the Super Bowl the Denver Broncos are finding themselves at a major crossroads. Not only did they fail to make the playoff (along with the Carolina Panthers which marks the third time in NFL history that both the winner and loser of the prior Super Bowl failed to make it to the playoff round), but also due to the departure of their head coach, Gary Kubiak. Kubiak announced his departure from the Broncos citing health issues that are forcing him into retirement. Kubiak, known as a strong and innovative defensive mind, had the trust and respect of both the team’s owner, Pat Bowen, and their General Manager, John Elway. Finding a replacement f Kubiak won’t be easy and the following considerations and coaching options will likely weigh heavily on the decision process for both Bowen and Elway.
The State of the Broncos in 2016 and Beyond
When the Broncos won the Super Bowl they did so due to the strength of their defense. Von Miller and Demarcus Ware teamed up to form a formidable duo at defensive end and the team had a strong retinue of cornerback. Peyton Manning, for all of his career accolades, was a hindrance to the Super Bowl winner rather than a help, and retired after the Super Bowl victory. The Broncos did not sign his backup, Brock Osweiler, who failed to produce for his new team (Houston Texans). While not retaining Brock may have been the smart decision for the Broncos, his replacement, Trevor Simian did not succeed either and the Broncos are still looking for a replacement for Manning. While the lack of a strong signal caller was the major downfall of the Broncos in 2016any coach will need to make sure that the team’s defense remains the strong status that it had in 2015 and 2016. Further departures in free agency are likely and Demarcus Ware continues to age though he has already announced that he will not retire yet and will rejoin the team next year.
The poor performance of the Broncos’ offense may lead the team to look for an offensive minded coach who can quickly turnaround the team’s offense and leverage off of their strong defense. Sean Payton, the current coach of the New Orleans Saints does not appear to be on the hot seat in New Orleans due to their earlier Super Bowl Victory. Still, after three years of not making the playoffs, there have been rumors that Sean will be available for a couple of draft picks. Payton is well-regarded as an innovator on the offensive side of the ball who can create points with his innovative schemes. While Payton has benefited from the performance of Drew Brees, his skills as an offensive coach are well-known and likely to contribute heavily to the Broncos.
Chip Kelly was just fired from his position as head coach of the San Francisco 49er’s after a one-year tenure there. This firing comes after he was fired as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. While these back-to-back firings are leading many to believe Chip is done as a head coach in the NFL, his success as a great innovative mind both with the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA and with the Eagles may make him the right fit for the Broncos. Further, Chip’s firing in Philadelphia was also related to his overreach from a personnel standpoint which is unlikely to reoccur with a strong GM like John Elway at the helm.
Hiring a coach that is over 70 years old may seem like a long shot for an NFL team, but Coughlin is a well-regarded two-time Super Bowl winning coach and has expressed a desire to return to the NFL coaching world. The Broncos are a win now team with a mature defense and would benefit from the discipline that Coughlin would provide to the Broncos. Coughlin is a proven winner and disciplinarian who can help to firm up a talented Broncos defense.
The 2017 Denver Broncos appear to have sufficient talent on their defense to regain a playoff spot with the addition of the right coach. Elway and Bowen ha big decision ahead of them regarding who will coach the Broncos in 2017 and beyond. An offensive minded coach appears to be the right choice or the Broncos who can use their schemes and experience to complement their vaunted defensive unit.