It’s only been a week on the head coaching search front, and the Denver Broncos are already in a conundrum.
Almost immediately out of the gate, John Elway and company identified their initial three candidates: Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. All three of these coaches teams made the playoffs, but the Chiefs and Falcons both had a first-round bye, which allowed their respective coaches to be interviewed this past week.
Denver took full advantage of that, interviewing Toub on Friday and Shanahan on Saturday. However, now the Broncos cannot speak with either coach again until their respective team is out of the playoffs—unless they make the Super Bowl, then Denver can have a second interview the week of January 29. Both teams are the current favorites in their divisional-round playoff games this weekend.
The third coach on Denver’s radar is Joseph, who is not only available for an interview after his Dolphins fell to the Steelers in the first-round of the playoffs on Sunday, but is available for hire immediately.
While this clearly gives Joseph at least a little upper hand on the other two candidates, just how much does it benefit him? Elway’s answer to that question may determine who will be the next Broncos head coach.
If the Chiefs and or Falcons went to the Super Bowl, which is on Feb. 5, the latest that either would be hirable would be the next day, February 6. Joseph is expected to meet with Broncos executives for a formal interview on Tuesday, January 10. Since he could be hired on the spot, that would almost be a month before the other two candidates could be available.
However, while that month would undoubtedly be beneficial, it isn’t necessarily a crucial month for a head coach. The two official events that fall within that month are the East/West Shrine Game (Jan. 21) and the Senior Bowl (Jan. 28). Both events are evaluation games for potential college players. While it would be helpful to have a coach in place for these games, both are very much catered for scouts and executives of teams, so not having a coach wouldn’t be dire.
Additionally, these potential few weeks would have two negative implications. First, and foremost, is it would delay the process of putting together a coaching staff. This becomes even more crucial with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips not under contract after this past season.
Phillips, although he hasn’t officially yet, can talk with any team in the league about signing with them and leave Denver immediately. While Phillips has said he would like to stay in Denver, the longer it takes the Broncos to sign a head coach the more likely it is that Phillips will leave.
It also allows for other top coordinator candidates time to find other teams that aren’t the Broncos. One specific coach that has been linked with the Broncos is former San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy. McCoy is viewed as one of the best, if not the best, candidates to be an offensive coordinator and Denver would at least like an opportunity to bring him in to help their offense.
The second implication is that it would delay the organization’s vision for the future, specifically putting together a plan for what players are the best fit for this team in 2017. Although this is significantly minimized because of the strong role of Elway in this process, not knowing the head coach would still slow things. There would still be time for the head coach to prepare for free agency, which begins on March 9, but, of course, the more time the better.
If this were college, it would be extremely urgent to hire a head coach as soon as possible for recruiting purposes. However, since it’s the NFL, the urgency to bring in a new head coach is significantly lessened.
If Joseph is Denver’s man, make no doubt about it, they won’t waste a minute hiring him, and they likely won’t have much of a choice as he is a candidate for three other jobs in the league. However, if they prefer Shanahan, Toub or an unnamed candidate, Elway and Co. should have no problem waiting.