Entering his seventh season leading the Denver Broncos, executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway is in the midst of his third head coaching search. In the previous two, Elway didn’t even need an interview process, as it seemed as if he had his mind made up right from the start.
In 2011, just after Elway was hired, he had his eyes set on former Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox. As the leading candidate throughout the process, Fox was hired after spending over ten hours with Elway, which ended with a trip to Elway’s Steakhouse.
After Fox had left Denver at the start of 2015, Elway made a phone call to a long-time friend Gary Kubiak. As a formality, Elway interviewed other candidates, but in the end, he landed his guy over a dinner in Houston.
Unlike the previous two coaching searches, the 2017 search campaign is entirely different. While there are only three candidates officially on the Broncos’ radar at the moment, there isn’t a clear-cut, obvious choice as there was with Kubiak and Fox.
Additionally, Elway and others—including President Joe Ellis—have selected three candidates that vary so significantly, they nearly cover every basis that any potential head coach could have.
While the top defense regressed in 2016, and the offense had its significant problems, Elway is looking down all avenues to best see how to get the Broncos back on track to contend for world championships.
Here is a look at the three coaching candidates and what they uniquely would bring to the Mile High City.
Kyle Shanahan, Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons
Offense, offense, offense. The Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator would be brought to Denver for one reason: to jumpstart an offense that has struggled the past two seasons.
As an offensive coordinator for four teams since the 2008 season, Shanahan has extracted the most out of the talent on each team. He led Matt Shaub (2009), Robert Griffin III (2012) and Matt Ryan (2016) to their best individual seasons and each a Pro Bowl as their offensive coordinator.
Along with Ryan’s success this year—career best in passing yards (4,944), passing touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1)—Shanahan has built one of the most dangerous offenses in Atlanta this year. Not only are the Falcons the best offensive team in the league this season, but they also have the fifth most yards and points in NFL history.
Shanahan would be brought to Denver to further develop the young quarterbacks, Trevor Siemian and—most notably—Paxton Lynch.
While he’s only 37-years old, his young age might actually work to his advantage. Earlier in the week Elway said, “There’s a lot of young [coaches]out there that have a lot of potential. Bright young guys. Hopefully we can get one of those.”
Additionally, Shanahan has ties to Elway and the organization as he is the son of the most successful coach in Broncos’ history, Mike Shanahan. In Elway’s second head coaching hire of Kubiak, having a personal and professional tie was very important. If it is important in this go-around, then the young Shanahan will certainly have an upper-hand.
Shanahan is scheduled to interview with Denver on Saturday in Atlanta.
Vance Joseph, Defensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins
At 44 years old, Joseph fits Elway bill as “young” in terms of head coaching standards in the NFL. However, unlike Shanahan, Joseph focus is on the opposite side of the ball. The former Colorado Buffalo has been in the NFL since 2005, entirely on the defensive side of the ball. Up until this season (2016) Joseph has exclusively been the defensive backs coach for three different teams.
At Gary Kubiak’s retirement press conference, Elway stated that the number one goal for the organization moving forward was to keep the defense on top. Even with Wade Phillips leading the defense the past two seasons, Elway may want to bring in additional help, starting at the top, to solidify this defense for many years moving forward.
Even though Joseph doesn’t have any direct ties to Elway or the Broncos, it is clear they have an admiration for him. Before Phillips was hired as the defense coordinator in 2015, Denver tried to interview Joseph for the position. However, the Cincinnati Bengals wouldn’t let Joesph interview for the job in Denver, forcing Elway to move to other candidates.
It is widely believed that if Joseph were hired as head coach, the Broncos would bring in a veteran offensive coordinator to take over the offense, potentially former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
If Joseph is hired, Elway would be putting his words in action, riding on this defense for the long haul.
Joseph is scheduled to interview with the Broncos next week. Place and time still to be determined based on what happens with the Dolphins this weekend in the playoffs.
Dave Toub, Special Teams Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs
Not only are special team coordinators typically not considered for head coaching roles, Toub defies nearly everything that Elway has said the Broncos are looking for in their next head coach, yet he is only one of three people they are currently considering.
Toub, 55, is not a young coach and he’s not a coach that is going to have a daily impact in Xs and Os on either side of the ball. However, he does bring attributes that the other two coaches don’t necessarily have.
With 16 years of NFL experience, Toub understands how NFL organizations are run. Current boss, and Chiefs head coach, Andy Reid believes that Toub is ready for a head coaching job and has what it takes to be successful in that role.
Along with being more of a manager and overseer than the other two candidates, Toub has had excellent success with special teams. Not only do the Chiefs have one of the best special teams units in the league this year, led by Tyreek Hill, Toub was the coordinator of one of the best returners in history—Devin Hester.
Toub was the special teams coordinator in Chicago for all but one of the years that the Bears had Hester. With three of his four Pro Bowl’s coming under Toub, Hester was much more successful in Chicago than anywhere else. With Denver struggling in the return game mightily in 2016, Toub could provide a big boost.
Toub is scheduled to interview with Elway and his staff on Friday in Kansas City.