Monday night brought breaking Broncos news that bucked even the closest observer.
Josh McDaniels, the second year head coach, was fired in Denver with only four games to go in the 2010 season.
Eddie Royal told CBS4 Denver that he was “Kind of in shock” at the firing and the timing.
Kyle Orton said, “You never want to see anyone get fired. The coach worked hard. It's the NFL, but nothing really surprises you. Something had to change.”
What had to change was the ousting of McDaniels in Denver after the once-proud franchise became the laughing stock of the league. But really, no one expected it until the season was over at the earliest.
Bowlen’s hand was forced though, in the wake of “Spygate 2” and as the ultra-loyal fanbase lost faith in their franchise.
Pat Bowlen released a statement after McDaniels’ dismissal saying, “My decision to relieve Josh McDaniels as head coach was not taken lightly…In the end, I was not satisfied with the results and the direction this team was headed. The decision to make a change was extremely difficult but one that needed to be made for this organization and our fans.
RB coach Eric Studesville has been put into the place of power, a lame duck interim head coach that has seemingly no chance of remaining in power into 2011.
So then, less than two years after their last coaching change, who will have the power in the Mile High City in the future?
According to NFL insider Adam Schefter, who has many ties to Denver after starting his journalism career there, “Two to watch in Denver: Vikings HC Leslie Frazier, whose contract is up first week in January, and Air Force HC Troy Calhoun.”
Frazier was given the Vikings head coaching job on an interim basis after Brad Childress was fired a few weeks ago and many believe he will take it on a full time basis Meaning Frazier should be out of the running for the Broncos’ job.
So where does that leave Denver and Troy Calhoun?
Calhoun, the current head coach of the NCAA’s Air Force Falcons, has a long and rich football history.
Calhoun started as an assistant coach with AFA 20 years ago, in 1990, and moved onto Ohio University to be the QBs coach in 1995. Within two years, Calhoun had moved up to the offensive coordinator position, which he held until 2001, when he moved up to Wake Forest University as their OC.
Then, in 2003, Calhoun was brought onto the Broncos’ staff as a defensive assistant and he later worked with both the offense and special teams as well.
In 2006, Gary Kubiak brought Calhoun with him to Houston to be the offensive coordinator and QBs coach, just before Calhoun took the head coaching job at Air Force in 2006. In his four seasons with the Falcons, the team has gone a combined 33-18, with bowl appearances each season.
While there was immediate speculation on NFL Network that Gary Kubiak will be soon fired, and that he will be offered the Broncos’ head coaching decision—what if Calhoun were to become the head man only to bring “Kubee” back to Denver as the OC?
Think about it, Calhoun’s “triple option offense” with Tim Tebow under center and Knowshon Moreno as the main running back? He’s already led Air Force to the No. 1 rushing attack in the nation of NCAA football, what could it do in the NFL?
Plus, he and Kubiak could work on schemes to blend in some of “Kubee’s” old offense that included great use of zone blocking, play-action passing and utilizing the deep vertical game.
Bowlen has historically been in favor of offensive minded head coaches and rumors are persisting that talks between Calhoun and the Broncos are progressing, or at least that the two sides have talked. Then again, Frank Schwab of the Air Force Gazette tweeted earlier, “Let me be clear: Troy Calhoun, from everything I know, has NOT spoken with the Broncos today.”
Plus, no one expects a new head coach to be named before this season is over and Calhoun still has his bowl game to play.
And in any case, Bowlen needs to buck the trend of historically letting his coaches run the entire show as the man that makes all the decisions, coaching and personnel-wise.
The Broncos must have a GM, someone that can work together with the next head coach but not be simply the subordinate—a la McDaniels and Xanders.
Last Friday, John Elway discussed his future as a part of the Broncos, and while it was evident that he wants back into the organization, he said himself that he’s not qualified to be the GM, but he would be confident in being part of a group of people that could select the next GM.
According to CBS4’s Vic Lombardi, Elway and Bowlen were seen meeting Monday night at Elway’s Steakhouse in Cherry Creek and NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi tweeted, “, #Broncos are expected to approach John Elway for a front office position.”
So it seems that Elway may already be in that advisory-type role for Bowlen and the Broncos, and hopefully Elway’s opinion counts when it comes to finding the next GM and head coach.
And what is certain through all of this is that before Bowlen hires a new head coach, he must get the front office together first.
As I hinted at earlier today, maybe Bill Parcells is interested in working in the Mile High City. Of course, that’s more of a pie in the sky hopeful view at this point, but as we continue to learn about the NFL, anything is possible.
And as the Broncos move forward, if Bowlen doesn’t diligently decide Denver’s next head coach, he will find that the fans will be calling for his head instead of the coach’s.
Update: PFT has now explained that Air Force has released a statement saying that Calhoun will stay put in his role as the Falcons' HC. So, where Denver turns now is completely up in the Mile High thin air.
Of course Kubiak is still an option and as are these other coaches.
Top-5 Candidates for the Denver Broncos Head Coaching job
Troy Calhoun—Air Force’s head man that is one of the frontrunners for the Broncos head coaching job. His move from Colorado Springs to Denver would be about an hour long drive.
Leslie Frazier—Was put in charge of the Minnesota Vikings and will likely keep the job if he’s offered it. But, if offered the Broncos job as well, would he think about it?
Gary Kubiak—“Kubee” was once drafted in the mid-80s as Elway’s replacement at the quarterback position. Then, he was Mike Shanahan’s understudy and the offensive coordinator through the Super Bowl years and was actually calling the plays the last time the Broncos were good, in 2005.
John Gruden—Gruden has demonstrated he still knows NFL football very well by his wonderful commentary on MNF. What adds intrigue is that he’s a defensive based coach (the direction that many argued the Broncos should have gone instead of hiring McDaniels) and he is all buddy buddy with Tebow (as seen by “Gruden’s QB camp” in the preseason.
Bill Cowher—Cowher is arguably one of the best coaches of all time. His intensity is unmatchable (McDaniels-like when he took the printout of a play and pushed it into the head referee’s pocket) but he also has the experience of winning a Super Bowl and being a head coach for a long time in the “Not For Long.”
Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist and is actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being a Denver Broncos and Denver Nuggets Featured Columnist for bleacherreport.com, Kurtzman is the CSU Rams Examiner and the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for stadiumjourney.com.