Denver Broncos Head Coaching Carousel Spins Quickly; Who Are the Candidates?

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IJanuary 7, 2011

Denver Broncos Head Coaching Carousel Spins Quickly; Who Are the Candidates?

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    Pat Bowlen gave John Elway the Broncos reigns Wednesday. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski)
    Pat Bowlen gave John Elway the Broncos reigns Wednesday. (AP Photo/ Ed Andrieski)

    In Broncos history, 2010 was a year to forget but never be forgotten.

    Denver's football franchise fell further (and harder) than a boulder breaking off Pike's Peak.

    Practically the only positives were the firing of Josh McDaniels and Tim Tebow's exciting play at the end of the season.

    Out with the old, in with the new.

    Or is it out with the old, in with the old?

    As 2011 was rung in only a week ago, hope was brought back to the Broncos with the hiring of John Elway as vice president of football operations.

    The Duke of Denver is legendary in the Centennial State for his accomplishments on the field. Off the field, he's more of an unknown entity.

    But Elway is a sports celebrity; his football ties run deep, and players will likely want to play under him. He inspires today's players with pep talks and can share personal stories of overcoming adversity.

    But in his first week heading the Broncos, the team seems further from landing their next head coach than they were before Elway's arrival.

    On Monday, Elway seemed to have an ace up his sleeve, acting as Stanford's honorary captain for the Orange Bowl and seemingly sneaking in a chat with the hottest head coaching candidate, Jim Harbaugh.

    But Elway and Harbaugh didn't meet. The head coach was too busy winning his bowl game and talking with Michigan, the 49ers and Dolphins to consider the Broncos a viable option—even with Elway's Stanford connection.

    Other possible coaches initially included Mike Mularkey, Perry Fewell and Gregg Williams.

    Mularkey, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, decided instead to cancel his interview with the Broncos that was supposed to happen Friday. Mularkey said he wanted to focus on coaching and would interview after the playoffs, but he is still going to interview for the Browns head coaching position.

    Broncos GM Brian Xanders, who is working closely with Elway in the coaching search, spoke today about what the men are looking for in their next head coach.

    Xanders explained, “[We're] looking for a leader of men, that drives the whole team forward in a common direction. He needs to fit fans, community, embrace the heritage of the Broncos.

    “John and I want a guy that has done it before but that is not the determining factor. Rivera is on the list. Gregg Williams is on the list—we respect coaches that are driving forward for their teams.”

    And while Mularkey and Harbaugh are no longer being pursued by Elway and the Broncos, Fewell, Williams and Ron Rivera are all possibilities. Also, ex-Broncos coaches Jim Fassel and Rick Dennison have entered the fold.

    John Elway tweeted today at 3:03 p.m. MT, "It’s a very busy and exciting time. Also in the process of refining our candidate list to determine who we'll speak with next week."

    Here's a quick breakdown of each potential next Denver Broncos head coach.

Rick Dennison, Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator

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    DENVER - NOVEMBER 26:  Offensive line coach Rick Dennison and Chris Kuper #73 and Tyler Polumbus #76 of the Denver Broncos look over photos in the bench area during their NFL game against the New York Giants at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 26, 2
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Rick Dennison, the one-time Denver Broncos special teams coach, is another possibility in Denver.

    From the Denver Post today: "I have talked to (Texans' coach) Gary (Kubiak) on Rick Dennison," Elway said on 87.7 FM The Ticket. "And also Gary (Kubiak) was telling us of (Dennison's) interest."

    After playing for Denver from 1982-1990 as a linebacker/special teamer, Dennison was the Broncos special teams coach from 1995-2009.

    Dennison moved on to be the offensive coordinator in Houston this year, helping rookie Adrian Foster become the NFL's leading rusher this season, and Dennison was one of the top candidates the last time Denver was looking for a new head coach, two years ago.

Jim Fassel, UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives Head Coach

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    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 19: Commentator Jim Fassel during warmups as the Seattle Seahawks play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on October 19, 2008 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Jim Fassel, the ex-offensive coordinator of the Broncos back when Elway was at QB in the early '90s, has been rumored to be a candidate for over a month.

    Elway said of Fassel recently, “Jim is a possibility. I know him really well from him being my college coach and for two years here, and he definitely got some experience with the Giants. So, he’s been on the list. We’ve thrown his name around a little bit. So, we haven’t finalized anything on him."

    But Fassel commented that "nothing is set up" and "I haven't spoken to him in a week."

    So Fassel seems less likely than others, a good thing because he's been out of NFL coaching since 2006 (although he's head coached the UFL's Las Vegas Locomotives since 2009).

Lance Guidry, Miami (OH) Head Coach

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    Lance Guidry is a late-comer to the NFL head coaching race, but he is a viable option in Denver.

    Rumors are flying that the Broncos are interested in at least interviewing Guidry as their next head coach, although there are no confirmed reports or interviews scheduled.

    Guidry was hired in 2008 as the defensive backs coach, and he's been promoted to interim head coach to end this season.

    The inspirational video of Guidry hyping up players before the Bowl shows how passionate the coach is for football. The young man is definitely not short on competitive fire, but he's also a relative unknown in the coaching world.

Eric Studesville, Denver Broncos Interim Head Coach

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 12:  Interim head coach Eric Studesville of the Denver Broncos reacts during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Bron
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Studesville has been the interim Broncos head coach since Josh McDaniels was fired after Week 13.

    Before becoming the Broncos' interim head man in 2010, Studesville was a running backs coach from 2001-2010 with the Giants, Bills and Broncos.

    Studesville seemed to gain the backing of his players as he coached the Broncos to a 1-3 record, and he will be interviewed on Sunday.

    But is Studesville the right coach for Denver?

    Elway, Xanders and Bowlen will have to decide.

Dirk Koetter, Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Coordinator

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - 2009:  Dirk Koetter of the Jacksonville Jaguars poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by NFL Photos)
    NFL Photos/Getty Images

    Just before 4:00 p.m. today, Elway broke more news via twitter saying, "Just received permission to speak with Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter. Previously was HC at Arizona State and Boise State."

    Before leading the Jaguars' middle-of-the-pack offense (15th in yards, 18th in points) in 2010, Koetter was the head coach of the Boise State Broncos from 1998-2000 and then the head coach of the Arizona State Sun Devils from 2001-2006.

    Koetter went 26-10 at Bosie State, with two Humanitarian Bowl wins, and 40-34 at Arizona State, going 2-2 in bowl games with the Sun Devils.

    So, while no exact interview date has been released, it will probably happen in the near future like the rest of the candidates.

Gregg Williams, New Orleans Saints Defensive Coordinator

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of the New Orleans Saints talks to the defense from the sidelines during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 31, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    Matthew Sharpe/Getty Images

    Gregg Williams, the current Saints defensive coordinator, has coached in the NFL since 1990 and was the Buffalo Bills head coach from 2001-2003.

    He's got head coaching experience from 2001-2003, but he was only 17-31 in Buffalo and was criticized for conservative play-calling, especially on offense. After heading up the Bills, Williams moved on to the Redskins and made Washington's defense a top-10 squad in 2004 (third) and 2005 (ninth).

    And in 2010, Williams' Saints defense was fourth in the league in yards against (306 per game) and seventh in points given up per game (19.2).

Perry Fewell, NY Giants Defensive Coordinator

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    Perry Fewell is an intelligent football mind and could be Denver's next head man.
    Perry Fewell is an intelligent football mind and could be Denver's next head man.

    Fewell, currently the Giants defensive coordinator, has been in football for 25 years and an NFL coach for over a decade.

    From 2006-2009, Fewell was the Bills defensive coordinator and was promoted to interim head coach for the final seven games in 2009 (3-4).

    His 2010 New York defense ranked seventh in total yards given up per game (310) and 17th in points given up per contest (21.7).

    And as far as defensive coaches go, he's the hot man, as the Browns, 49ers, Broncos and Panthers all requested interviews with him. And according to Adam Schefter, “He interviewed with the Panthers for a long time yesterday, and it supposedly went very well.”

    But the NFL Network is also reporting that Fewell will be in Denver to interview for the Broncos head spot on Sunday, too.

    And with the 49ers locking up Harbaugh for the next five yeas, it increases Denver's chance at landing Fewell.

Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera of the San Diego Chargers looks on against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL Game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 23, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Image
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Rivera is the candidate out there that many Broncos fans want as their next head man.

    As the defensive coordinator of San Diego, Denver got up-close views of Rivera's defenses for years as the Chargers won four straight AFC West titles.

    This season, the Chargers were the No. 1 overall defense in yards allowed per game and passing yards (177) per game, and he's known as the best defensive coordinator in the NFL at present.

    Rivera's aggressive 3-4 scheme utilizes athletic players by maximizing their potential and letting them fly around the ball.

    The Broncos need defense, and Rivera might be the man to revamp that side of the ball and the culture in Denver.

Update: John Fox, Carolina Panthers Head Coach

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 02:  Head coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on January 2, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    As of 9:42 p.m. MT, Mike Klis of the Denver Post is reporting that the Broncos have added Fox to their coaching candidate list as well.

    Fox led the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2003 and the NFC Championship Game in 2005, and he's another defense-first coach.

    His team eventually became the worst in the NFL, but Fox was great earlier this decade.

So John, Who Will It Be?

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    MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 03:  Stanford alum John Elway stands on the Stanford Cardinal sideline against the Virginai Tech Hokies during the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2011 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    No one can say who will be the next Broncos head coach for sure, and it's a positive that Elway is interviewing so many people in order to get the right man for the position.

    The Broncos need to bring in a defensive guy, someone that can transform the devastatingly downtrodden Denver defense as quickly as possible.

    Denver's D was the NFL's worst in 2010, and they haven't been better than mediocre since the Super Bowl days over a decade ago.

    The Broncos have gone through one defensive coordinator after another for nearly 10 years, and now is the time to fix that side of the ball.

    But, Elway is not limiting himself by excluding offensive coaches from the mix as well.

    It sounds like Sunday is the big day in Denver as many interviews are already scheduled, and the Broncos may move on with their next head coach as soon as next week.

    One thing is for sure: Elway is conducting an exhaustive search for who he believes will be the right man for the job, and the man in charge of the Broncos is not in a rush to make a judgment on this vastly important decision.

    So while it may not happen as quickly as some would like, Elway and the Broncos are doing their best to fill the coaching void with a leader, someone who cares about the Broncos tradition and someone that can work with Elway and Xanders in a system of checks and balances.

    Broncos fans should be optimistic, as Elway's determination and focus is on bringing Denver back to prominence in the NFL world.

    Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being the CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is a Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos and NBA Featured Columnist for, the Colorado/Utah Regional Correspondent for and a weekly contributor to

    Rich also heads up PR for K-Biz and Beezy, a Colorado-based rap group.

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