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15 NFL Candidates to Succeed Vic Fangio as Broncos Head Coach

If the Broncos fire Vic Fangio, here's the NFL short-list of names to monitor.

The Denver Broncos sit at 7-7 overall and, while not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, are practically out. The only way they make it is to win three straight and get help from other teams.

I have maintained that the Broncos will have a new head coach if they fail to make the playoffs. Whether or not Vic Fangio is gone remains to be seen, though, because the current math keeps Denver alive for January football.

However, should Fangio not be retained, the question will be who the Broncos should hire as the next head coach. Some will argue for an offensive-minded coach given the offense's struggles, while others may want a coach who is there to oversee the team while the coordinators handle play-calling.

While there's no way to guarantee the next head coach hired will be successful, it may help to understand where the Broncos need better direction.

I don't believe that Fangio has lost the locker room — most evidence shows that players like and respect him. His issues have more to do with game management and his tendency to rely on experience, particularly with the coordinators and at quarterback.

Therefore, if the Broncos are going to search for a new head coach, they should be thinking about not just a good play caller, but somebody who can grasp the big picture, manage the game well, inspire players, and be open to the idea of letting a QB or coordinator with less experience get a chance to prove himself.

With that in mind, let's look at some of the more notable head-coaching candidates this offseason. Some have been talked up a lot, others not so much, and still others have ties to general manager George Paton. Regardless, there's no shortage of potential head coaching candidates if the Broncos do make a change.

Brian Daboll | OC | Buffalo Bills (46 Years Old)

Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll looks on prior to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Highmark Stadium.

Daboll may be the hottest name among head-coaching candidates. He was one of those responsible for developing Josh Allen into an MVP candidate.

Daboll would fit the bill if you want an offensive play-caller to take over. However, he's likely to have multiple suitors, so it's no guarantee the Broncos get him.

Leslie Frazier | DC | Buffalo Bills (62)

Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier walks the field before a game against the Carolina Panthers at Highmark Stadium.

The first of the potential candidates with ties to Paton, Frazier previously served as head coach of the Vikings, but he had no good options at quarterback. It's worth asking whether Frazier could do better with the right QB under center. 

He also has a lot of respect from Bills players. The one downside is his age — should the Broncos pursue a coach in his 60s?

Kellen Moore | OC | Dallas Cowboys (33)

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore on the field before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium.

Moore is one of the youngest candidates getting talked up as a possible head coach. He would fit the mold of Sean McVay, who has done well for himself with the L.A. Rams.

The question, though, is whether Jerry Jones would let Moore go that easily. We've seen this before, back when Jason Garrett eventually got the head-coaching job while showing promise as a coordinator. Who's to say Jones isn't seeing the same thing with Moore?

Dan Quinn | DC | Dallas Cowboys (51)

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium.

The first of the candidates on this list with head-coaching experience, Quinn had a couple of quality seasons with the Atlanta Falcons but was fired in 2020 after five games. However, there is evidence that Quinn's struggles had as much to do with poor team building as it was with coaching.

It's possible Quinn would do better under Paton, who had a good 2021 draft. Plus, if the reports about Russell Wilson being a fan of Quinn are true, he's a potential selling point for Wilson should he be traded. With the right coordinators and QB, Quinn might do better his second time around.

Nathaniel Hackett | OC | Green Bay Packers (42)

Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett talks with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) before their game against the Oakland Raiders Sunday, October 21, 2019 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis.

Hackett, of course, has ties to Aaron Rodgers, who has been the subject of trade speculation. But Hackett has had experience with improving situations elsewhere, such as Buffalo and Jacksonville, when it comes to the offense.

The Broncos don't need a culture overhaul as much as they need fine-tuning, but that doesn't mean Hackett should be ruled out, because he might be the right man to put the Broncos over the top. And while there's no guarantee Rodgers becomes a Bronco, Hackett could be a selling point if the QB is traded.

Greg Roman | OC | Baltimore Ravens (49)

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman during AFC practice at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

Roman has knowledge of creative concepts on offense and is credited with the development of Lamar Jackson. And with Jackson getting injured, Roman showed he could have success with Tyler Huntley, too.

Roman is another candidate who those wanting improvement on offense will likely favor. Given his work in developing QBs who needed it, he could ease people's minds when it comes to the development of a drafted QB.

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Wink Martindale | DC | Baltimore Ravens (58)

Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale during an AFC Wild Card playoff football game against the Los Angeles Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium. The Chargers defeated the Ravens 23-17.
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Martindale is a familiar name to Broncos fans, as he served as defensive coordinator back in 2010. Granted, that was the final season for Josh McDaniels, but Martindale was likely caught in a bad situation.

Martindale's short time in Denver shouldn't dissuade him from accepting an interview, and he has demonstrated with the Ravens that he can get it done as a coordinator. The downside would be his age — he's approaching 60.

Byron Leftwich | OC | Tampa Bay Buccaneers (41)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich (right) leave the game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium.

Leftwich has risen to prominence with his success as offensive coordinator under Bruce Arians. A former NFL quarterback, he wasn't an elite player, but his Jaguars teammates loved him.

Arians has remarked how disappointed he was that Leftwich didn't get an interview in the last coaching cycle. Leftwich may get a closer look this time — after all, his lack of experience as a coordinator (four years) isn't a reason to not consider him.

Todd Bowles | DC | Tampa Bay Buccaneers (58)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium.

Bowles' stint as head coach of the New York Jets didn't live up to expectations, but that team has struggled to right the ship even more than the Broncos. A situation like the Broncos may be appealing to Bowles, given the talent he could work with.

The question, though, is whether Bowles wants to leave Tampa Bay. There are reports the Bucs see him as the successor to Arians. It's fair to ask whether Bowles would rather wait for his opportunity in Tampa Bay than go elsewhere.

Eric Bieniemy | OC | Kansas City Chiefs (52)

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy talks with players after the play during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Bieniemy gets a lot of chatter from media types, particularly because he got so many interviews last year but didn't land a job. It's possible this could be the year he finally gets his shot.

Although Bieniemy isn't the Chiefs' primary play-caller (Andy Reid), he has expertise there. Some have questioned how well he interviews, but perhaps he's learned along the way, will leave a better impression — and prove he can be the man to lead a franchise.

Mike McDaniel | OC | San Francisco 49ers (38)

Atlanta Falcons offensive assistant Mike McDaniel (left) and wide receiver Justin Hardy (16) during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. The 49ers defeated the Falcons 17-16.

If you are a believer in the Shanahan coaching tree, then why not take a look at Kyle's current offensive coordinator? McDaniel is credited with some of the tweaks to the Niners' offense that have fueled the team's recent resurgence.

Given that Kyle has brought McDaniel (who got his start under Mike Shanahan with the Broncos in 2005 as an intern) with him everywhere he went, it's clear he likes what the young coach has to offer. And, as Brandon Staley has shown, just one year as a coordinator isn't a disqualification from being a head coach.

Doug Pederson | ex-HC| Philadelphia Eagles (53)

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a victory against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Though Pederson's stint with the Eagles didn't end well, he does have one thing going for him: Winning a Super Bowl — and doing it with Nick Foles, who history has shown is a backup at best.

Pederson is said to be eager to get back into coaching and might find the Broncos to be the ideal situation, particularly if they find the right quarterback. Some might view Pederson as the least risk-averse candidate out there.

Raheem Morris | DC | Los Angeles Rams (45)

Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris looks on during a joint practice against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Morris was the youngest head coach in the NFL when he was hired to guide the Bucs in 2009. He did have a winning season in 2010, but failed to stick for the long term.

It's fair to ask whether Morris has learned a few things since then and would do better the second time around. He's shown he can get results as a defensive coordinator since his return to the NFL in 2020 and is doing good things with the Rams.

Kevin O'Connell | OC | Los Angeles Rams (36)

Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) talks to offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell during an offseason workout at SoFi Stadium.

If you think a coordinator who has experience working alongside McVay is a good thing, O'Connell enters the picture. He's only been with the Rams for two seasons but may have picked up a few ideas from McVay.

A former third-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2008, O'Connell was viewed as a coach in the making at the time. While he hasn't had a lot of experience as a coordinator, other recent hirings have shown that's not a detriment.

Dennis Allen | DC | New Orleans Saints (49)

New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen serves as head coach as Sean Payton has Covid-19 during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.

Finally, we come to a familiar face for Broncos fans. Allen was named defensive coordinator in John Fox's first year with the Broncos in 2011, called the defensive plays, and was very good at it.

Allen's head coaching stint with the Raiders didn't go so well, but he's continued to show success as a defensive coordinator. Might he be another who does better as a head coach the second time around?

Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMorrisSports.

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