Broncos Fire Nathaniel Hackett: Ranking 5 Head Coach Candidates Denver Should Consider, Including Sean Payton

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The Denver Broncos finally made the decision to separate with first-year coach Nathaniel Hackett on Monday after an embarrassing Christmas loss to the Los Angeles Rams. This was a decision that surprised no one, and Broncos owner Greg Penne said in a declaration that the timing of this change allows the franchise to jump-start this new head coaching quest.

Denver went with two defensive minds in Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio before turning to Hackett, the former offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. Obviously, that flyer didn’t work out. Could the results of Hackett’s experiment lead general manager George Paton and new ownership to lean towards someone who was once a head coach? Will they not be afraid to turn to a young up-and-coming offensive coordinator again, or will they opt for a seasoned defensive coordinator with head coaching experience?

Below, we’re going to rank five candidates who could be the next Broncos head coach.

5. Frank Reich

Previous role: head coach of the Indianapolis Colts

reich He was fired by the Colts earlier this season after a 3-5-1 start, but he has gone 40-33-1 as head coach in his five seasons. Reich went 10-6 as a freshman head coach in 2018, but then lost his franchise quarterback as Andrew Luck decided to hang up his boots. This really led to Reich’s downfall, as virtually every Colt that tried the center after that didn’t pan out. Jacoby Brissett went 7-8 in 2019, Philip Rivers gave the Colts just a year before he retired, Carson Wentz was the only one, and Matt Ryan was a huge disappointment.

The former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator has head coaching experience and wasn’t the problem at IndyCar. The Broncos may be interested in him.

4. Shane Steichen

Current Position: Offensive Coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles

The 37-year-old is in his second season as the Eagles’ OC, and is also the full-time caller. Philly has the third highest offense in the NFL and scores more than any other team with 29.7 points per game. The Eagles’ offense may be loaded with talent, but Steichen and Nick Sirianni do a great job planning to open up DeVonta Smith and AJ Brown in the passing game and know how to build and maintain one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL.

Steichen was also the offensive coordinator that helped Justin Herbert win 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year. He doesn’t have the head coaching experience the Broncos could be looking for, but Steichen should be a very hot name this offseason.

Current Position: Defensive Coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers

Ryans is one of the best coaching prospects this offseason. The former Houston Texans Pro Bowl linebacker has risen quickly through the coaching ranks and hasn’t missed a beat despite his meteoric rise. He was a 49ers-only coach, working as defensive quality control coach for one year, inside linebackers coach for three years, and defensive coordinator for San Francisco the last two seasons.

Ryans is a big reason why the 49ers are still one of the best teams in the NFL this season, despite being reduced to third-string quarterback. The 49ers have the #1 defense in the NFL and the #1 defense in scoring as they only allow 15.3 points per game. Ryans is really one of the most intriguing names for me this offseason. Keep an eye on him.

2. Dan Quinn

Current Position: Defensive Coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys

Quinn is expected to once again receive numerous interview requests this offseason, as he commands one of the most talented defenses in the league. The Cowboys don’t statistically have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but they love to pressure the passer, and Quinn is a big reason why Micah Parsons has quickly emerged as one of the best players in the world. Imagine someone like Quinn in control of Denver’s talented defensive unit.

Another reason Denver might be interested in Quinn is because he has head coaching experience. His stint working opposite Russell Wilson as defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks landed him the head coaching job with the Atlanta Falcons. In six years, he went 43-42 and reached the Super Bowl in his second season in 2016.

Something to keep an eye on: By CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson, those in the Broncos organization are hoping that Quinn’s bid for his spot will include bringing Brian Schottenheimer along. Schottenheimer is currently a coaching analyst for the Cowboys and has served as an offensive coordinator for several different teams – including working with Wilson and the Seahawks at the same time.

1. Sean Payton

Current role: Fox NFL analyst

This is the big one. By CBS Sports NFL Insider Josina Anderson, Payton has a strong affinity for the Los Angeles Chargers and Cowboys jobs, with the Arizona Cardinals being considered as well should that job open up. Anderson reports that Payton will likely listen if the Broncos call, but historically, he prefers a strong bond with the general manager.

Payton shocked the NFL world in January when she said she was slow down of his role as head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Virtually no one believes he’s done training and can return in 2023. The former Super Bowl champion has compiled a 152-89 regular season record and a 9-8 postseason record in 15 years. He will be one of the hottest names this offseason if he wants to return to coaching.