The Denver Broncos are off and running in their search for former-head coach John Fox’s replacement, and they are turning both inward and across the league for a coach capable of not only continuing Fox’s success but getting the team over the Super Bowl hump.
Fox compiled a 46-18 record with four division titles and one Super Bowl appearance, becoming just the seventh coach to take two different franchises to the NFL’s title game. But early exits to the Baltimore Ravens in Peyton Manning’s first season at Mile High, an embarrassing Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and most recently a huge letdown to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend have forced the Broncos to seek new leadership.
Team president John Elway first announced current offensive coordinator Adam Gase and now-former defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio as candidates on Tuesday, but Del Rio agreed to become the Oakland Raiders head coach on Thursday.
Gase, who seemed all but locked up by the San Francisco 49ers earlier this week, interviewed with Elway on Thursday. In the last two years as Denver’s offensive coordinator, Gase has schemed one of the NFL’s best offenses in history and helped the 38-year-old Manning prolong his career.
Its possible Gase put himself in the lead after that interview. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Broncos canceled a sit down with Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin scheduled for Friday, and no new date has been set.
Turning the Lions defense into one of the best in the league in one season, Austin’s been a popular candidate for many teams. He met with the 49ers, Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, and Atlanta Falcons but so far no one has hired him.
Austin appears to be the second choice for the Falcons, as they are waiting on Seattle DC Dan Quinn, who Atlanta wants to bring in for a second interview but can’t until after the NFC Championship game Sunday.
However, if Austin manages to move ahead of Quinn in the Falcons rankings, he could bring Gase with him. Austin might ask Gase to join him as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator, a job made easier with Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan and playmaking receiver Julio Jones.
The move to switch sides for the same job he already has would seem like a lateral move for Gase, but it could be a long-term play. Manning’s future in the league could likely last only two more years, a short window for capturing a title, whereas Atlanta’s Ryan is just entering his prime and could move another stratosphere with Gase’s schemes.
After Fox’s dismissal, Elway reportedly told all coaches that they were free to speak with other teams about openings around the league. But in doing so he’s put the team in danger of losing all three of its top coaches, with two already gone.
Denver put in a formal request to speak with Austin, and they did the same with Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Even though he’s said he’s happy in Baltimore, the former Houston Texans head coach and quarterback guru reportedly spoke to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh about the Broncos vacancy, according to NFL.com.
"It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head coaching positions, and I greatly appreciate these opportunities," Kubiak said. "But I have decided to stay with theRavens. This is a special organization and we, like (John) Harbaugh says, are building something great. I want to be a part of that and contribute in whatever ways I can."
Despite those very public words, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported Friday that Kubiak will interview with the Broncos as early as this weekend.
Like Gase, Kubiak would enter a Broncos locker room that has strong Super Bowl aspirations. But Manning’s questionable future, coupled with intense expectations to win immediately, could prove too daunting to Kubiak or any other candidate.
Current Ravens quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, himself a former Bronco player like Kubiak, was also floated as a potential candidate. But he’s never been a head coach at any level, and is more likely to follow Kubiak as either the Broncos offensice coordinator or quarterbacks coach.