There are three head coaching gigs left in the NFL, and it’s very murky as to who will land with the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons. Denver entered the head coaching carousel very late compared to Chicago and Atlanta. The Broncos fired John Fox on Monday and already saw defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio ship off to Oakland, while offensive coordinator Adam Gase could be heading to the San Francisco 49ers.
Chicago and Atlanta cut ties with Marc Trestman and Mike Smith, respectively, on Dec. 29, or Black Monday, after poor seasons. Both teams have interviewed many candidates without reaching a final decision.
The available candidates who have been linked to the three jobs, along with the now-filled positions include: Detriot Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Rick Dennison, and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Gase, Fox, former Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone, and former Washington Redskins and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan have also been considered for openings.
Let’s take a look at where each candidate and search currently stands.
According to several reports, the Broncos have formally requested permission to speak to both Kubiak and Austin, a requirement for coaches still under contract with their current teams.
Kubiak has said he isn’t interested in leaving Baltimore, where he helped Joe Flacco post arguably the best regular season of his career, but a chance to coach the Broncos with former teammate and team president John Elway behind him might be tempting. Kubiak was successful in building the Houston Texans into a playoff contender over an eight-year run.
Austin’s reportedly been impressive during interviews, speaking with the 49ers, Bears, Falcons and others, but his lack of a previous head coaching job might hurt him.
Dennison also played for the Broncos, and he’s largely followed Kubiak to help the Texans and Ravens the last four years. Reuniting Kubiak with Elway, with Dennison as a coach at some level, is possible.
However, Gase is currently staying in town as offensive coordinator for now, and earning a promotion due to his close ties with quarterback Peyton Manning can't be ruled out. Manning’s future with the team might be the major sticking point for any candidate.
Fox appears to have the inside track, with Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole reporting Thursday that the two side have already agreed to a deal. But with no official announcement, and the numerous reports that pegged Del Rio as Oakland’s next man and Gase as San Francisco’s only 50 percent correct, anything could happen in the next few hours.
Shanahan interviewed with the Bears, but his age, 62, and last work with the Redskins could be holding him back.
Austin’s a longshot, but shouldn’t be. He knows the NFC North probably better than any candidate, and is well-respected amongst players.
As of Wednesday, Quinn was seen as the man for the Falcons. He reportedly wants the job, but CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora said Austin and Gase would be an excellent coaching team, with the latter as head coach and the former remaining an offensive coordinator.
The Falcons, who have interviewed at least eight candidates including Austin, will have to wait for Quinn if he is their man. The fact that he’s so good as the Seahawks coordinator might actually slightly hurts his candidacy. Teams are looking to make hires and announce them quickly so no other team can jump in with a better offer, but Quinn could be tied up until after the Super Bowl if Seattle wins on Sunday.