Kiszla: Whether it’s Chuck Pagano or Mike Munchak, here’s why Broncos’ next coach can’t be as successful as Mike Shanahan

If the Broncos hire the same old Cousin Chuck or Uncle Mike as their next coach, will anybody be able to tell the difference?

Any way you spell Pagano or Munchak, it sounds like John Fox.

At a time when a tired and stagnant NFL franchise desperately needs bold, new ideas, it seems to me what John Elway wants is a coach old enough to laugh at Barney Fife when they sit down to watch “Andy Griffith Show” reruns at Broncos headquarters.

But that’s just my snarky interpretation. Elway said he wants a coach with experience and the “It factor.” With his 60th birthday a little more than 18 months away, Elway is in a hurry to win.

“If I say we’re ‘rebuilding,’ that sounds like an excuse,” Elway insisted. “That’s why I don’t like to use that word, because it sounds like an excuse.”

Hey, we all have our pet peeves. I don’t like the word “broccoli.”

But it’s time for the Broncos to eat their broccoli.

This is where I’m supposed to endorse a candidate to be the next Broncos coach, primarily so internet peeps can remind me of my error from 2020 until eternity. OK, I will reveal my choice shortly. But before doing so, please indulge these two points:

No. 1: Mike Shanahan, certainly old enough to remember Aunt Bee, Otis and all the residents of Mayberry, is a more accomplished football coach than any of the five candidates being interviewed.

No. 2: Without a Hall of Fame quarterback like Elway on his side, Shanahan’s record with the Raiders and Redskins was 32-52, which makes the resumes of Chuck Pagano and Mike Munchak look pretty good by comparison.

In other words: In the NFL, it’s all about the quarterback, stupid. Even a knucklehead like me understands that. Whether the Broncos hire Pagano or Munchak or the ghost of Bill Walsh, the odds are stacked 100-1 against them making a return trip to the Super Bowl so long as Case Keenum is the starting quarterback.

Broncos president Joe Ellis has recently attracted heavy criticism from the fan base. The reason, as best I can tell, it’s primarily because he’s no Mrs. Doubtfire at keeping those incorrigible Bowlen kids in line.

Ellis, however, did utter the smartest words I heard when Denver began this search for its fourth head coach since 2014. Does Broncos Country, spoiled by decades of success with Pat Bowlen as owner, have the patience to watch this team rebuild?

“I’m not naïve,” Ellis said. “We have a ways to go. I think our fan base understands that, but they want to see progress and we need to have more progress moving forward, no question about it.”

Well, to make real progress real fast, the first thing the Broncos have to do is take a step backward. Does anyone give this team a realistic chance to win the Super Bowl next season, regardless of how well Elway does in the next draft?

Developing young talent should be a higher priority in 2019 for the next coach than making a run at the playoffs. In that regard, a graybeard such as Pagano or Munchak makes sense. Elway needs to stockpile draft picks, even if that means trading cornerback Chris Harris Jr. or linebacker Von Miller.

Then go out and find this team’s next great quarterback in the 2020 draft, which figures to feature Jake Fromm of Georgia and Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama. Let this be the Broncos’ quiet mantra for next season: Bomb for Fromm. Tank for Tua.

What to do in the meantime? Unlike many in these parts, I like the idea of Gary Kubiak returning to the coaching staff, because he is a natural-born teacher. Even more important, Kube can serve as an effective buffer between the new coach and the meddlesome tendencies of Elway.

Kubiak, however, should not be the offensive coordinator. That job should belong to Zac Taylor, the 35-year-old Los Angeles Rams assistant who has interviewed for head coaching gig. Make Taylor an offer he can’t refuse to be OC. Let Kubiak tutor him, not in X’s and O’s, but in the nuances of leading men.

The juice on Denver’s staff during the Fox era, which did produce four AFC West titles in as many years, was provided by a feisty, young offensive assistant named Adam Gase. So there’s your template for Taylor’s mission. Bring new ideas. Push the envelope. Act as a sage voice, when the Broncos aggressively pursue and acquire Fromm, Tagovailoa or a franchise quarterback in 2020.

So who’s my pick as the next head coach of the Broncos?

It’s whoever is willing to make room for Taylor on the staff, whoever is best-suited to handle the pressure of losing nine or more games next season, whoever can play the long game for a team that’s rebuilding, even if Elway loathes admitting it.

Who’s that guy?

I prefer Cousin Chuck. But you might like Uncle Mike.

Either way, it’s John Fox 2.0.

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