Fifteen things about the Broncos’ coaching search and the opening weekend of the playoffs:
1. By all accounts, the Broncos’ coaching search has been seamless. Interviews last Wednesday (Chuck Pagano), Thursday (Zac Taylor), Friday (Mike Munchak) and Saturday (Brian Flores). They meet with Vic Fangio on Monday. The Bears losing to Philadelphia 16-15 on Sunday clears the decks if they want to meet up again with Fangio this week.
2. The Broncos’ search was never going to be glitzy. Three of the prominent candidates in the league are Josh McDaniels, Adam Gase and Mike McCarthy. Obviously, McDaniels wasn’t an option, John Elway ruled out Gase (a former Broncos offensive coordinator) and there was never any traction with McCarthy.
3. Let’s say Munchak gets the post. Maybe the Broncos met with Pagano to take his temperature on a possible defensive coordinator role. Pagano worked this year as a league office consultant, but if he doesn’t get one of the eight openings, his smart move would be joining a team as an assistant. The combination of Munchak-Taylor (OC)-Pagano (DC)-Gary Kubiak (consulting role) would be an on-paper success.
4. As the Texans’ coach, Kubiak went 3-1 against Munchak’s Titans.
5. The length in days of the Broncos’ last five head coaching searches: Thirty-four for Mike Shanahan (the Broncos had to wait until after San Francisco’s Super Bowl win), 12 for McDaniels, 11 for John Fox, seven for Kubiak and nine for Vance Joseph. Monday will be Day 8 of the search.
6. Besides the Broncos, it appears only Tampa Bay has a concentrated search. If the Buccaneers convince Bruce Arians to leave the CBS booth, he would be a B12 shot to an irrelevant franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2007. Everybody else? Think darts being thrown at a board.
7. Crystallizing the challenge of coaching the Broncos: Only Cleveland, Tampa Bay, the Jets and San Francisco have longer playoff droughts than the Broncos’ current three-year slump. This is a league of parity, and the Broncos have fallen behind.
8. I thought McCarthy finding a team would be the first domino. But he’s either picky or teams aren’t as enamored with him as expected. If there were only 3-4 openings, McCarthy could easily sit out 2019, collect his Packers paychecks and survey the potential openings at this time next year. But with a quarter of the league looking for a coach, sitting out would be a gamble.
9. The importance of drafting offensive linemen: Indianapolis had four top-40 picks starting and allowed no sacks in Saturday’s win over Houston. The Texans’ line included no top-40 picks. Extending the bar to top 60 picks, the Broncos have used only four in the last 10 drafts (out of 23 picks): Guard Zane Beadles (No. 45 in 2010), tackle Orlando Franklin (No. 46 in 2011), tackle Ty Sambrailo (No. 59 in 2015) and left tackle Garett Bolles (No. 20 in 2017). Granted, the Broncos drafted down the board in most of those years, but they must prioritize the line in April after deciding on a quarterback.
10. During their interviews with Pagano and Flores, and Monday with Fangio, the Broncos should be asking questions about offense. Which schemes gave their teams the biggest issue over the last two years? Where do you think offensive philosophy is headed in the next 1-3 years? And can you tell us what you think of our offense?
11. If I’m a candidate meeting with the Broncos, I have questions, too. Is this a rebuild or a build? How much say will I have in the coaching staff? What will the ownership situation look like in 12 months? And will my new offensive coordinator have significant input into which quarterback is drafted?
12. Not the greatest wild-card weekend of action. The play was too choppy, the defenses too good, the penalties too frequent. Plus, the rules for onside kick (same as a regular kickoff — five players on each side of the kicker) rob the game of drama, and the replay system is inconsistent.
13. A week ago, I thought Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt should be a Broncos candidate. What was I thinking? The Chargers escaped Baltimore with a 23-17 win despite 11 failed third-down conversions, 2.7 yards per rush and only six targets for receiver Keenan Allen. Bad play-calling.
14. Despite the final score, I would have gone to Joe Flacco at the start of the second half. The Ravens needed some kind of spark , veteran presence and downfield throwing ability to get the offense going and Lamar Jackson didn’t provide it until late in the fourth quarter. Flacco’s future is a major offseason subplot.
15. If Taylor stays with the Rams or takes another coordinator post and the new hire wants to move on from Bill Musgrave, the Broncos should call to chat with Indianapolis’ Nick Sirianni. He doesn’t call the plays, but the Colts showed a lot of looks early in their win over Houston. On the first possession, they used four personnel groupings, including an empty set with a running back lined up outside, one receiver, two tight ends and a sixth offensive lineman. On the second drive, they used only two (3WR-1RB-1TE) and (1WR-1RB-2TE-6OL).
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