How can Broncos stop the coaching carousel? Hire Lincoln Riley away from the USC Trojans.


If the crazy-rich Waltons want their $100 million stadium renovation of Mile High to be worth more than one thin dime, the first thing that needs to be done is to dismantle the coaching carousel.

What good is a big, new, fancy video board if it shows Russell Wilson being ridden into the ground?

The Broncos need a quarterback whisperer, an offensive guru, and a proven winner as a coach.

We all know Nathaniel Hackett is none of the above. He needs to be one and done. Harsh? Well, nobody said life is fair in the NFL, where excuses don’t cut it and winning is the only thing that matters.

After botching the hire of Hackett, especially in a year when Mike McDaniel went to Miami and Minnesota grabbed Kevin O’Connell, it’s imperative Broncos general manager George Paton gets it right this time.

I’ve got a quarterback whisperer, offensive guru and proven winner for him.

If price is no object for the Broncos, and it shouldn’t be with the crazy wealth of Rob Walton and a commitment to success by Greg Penner, the team should steal Lincoln Riley from the University of Southern California.

If Riley isn’t the No. 1 quarterback whisperer on the planet, he’s certainly a contender for the crown.

Three quarterbacks under the tutelage of Riley have won the Heisman Trophy in the past six seasons: Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (2017) and  Kyler Murray (2018), with USC’s Caleb Williams taking home the hardware this year. After being tossed aside by Alabama, Jalen Hurts not only became a Heisman finalist for the Sooners in 2019 but is now making a solid case to be MVP of the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The current coach of the Broncos can’t hack it as an offensive guru. After making a promise while attending a Nuggets game earlier this year that his football team would light up the scoreboard,  Denver’s offense ranks dead last in the league in points per game (14.9). Wilson certainly deserves heavy criticism, while an injury bug has infiltrated and made a mess of the receiving, running backs and offensive line rooms at team headquarters. But Hackett was so bad at calling plays he turned those duties over to Klint Kubiak.

In 78 games as the head coach of the Sooners and Trojans, Riley’s teams have averaged 43.8 points per game. For too long, the Broncos have not only been bad, but boring. Punt Hackett. Bring in Riley to crank up the volume.

What do Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, Hackett and the Broncos’ playoff drought have in common? Denver has gone cheap in its coaching search too often lately, resulting in first-time head coaches whose steep learning curves have been painful and costly to watch.

In six seasons leading the Sooners and Trojans, Riley has won four conference titles and earned a berth in the college football playoff three times. Although 39 years old, Riley has been working full-time as a coach since age 20, when he gave up his quest for playing time as a walk-on quarterback at Texas Tech at the urging of the late, great offensive innovator Mike Leach.

Yes, it’s a significant leap from a college campus to the NFL. Grouchy genius Chip Kelly soared with the Oregon Ducks, then fell with a thud after getting a gig with the Philadelphia Eagles. But the lively swagger of Riley reminds me more of Jimmy Johnson, who left the Miami Hurricanes and won two Super Bowl rings with the Dallas Cowboys.

Although Paton and Penner have yet to make a decision on Hackett’s fate, the number of no-shows Sunday in Empower Field at Mile High might offer a clue about the lack of support by paying customers for Denver’s bungling rookie coach.

I love the idea of Sean Payton sharing secrets with Wilson about how to channel Drew Brees’ magic. The reality? The New Orleans Saints, which hold Payton’s rights, would likely require draft capital the Broncos can’t afford to trade for him. And, if he wants back in the game, Payton might be wiser to hone the raw skills of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert rather than try to rebuild the declining skills of Wilson.


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