Denver Post Broncos writer Parker Gabriel posts his Broncos Mailbag weekly during the season. Submit questions to Parker here.
Hi Parker, this is more of a comment than a question. It looks like there’s a decent chance the Broncos are going to hire another first-year head coach. I’m okay with that but I think I speak for Broncos Country when I say, we don’t want to hear we’ve got to be patient and let them grow into the role. I hope the new owners understand that our loyalty is dangling by a thread, as is the home sellout streak!
— Brandon, Rogers, Minn.
Seems you’re likely referring to San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who now appears to be the favorite for the Houston job rather than the Broncos job.
He and Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero were the only two potential first-timers the Broncos interviewed this year, though if they do end up opening up the search rather than narrowing it down — that hasn’t happened yet — a few others could be on the list. Cincinnati coordinators Brian Callahan and Lou Anarumo, New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon have all drawn interest elsewhere.
In general, it’s worth keeping in mind a couple things: The Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group didn’t hire Denver’s past three first-time head coaches, so they perhaps are less burned by those failures than the fanbase feels. And, if you go into a hiring process with a truly open mind, you never know who’s going to really impress.
Have the new owners of the Broncos said anything about their feelings regarding the hiring and firing process being so public, in contrast to the much more private doings of their usual corporate business?
— Fred Waiss, Prairie du Chien, Wis.
Fred! Prairie du Chien, excellent. The Homeland.
They have not said anything about it, but their actions speak plenty. They’ve operated with much less transparency than last year’s coaching search. Last year, Denver acknowledged each candidate when interviews ended, had videos, etc. This year? Nada. The only specific thing anybody has said about the search was general manager George Paton on Dec. 27 saying they were hoping to interview Evero. They did after the season ended, but he doesn’t appear to be in contention for the job and it’s been radio silence besides that.
Not saying it’s good, bad or otherwise. But it’s clear Greg Penner and Co. don’t think it’s in their best interest to say anything about the search. Hasn’t stopped the reporting efforts, of course, nor has it slowed the rumor mill. There’s always water to turn that thing.
Get a hike in at Wyalusing for me.
My family has had season tickets to the Broncos since the 1980s. We are absolutely Bronco fans.
It is curious to me how you are the Broncos Mailbag writer yet as you state in your Jan. 17, 2023 reply to Jon Skinner: “I’m not a fan, so the normal stuff fans associate with their teams like disappointment and joy and anger, etc. doesn’t really apply to me.”
I can only speak for myself, but I always assumed, and would hope, that when I write to Broncos Mailbag about the Denver Broncos, that I was writing to a fellow fan that is emotionally invested and has a real desire to see the Broncos do well. Also someone that has years of experience and knowledge from covering, interviewing, writing about sports, football, the NFL and the Denver Broncos. Am I missing something or did you just get stuck with this gig due to staffing shortages or budget cuts?
— Michael Hert, Durango
Hey Michael, thanks for the question.
I didn’t get stuck here at all. Actually, I’m extremely fortunate to have this job. I really enjoy football and I really enjoy getting to know and write about and try to figure out people.
Your points about experience and knowledge are spot on. But the Broncos, specifically? I couldn’t care less if they win or lose. Some people like reading what other fans think, but hopefully the benefit of reading coverage from people who aren’t fans of a team in particular is that you get as much objective coverage as possible.
Think about it this way: Reporters are conduits between fans and the teams they love. That’s still true even though there are a lot more ways to be a fan now than there was a generation or two ago. So, from our perspective, the goal is to learn as much as we can about the team and pass it along to readers. Football and football organizations are endlessly interesting. Investment, curiosity, dedication, commitment — those are all definitely part of my job. But the end goal is to serve our readers, not my personal fandom and not the Broncos. Make sense? That’s only a really small part of what could be — and has been — a conversation that spans the entire industry.
Why didn’t the Broncos consider Kliff Kingsbury or Frank Reich to be the head coach? It seems to me that Russell Wilson needs an experienced head coach with significant experience on the offensive side of the ball. I know Sean Payton meets those qualifications, but I’m not sure it’s worth the draft picks to get him.
— Paul Michaelson, Livermore
Well, Paul, the NFL Network’s Pete Schrager had one of the best tweets of the year when he said a few weeks back that Kingsbury after getting fired from Arizona had bought a one-way ticket to Thailand and told teams he wasn’t interested in talking about coaching opportunities. That’s probably what I would do if I had just got canned from a job that was guaranteed to pay me many millions for not working.
Also, Kingsbury? Really? He’s coached 10 seasons (six college, four NFL) and had two winning years. He had Patrick Mahomes for three years at Texas Tech and never went better than 7-6. He compiled a 35-40 record in college and a 28-37-1 mark in the NFL.
As for Reich, I’m a little surprised Denver didn’t interview him this year. There seemed to be, well, a lot going on in Indianapolis before he got fired there. He’s got a track record with quarterbacks and a 40-33-1 overall record as an NFL head coach. It’s not surprising he got another head coaching job, though I did think Steve Wilks had earned that full-time gig in Carolina after his run as the interim.
Solving Denver’s offensive woes and getting better play out of Russell Wilson are certainly on the next head coach’s list, but I thought our columnist, Mark Kiszla, pointed out something just as critical last week: Not many guys in that locker room have won at a sustained level in the pros, and the next coach has to figure out how to overcome that and instill a real culture.
Parker, I feel like the key to any successful offense is winning the battle in the trenches, which we struggled with last season. Do you see the team making an O-line upgrade a priority in the draft? Personally, I’d love to see us pursue a couple of old names like Connor McGovern or Matt Paradis given that they bounce back from their injuries.
— Vic, Wheat Ridge
Hey Vic, good thinking. I just wrote about this over the weekend, in fact. I do think they’re going to have to put resources into the offensive line this offseason, probably both via the draft and free agency.
The picture is a little murky now — though two pieces fell into place as Denver’s draft pick is now officially set at No. 29 with the 49ers’ loss in the NFC title game and the salary cap is reportedly set at $224.8 million — for multiple reasons. If Denver ends up hiring Sean Payton, they likely won’t have that first-round pick. Also, they’re likely to jettison a couple of players and/or re-work some contracts to clear more salary cap space before free agency.
A first-rounder may well help, but one thing that jumped out to me is the Broncos have only taken multiple OLs in the same draft once in the past six years. And only Luke Wattenberg and Quinn Meinerz the past two years. They need to hit on a couple of mid-round guys along the way, too. Those guys you mentioned could be options. So, too, could center Ethan Pocic, who played last year at Cleveland but before that was Wilson’s center in Seattle.
Is it me or has this coaching search just been dragging on? Sean Payton seems less likely as this process continues. Is Jim Harbaugh still an option? Who are the frontrunners?
— Mark, Arvada
Mark, it’s you, me and everyone.
Actually, though, as of this moment only Carolina’s hired a coach and the Texans may be close. We’re past the Nathaniel Hackett line of demarcation — Jan. 27 last year — but all in all the NFL wanted a slower hiring process this year and so far is getting just that.
It also feels longer because Hackett was fired with two weeks left in the season. The first contact with Payton came before Denver’s Week 18 win against the Chargers more than three weeks ago now.
Harbaugh’s an option until he’s not. Michigan’s not slated to sign anybody on Wednesday’s late National Signing Day at present, but maybe he’ll step to a mic and say something anyway. He and Ryans have what at this point is the most recent known substantial conversations with the Broncos, but sources have said consistently that Denver’s keeping in touch with a bunch of people. Seems like it’s become harder to read in the past week rather than easier.
Bottom line: It’s fair to say this isn’t an abnormally long timeframe and also fair to say it feels long. If you run into Penner, tell him we’re ready to get on with the rest of the offseason. Much obliged.
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