With Gary Kubiak reportedly set to resign, here are five potential replacements for him as Denver Broncos head coach.
After winning Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos will miss the playoffs this season. They can still finish with a winning record with a win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but the future of head coach Gary Kubiak is up in the air.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Kubiak is likely to step down as Broncos’ head coach after Sunday’s game. Other reports have not been quite so definite, but past health concerns (including a missed game this year) look to be driving the decision and Kubiak said nothing to squash speculation about his future during his media availability on Friday.
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If Kubiak does step down, the Broncos instantly become one of the best NFL head coaching opportunities looking toward 2017. A top-level defense should remain intact, and there are pieces in place to foster quick improvement offensively.
Again under the assumption Kubiak does resign, here are five possible replacements for him as Denver Broncos head coach.
5. Wade Phillips
Phillips has been the Broncos’ defensive coordinator for the last two seasons under Kubiak, though he is currently without a contract for 2017. That’s a formality, one way or the other and in Denver or elsewhere, assuming Phillips wants to keep coaching at age-70 next season.
Phillips carries a good reputation as a defensive mind, but he has also had a fair amount of success as an NFL head coach. Over all or part of 12 seasons as a head coach (interim three times), Phillips has a .562 regular season winning percentage (82-64).
Phillips has history with the Broncos, as head coach (1993-1994) and defensive coordinator in the past and now, along with history working under Kubiak dating back to when the two were with the Houston Texans. If John Elway looks internally for Kubiak’s replacement, Phillips may be the guy.
The Shanahan name is obviously very familiar in Denver, with Mike Shanahan leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl titles during his tenure as head coach (1995-2008). But son Kyle has put together a solid coaching resume of his own, and in his second season as offensive coordinator the Atlanta Falcons enter Week 17 with the NFL’s top scoring offense (33.5 point per game).
Shanahan will be a hot candidate for any opening to become a head coach, so he’ll have his pick of jobs if he wants to make the move. But he grew up and graduated from high school in Colorado, when his father was Broncos’ head coach obviously, so the opportunity in Denver may be a special one for him.
Elway is sure to vet candidates with the development of quarterback Paxton Lynch in mind, and Shanahan has worked with a wide range of skill sets at the position. Aside from familiarity and Elway having played for his dad, the younger Shanahan is a qualified candidate to become a head coach and the Broncos should already have him on their radar.
Linehan was a failure as head coach of the St. Louis Rams, with an 11-25 record over two-plus seasons (2006-2008). But he has had successful stints as offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings (2002-2004), Detroit Lions (2009-2013) and the Dallas Cowboys are top-five in the NFL right now in rushing (155.1 yards per game) and scoring offense (27.2 points per game) with Linehan running the show.
The Broncos need a revival offensively, and Linehan’s past work with Daunte Culpepper, Matthew Stafford and now rookie Dak Prescott this year proves he can get the most out of quarterbacks. If the Broncos stay with Trevor Siemian, go with 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch or acquire a veteran quarterback next season, Linehan’s offensive resume should stand out.
There are definitely bigger name candidates out there, and the Broncos should be able to choose from some of them. But Linehan may get another head coaching opportunity soon, and Denver shouldn’t be ruled out if he gets an interview there.
HOUSTON, TX – CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Vance Joseph of the Houston Texans poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
2. Vance Joseph
When John Fox was fired after the 2014 season, Joseph was a candidate for the Broncos’ head coaching job before Kubiak was hired. So it’s not surprising that Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has already pointed toward the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator as a candidate for the job now.
The Dolphins’ defense has been a definition of “bend but don’t break” this year. They rank toward the bottom of the league against the run and in total yards allowed, but they sit 14th in scoring defense (23.0 points per game) heading into Week 17. Forcing turnovers, most notably 16 interceptions (tied to third-most in the league) has certainly helped the Miami defense play a part in the team’s return to the postseason.
If Joseph was a serious candidate for Denver two years ago, and it seems he was, there’s nothing to suggest he won’t be again now. Potential coordinator hires, particularly an offensive coordinator, could get Joseph the Broncos’ job during the interview process. As a side note, Joseph worked under Kubiak as defensive backs coach with the Texans from 2011-2013.
Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
1. Sean Payton
Payton was rumored to possibly be on the move a year ago, but then he signed a contract extension with the New Orleans Saints to squash that talk. Those rumors have resurfaced a bit again recently though, with an uncertain ownership situation in New Orleans, a roster in persistent salary cap trouble and a high-profile job now available with the Los Angeles Rams.
Saints general manager Mickey Loomis may be firmly committed to keeping Payton, and New Orleans is an appealing location for him due to family reasons with a child going to high school in Dallas. But a rare draft picks for a coach trade (whether it’s officially called that or not), or Payton simply jumping to other job, is not out of the question.
The Broncos would clearly have competition for Payton’s services if it’s out there that he’s available, perhaps most directly from the Indianapolis Colts if Chuck Pagano is finally fired there. Three straight non-playoff seasons with the Saints may diminish Payton in the eyes of some, but the Broncos need to have him atop their list of candidates to replace Kubiak.