Broncos Rumors

DeMeco Ryans Advancing In Broncos’ Search; Sean Payton Souring On Team’s Ownership?

7:35pm: Payton has provided information straight from the source, disputing that there is any truth to Maske’s report of his fears of a power struggle in Denver with a tweet this evening. Payton denies that any issue exists with Broncos’ ownership stating that they were fantastic and that they “had a great visit.”

Ryans is still gaining traction and Caldwell and Shaw are also strong contenders, while Quinn has stated his desire to remain in Dallas, but if Payton is to be taken at his word, he should still be considered one of the favorites for this position.

3:01pm: Vowing to be “ultra aggressive” in its first coaching search, the Broncos’ new ownership came into this process with a goal of adding an experienced head coach. Recent developments may be leading the team in a different direction.

DeMeco Ryans has emerged as a frontrunner in this race, Mike Klis of 9News reports. The second-year 49ers defensive coordinator met with the Broncos and Texans late last week, nixing interviews with the Cardinals and Colts, and has been steadily rising in this race. While the Broncos are still considering Sean Payton, Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn, Ryans’ rise is obviously notable considering his accomplishments with the 49ers this season.

But the team has cooled on Payton, Denver7’s Troy Renck adds (via Twitter). Payton also looks to have lost some interest in this job. A sense of what might have changed emerged Thursday. Recently, the former Saints HC was believed to be high on the Broncos’ new ownership group. Now, it might be a negative for the FOX analyst. Payton fears a potential power struggle with one member of the contingent, Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweets. Payton would want to work with Russell Wilson, who reached out to him recently, and is believed to be high on Denver’s defensive pieces. But an issue with ownership may well nix this potential partnership.

Rob Walton, CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice have been the ownership group’s key members during this search, joining GM George Paton. The latter is the only experienced football staffer involved here, given the ownership contingent arriving last summer, but Penner is set to make the final call on the team’s second HC hire in two years. It does not seem Rice, who joined the group after the Walton family, is Payton’s concern. The veteran HC has “loved” his interactions with the former Secretary of State, Maske adds (on Twitter).

The Broncos have not gone through second interviews yet, separating their search from this year’s other four. The Panthers just made their hire — Frank Reich — after interviewing he and Steve Wilks twice. If the Broncos want to hold a second interview with Ryans, they must wait until Jan. 30 because of the 49ers’ advancement to the NFC championship game.

David Shaw was believed to be a sleeper candidate for this position, but Klis omitted the longtime Stanford HC from the team’s mix Thursday. Shaw stepped down from his Cardinal post after three losing seasons in the past four years. Penner and Rice’s Stanford ties were thought to represent key connective tissue to Shaw, but Denver going with an NFL-seasoned coach makes sense given the recent failures of college hires.

Ryans, 38, has helmed the NFL’s top-ranked defense this season and has been viewed as likely to land one of this year’s jobs for a bit now. All five HC-needy teams reached out to the former linebacker. The Texans remain in the mix for their former defender, per Klis, but they certainly look to have competition from the Broncos.

Dan Quinn To Stay With Cowboys, Withdraw From HC Searches

After receiving extensive interest from head coach-needy teams for a second straight year, Dan Quinn is once again planning to stick with the Cowboys.

The veteran defensive coordinator informed teams that have considered him for their HC job he will remain in Dallas, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. This will be a big gain for the Cowboys, considering Quinn’s performance through two seasons, and it stands to affect the Broncos, Cardinals and Colts’ HC searches.

Quinn, 52, was once again among those in the mix for the Broncos’ HC job, but after a second straight year in a Denver search, the former George Paton coworker bowed out. The Cardinals and Colts may have been more interested. Arizona brought Quinn in for a second interview this week, and Quinn agreed to a second Indianapolis meeting Wednesday night. That summit was set for Saturday, but it is now off.

This is big for us. It gives us continuity. Frankly, on a personal note, I can’t tell you how thankful I am,” Mike McCarthy said (via The Athletic’s Jon Machota) of Quinn’s return. “Clearly, Dan is in the position to be selective, and I’m extremely excited about the decision.”

The former Falcons HC remains under contract with the Cowboys, via the multiyear extension he signed in January 2022. Quinn interviewed with five teams during the ’22 hiring period, advancing to the finals of Denver search that produced Nathaniel Hackett. The Broncos may or may not have rushed that process, due to Hackett agreeing to a second Jaguars interview. After the Hackett hire, Quinn recommitted to the Cowboys.

Quinn remaining in Dallas led to the team taking another step defensively, ranking second in DVOA. The team’s defensive muscle showed in its divisional-round matchup with the 49ers, though DeMeco Ryans‘ unit prevailed in a low-scoring matchup. Still, Quinn’s unit — after intending to retain Randy Gregory and then losing him at the 11th hour — built on its 2021 season. Working more as an edge defender, Micah Parsons maintained the dominance he showed as a rookie. Dallas’ rebuilt D-line led the way in the team’s 54-sack season — 13 more than the 2021 unit registered — and has led the league in takeaways for the past two seasons. After the Cowboys set a franchise record for points allowed during the 2020 season, Quinn’s arrival has made a considerable difference on their 24-10 record since.

This decision could point Ryans toward securing the Denver job. A Thursday report indicated the San Francisco DC had become a frontrunner for it, seemingly blunting the early momentum Quinn had as a potential Sean Payton backup plan. With the prospects for a Broncos-Payton partnership fading, Ryans is in line to capitalize. The Colts are planning to have roughly seven candidates go through second interviews. That is on the high side, but Indianapolis has led the way in terms of interview volume. Jeff Saturday remains in that mix, though a few others have met or will meet with Jim Irsay and Co. Brian Floresname has come up most often in connection with the Arizona job, but Payton is at the Cardinals’ facility Thursday afternoon.

Going into his third season as Dallas’ DC, Quinn will need to hire multiple new staffers. The team moved on from senior defensive assistant George Edwards and longtime assistant D-line coach Leon Lett.

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Flores, Evero

By far the biggest name on this year’s coaching carousel, Sean Payton looks to have seen his momentum stall a bit. While Payton is interviewing with the Cardinals today, his candidacy has not produced a second interview anywhere yet. The Panthers met with Payton this week but just hired Frank Reich. While the Texans remain on the radar for the longtime Saints HC, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com does not get the sense much momentum is present for such a partnership. The Broncos have been connected to other names recently as well, but that path may be dwindling as well. There might not be a place for Payton — as odd as that sounds, given his track record — on this year’s market, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com offers (video link)

Trade compensation being required to land the Super Bowl XLIV-winning HC, with the price varying from a first-rounder and other early picks to two first-rounders, has affected teams’ plans here. Payton, 59, has also been mentioned as waffling on this year’s lot of jobs. Returning to FOX for another year and surveying the 2024 market, when two jobs he has long been connected to (Chargers, Cowboys), could be available might be what comes out of this run of interviews. Payton remains in this year’s mix, but buzz has died down.

Here is the latest from the coaching landscape:

  • Regarding the Cardinals‘ search, Brian Flores remains firmly in the mix. GM candidates received the impression Arizona is high on the three-year Miami HC-turned-Pittsburgh linebackers coach, Fowler notes. Previously mentioned as a frontrunner — due partially to the Cards hiring ex-Patriots exec Monti Ossenfort as GM — Flores may have a right-hand man on defense lined up. Some around the league expect the ex-Dolphins HC to bring Gerald Alexander, Miami’s defensive backs coach for the past three years, with him to Arizona, per Fowler. With the Dolphins looking for a new DC, Alexander may be on the move anyway. While ESPN colleague Dan Graziano points to Vance Joseph and Aaron Glenn remaining strong candidates, Flores has generated the most buzz to this point. Flores has also interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC posts.
  • Raheem Morris booked a second HC interview with the Colts and also met with the Broncos and Texans. Should the Rams‘ DC land a second HC opportunity, Albert Breer of SI.com notes Ejiro Evero is the team’s top candidate to replace him. The Denver DC is no lock to be available. He is under contract with the Broncos, who blocked a Falcons DC interview, and has gone through second HC interviews with the Colts and Texans. Denver could pass on retaining Evero by hiring a defensive-minded coach, of course. Evero came to Denver from Los Angeles; he spent five years on Sean McVay‘s staff.
  • The Browns considered bringing in Vic Fangio for a DC interview, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com notes, but they stood down and ended up hiring Jim Schwartz. Cleveland having run a 4-3 defense in recent years may have been a reason for passing on a Fangio meeting, Cabot offers. Fangio has remained quite popular still, having interviewed for three DC jobs — the Dolphins, Falcons and Panthers — already.
  • The Bills are making a change to their defensive staff. They fired safeties coach Jim Salgado, Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN.com tweets. Salgado had been on McDermott’s staff throughout the head coach’s six-season tenure.
  • Giants DC Don Martindale is attached to a three-year contract, Dan Duggan of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The Giants thought enough of the veteran coordinator, whom the Ravens did not bring back last year, they gave him the three-year deal as opposed to the more common two-year pact. Giants ST coordinator Thomas McGaughey also received extensive interest from other teams, with Duggan adding the Chargers joined the Panthers in offering him their ST coordinator jobs. McGaughey, who has been with the Giants since 2018, turned down a Bears interview and opted to stay and work for Brian Daboll.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers’ hire, this year’s vacancy count sits at four. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-26-23 (4:36pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spins, many of the league’s offensive and defensive coordinator positions are open as well. Teams seeking new head coaches will soon begin OC and DC searches — some have already started those processes — but a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

The Browns and Patriots have begun 2023’s coordinator hires. Here are the rest of the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 1-26-23 (10:06pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Carolina Panthers 

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

Broncos, Interim HC Jerry Rosburg Part Ways?

Broncos interim head coach Jerry Rosburg recently threw his hat in the ring for the team’s full-time job, but the veteran coach won’t be sticking around Denver in any capacity. According to ESPN’s Field Yates (via Twitter), Rosburg has been let go by the Broncos and won’t be a part of the next coaching staff. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport seems to confirm (on Twitter) that Rosburg won’t be the team’s next coach, but he notes that today’s news is merely procedural and the veteran coach could be back in Denver next season.

[RELATED: Jerry Rosburg Interested In Remaining HC]

Rosburg was coaxed out of retirement last offseason to assist new Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett with in-game management. Hackett, of course, didn’t last the season, and after defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero declined to take on the interim HC mantle, the Broncos turned to Rosburg. In his new role, the veteran coach immediately shook up the coaching staff, firing special teams coordinator Dwayne Stukes and offensive line coach Butch Barry.

The team responded to the changes. After losing in blowout fashion to the Rams on Christmas, the Broncos took the Chiefs down to the wire before defeating the Chargers’ starters in the season finale. We heard that team executives were pleased with the interim head coach’s performance and let him state his case to remove the interim tag following the season.

Instead, the team will turn elsewhere for their next head coach. Earlier today, Troy Renck of Denver7.com wrote that 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and former Stanford head coach David Shaw were “gaining momentum” for the head coaching job. We also heard yesterday that Sean Payton’s candidacy was losing steam in Denver, removing another candidate from the list (alongside Rosburg and Jim Harbaugh, who pulled out of the race after deciding to stick with Michigan). Evero ended up interviewing for the job a few weeks ago, and the organization later blocked the Falcons’ request to interview him for their defensive coordinator vacancy.

As for Rosburg, there’s a good chance the 67-year-old coach heads back to retirement. Rosburg has been coaching since the 1970s, and he got his first NFL gig when he was hired as the Browns special teams coordinator in 2001. He’d end up spending 18 years in the NFL prior to his first retirement, including a decade-long stint as the Ravens ST coordinator.

Ejiro Evero Set For Second Colts Interview

Two offseasons ago, the Rams promoted Ejiro Evero from safeties coach — his role from 2017-20 — to their defensive backs coach. This offseason, two teams are seriously considering him for head coaching positions.

The Broncos’ defensive coordinator has made it to the finalist stage with the Texans and now the Colts. Indianapolis wants to bring Evero in for a second HC interview, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Texans plan to interview him for a second time Wednesday, setting up a tour of multiple AFC South facilities for the fast-rising DC.

This has been a remarkable stretch for Evero, and considering the Broncos’ situation, the one-year DC’s climb has veered toward unusual. Denver went 5-12 this year, with its decision to hire Nathaniel Hackett backfiring to the point the team ranked last offensively despite trading for Russell Wilson. Hackett brought in his longtime friend to be his right-hand man on defense, and Evero’s unit performed well despite injuries and the midseason trade of Bradley Chubb.

Despite firing acclaimed defensive maestro Vic Fangio, the Broncos improved in total defense — from eighth to seventh — this past season and ranked 10th in DVOA. While Denver is conducting its own HC search — after becoming the third team since the 1970 merger to fire a coach before his first season ended — Evero will have the chance to earn a top job elsewhere. The Broncos interviewed Evero but have been linked to preferring Sean Payton and Dan Quinn. Though, no Denver finalists have emerged yet. The Colts have been the only team not to set up a Payton interview.

Evero, 42, is the first known Colts finalist. Others will follow. Thirteen coaches have interviewed — all doing so virtually — thus far, and Pelissero adds Jim Irsay was not in any of these meetings (video link). Irsay will meet with each of the finalists in person. Considering Irsay’s outsized role in personnel moves over the past year, his presence in these meetings will be rather important — for both parties.

Broncos Sean Payton Hire Becoming Less Likely?

The Broncos had scheduled a second Sean Payton interview for this week, but NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan notes (via Twitter) the meeting is now on hold. Next on Payton’s docket will be interview No. 1 with the Cardinals, but chatter about the FOX analyst hopping off the 2023 coaching carousel to join a potentially flashier ride next year persists.

Payton will meet with the Cardinals on Thursday, per Duncan, who adds the delays in the longtime Saints HC’s schedule lend to the notion he will stay put and not coach in 2023. Payton’s initial Broncos meeting may not have gone as well as initially reported, either. Neither side looks to view this as a “must-do deal,” Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post notes. One GM said, via La Canfora, he expects Payton to stay at FOX for another year — a long-rumored path — and wait out potentially better jobs.

A Payton hire would be a blockbuster for the Broncos, who have struck out with first-time HCs in 2017 (Vance Joseph), 2019 (Vic Fangio) and 2022 (Nathaniel Hackett) and are believed to be prioritizing experience. But it would be expensive — both in terms of financial and trade compensation. A two-first-rounder haul has been floated, though some around the league believe a first-rounder and both of Denver’s 2023 thirds could be enough for New Orleans. The Saints would undoubtedly ask for a bigger return from Carolina, given the potential intra-NFC South jump in that scenario. The Broncos have been more closely connected to Payton compared to the Panthers, but The Athletic’s Joe Person adds Denver may no longer have the former Super Bowl-winning HC as its frontrunner (subscription required).

Considering what has come out on the Broncos’ HC search, it would surprise if the team passed on Payton. Russell Wilson reached out to the well-regarded play-caller, who, as of Monday, was still believed to have the inside track for the job. But the team has interviewed a host of other candidates, including Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, who was close to landing the job last year. If Payton does not have a substantial lead in this race, the Broncos backing off and hiring a coach they would not need to trade for would make sense. Then again, Payton is by far the most accomplished candidate available.

The prospect of Payton waiting out 2024 jobs continues to be discussed around the league, La Canfora adds. This will keep the dots connected to the Chargers and Cowboys positions, gigs Payton has eyed for several months. The Chargers announced intentions to retain Brandon Staley, despite a historic wild-card collapse, and the Cowboys do not look like they will be canning Mike McCarthy after back-to-back 12-win seasons. That said, ESPN.com’s Dianna Russini tweets a mystery team of sorts could lurk. Said team is observing this process and could make a move once it “gets [its] ducks in a row.”

Anonymous suitors notwithstanding, Payton will soon have interviewed for four of the five open positions this year. It is not known if an offer has come his way, but Panthers owner David Tepper was believed to be quite interested in this splashy hire heading into their meeting. Tepper’s reputation of being a “hands-on” owner might also impact Payton’s interest, Person adds.

The Texans, who hold two first-round picks (including No. 2 overall), are believed to intrigue the veteran coach. But buzz about the NFC championship game defensive coordinators — DeMeco Ryans and Jonathan Gannon — and this position is circulating as well, La Canfora adds. Gannon has long been connected to the Texans job, which he interviewed twice for in 2022, and Ryans spent the first six seasons of his playing career in Houston.

Texans Schedule Second HC Interviews With Mike Kafka, Ejiro Evero

Houston’s third consecutive offseason spent searching for a new head coach is heading into its next phase. The Texans are set to conduct a second interview with Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, per ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link).

The 35-year-old met virtually with the Texans this past Sunday, one day after New York’s surprisingly successful campaign came to an end. Now, he is set to interview in person with Houston’s front office. Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 notes that the sit-down is scheduled to take place in Houston on Wednesday.

Kafka has enjoyed a quick rise up the ranks of NFL assistants receiving serious consideration for head coaching jobs. He was already a popular name in league circles last offseason when he left Kansas City (where he worked closely alongside Patrick Mahomes as the team’s quarterbacks coach) to join Brian Daboll‘s new staff in the Big Apple.

That represented not only his first OC opportunity at both the college and NFL level, but, to the surprise of many, his first time handling play-calling duties. Daboll’s time as Buffalo’s OC led to the expectation that he would carry on in a similar capacity with the Giants, but his decision to delegate to Kafka proved to be a successful one. New York put up middle-of-the-road numbers in terms of scoring and yardage totals, but ranked fourth in the regular season with an average of 148 rushing yards per game. The postseason saw New York continue that success against the Vikings, though their loss to the Eagles was certainly a different story.

Kafka is still a logical candidate for a second interview, as is Ejiro Evero. The Broncos defensive coordinator will also meet with the Texans’ brass tomorrow, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets. The 42-year-old is, like Kafka, relatively inexperienced in terms of serving as a coordinator, with 2022 being his first DC gig, but his success has made him a hot commodity during this year’s cycle.

Evero has met with all five teams currently in need of a new head coach, illustrating the way he is viewed around the league. He led the Broncos’ defense to solid rankings in terms of yards allowed in particular, a testament not only to the unit’s talent and his coaching ability, but also his success in maintaining consistency in the wake of Denver’s offensive struggles. Evero has previously worked with the Rams, Packers, 49ers and Buccaneers at the NFL level, all-but exclusively seeing time on the defensive side of the ball.

After seeing David Culley and Lovie Smith each receive their walking papers after one-year stints, Texans owner Cal McNair recently indicated that he would take a more hands-on approach to the 2023 search. Adding either Kafka or Evero would provide the team with a much younger option on the sidelines, and presumably set the franchise up for long-term stability.

With the team’s set of second round interviews beginning to take shape, here is the latest on Houston’s HC search:

Ravens To Interview Justin Outten For OC Position

The list of candidates for the Ravens’ vacant offensive coordinator position continues to grow. Baltimore has an interview lined up with Broncos OC Justin Outten, per Mike Garafolo of NFL Network (Twitter link).

The Ravens had been linked to four other candidates prior to this news (Zac Robinson, Chad O’Shea, Dave Canales and Brian Angelichio), as the team searches for its Greg Roman replacement. The latter’s departure came as little surprise given the increasing calls for his firing which emerged during the season, but it created an intriguing vacancy given the uncertain future surrounding quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Outten, 39, followed Nathaniel Hackett to Denver last offseason as a familiar coach to help form his first Broncos staff. Things did not at all go according to plan, however, and Hackett failed to last the full season before being let go. Not long before that happened, he ceded play-calling duties to QBs coach Klint Kubiak.

However, Outten did call plays for the final two games of the season, the time in which Jerry Rosburg operated as Denver’s interim head coach. That brief stretch marked the first time the former was given such responsibilities at the pro level, as his NFL resume is relatively short compared to some other staffers around the league. Outten spent three years as Green Bay’s tight ends coach before what will likely be a one-and-done stint in Denver. He was an assistant with the Falcons in 2017 and 2018.

Despite his relative lack of experience, Outten has drawn interest in this year’s sizeable OC market. Both the Titans and Rams have requested interviews with him, although in both cases it was not specified at the time what position they were seeking to give him. Tennessee is looking for a new play-caller, but, given the news that Sean McVay is remaining in Los Angeles, the Rams are not.

In Baltimore, Outten would take on play-calling duties in the event he were to be hired at the OC level. The Ravens established themselves as a dominant run team during Roman’s tenure, but deficiencies in the pass game were prevalent both with and without Jackson in the lineup. That area is therefore expected to be a main point of focus in the team’s ultimate hire, though head coach John Harbaugh has maintained that a strong ground presence will still be relied upon moving forward. Whether Outten has a part to play in that could be revealed in the near future.