Jim Harbaugh

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. 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 2-14-23 (1:30pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Broncos Want Sean Payton To Retain Ejiro Evero

FEBRUARY 2: Evero and Payton will discuss the prospect of working together Thursday, Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. With the Cardinals and Colts’ HC positions having not yet been filled, Evero continues to have options on multiple levels. The Vikings are now interested in interviewing him for their DC gig. It is safe to say the ex-Rams position coach is one of the NFL’s fastest-rising staffers. Evero remains under contract with the Broncos, though CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson adds Payton has a few names in mind for the DC position (Twitter link).

FEBRUARY 1: With Sean Payton set to leave his one-year post as a FOX analyst and take over the Broncos, the topic of his staff will come up. Ejiro Evero remains in the mix for the Cardinals and Colts’ head coaching jobs, but the Broncos would like to retain the Nathaniel Hackett-tabbed defensive coordinator.

Payton will have final say over his staff, but Mike Klis of 9News notes Broncos brass would like to keep Evero on for a second season as DC. The Broncos hired Evero to head up their defense last year, offered him their interim HC job after Hackett’s firing and made him one of their first interviews for the full-time position Payton just landed. It is unclear how Payton feels about keeping a holdover for such an important position, but the Broncos were clearly impressed with Evero’s first season.

[RELATED: Payton Addresses Decision To Accept Broncos’ Offer]

As Denver’s offense imploded, the team still rarely found itself in blowout losses. Evero’s defense, despite injuries and the Bradley Chubb trade, largely kept the team in games. The Broncos ranked 10th in defensive DVOA and seventh in total defense. Evero has longstanding ties to Hackett, with the two having been friends since college, and has come up in head coach and coordinator searches.

The Broncos showed their cards with Evero by blocking him from interviewing for the Falcons’ DC post, which would be a lateral move since Evero called plays last season. Evero, 42, remains under contract. The Rams are also interested in bringing Evero back, in the event Raheem Morris lands a head coaching gig. While coaches from five-win teams are not poached often, Evero interviewing for all five HC positions this year paints a fairly clear picture of his rise.

Payton employed Dennis Allen as his DC from 2015-21 and figures to bring his own staffers to fill most of the Broncos’ assistant spots. He has been tied to Vic Fangio, and while the acclaimed defensive leader has said he has not signed a contract with the Dolphins just yet, it would be a surprise if he returned to Denver so soon. The Broncos fired Fangio after three seasons, with the exec who pulled the trigger on that move — GM George Paton — still in place. The Broncos stand to upgrade tremendously on offense with Payton, but losing Evero could hurt their defense — or at least bring significant change to one of the NFL’s better units.

Multiple factors held up the Broncos’ Payton process, per Klis, who notes the Saints indeed followed through with the Jon Gruden asking price. The Saints first set the Payton price at two first-round picks and two seconds — the cost Tampa Bay paid Oakland for Gruden 21 years ago — before moving down to the Bill Parcells haul. The Jets sent the Patriots first-, second-, third- and fourth-rounders over a three-year period to acquire Parcells’ rights back in 1997. Denver balked at both price points, and after Paton and Mickey Loomis spent days negotiating, the GMs eventually settled on the Chubb pick (No. 30 overall) and a 2024 second-rounder in exchange for Payton and a 2024 third. This transaction doubles as the first coaching trade in 17 years, since the Chiefs sent the Jets a fourth-round pick for Herm Edwards.

The other delay here involved Jim Harbaugh. The Michigan HC resurfacing in the Broncos’ search altered the process, NOLA.com’s Jeff Duncan tweets. Both Harbaugh and DeMeco Ryans resided as Broncos favorites at points during this lengthy search, as each did not require draft compensation to hire. Ryans ended up preferring the Texans, and Harbaugh twice informed the Broncos — the second time after CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor for a second meeting — he was staying at Michigan. The Broncos did not make Harbaugh an offer, Albert Breer of SI.com tweets. The Vikings also did not offer Harbaugh their HC job after their 2022 interview.

Although the Broncos had targeted other coaches, Payton had long been a frontrunner and still possessed considerable leverage here. The Super Bowl-winning HC had the option of staying at FOX — something Breer adds the Broncos believed he would do (Twitter link) — or moving forward with one of this year’s HC-needy teams. Payton informed the Panthers he was no longer interested in their position, Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports notes (video link), and the Cardinals adding a few names to their mix Monday provided a good indication they were not in the Payton race any longer. But the Broncos will pay up to guard against Payton doing TV for another year and potentially hopping on the 2024 coaching carousel for a higher-profile job.

Payton’s Broncos deal with average between $17-21MM, per Klis and Denver7’s Troy Renck (Twitter link). That will place the longtime Saints HC in the top coaching tax bracket. Rob Walton‘s ownership group will be in position to pay up for the assistants Payton wants, adding some intrigue to Denver’s staff. While the team almost certainly will not insist Evero stays, such a move will be encouraged.

Latest On Broncos’ Coaching Search

As the offseason enters its fourth week, this Broncos ownership group’s first coaching search looks to have skidded off track. A host of updates have emerged in recent days regarding the new owners’ HC pursuit, but the team’s preferred candidates are mostly out of the picture.

Jim Harbaugh loomed as a frontrunner early but bowed out of the race, while Dan Quinn was well-regarded during his time in the derby. He recommitted to the Cowboys for a second straight offseason. The Texans look to have the inside track for DeMeco Ryans, who had gained steam with the Broncos late last week. For the time being, the Sean Payton-to-Denver talk has faded.

While CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor to meet with Harbaugh, the meeting caught other Broncos HC candidates off-guard, according to The Athletic’s Mike Sando (subscription required). Harbaugh said the Broncos’ job would be the one he’d want if he returned to the NFL, with this stance emerging not long after the longtime Michigan HC recommitted to his alma mater. But the Broncos are not believed to have made an offer. Harbaugh remains at Michigan, and Denver’s set of second-tier candidates do not appear closer to landing the job.

Despite this rocky search, Troy Renck of Denver7 notes the other batch of candidates the Broncos have met with — Rams DC Raheem Morris, former Lions HC Jim Caldwell and ex-Stanford HC David Shaw — have not gained momentum for the job. With DC Ejiro Evero also not being connected to the post since interviewing nearly three weeks ago, this would leave Payton still atop the team’s wish list. Indeed, the Caldwell-Evero-Morris-Shaw contingent has been informed no second interviews are on tap, 9News’ Mike Klis notes.

Payton made the Broncos his first interview; that occurred more than two weeks ago. Initial reports indicated Payton was behind the new Broncos ownership contingent, but a subsequent offering suggested pause. Payton directly refuted that he feared a power struggle with one of the team’s new owners, and the former Super Bowl-winning HC addressed his status over the weekend. The door remains open for Payton, per Renck, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport suggested the franchise still wants to swing for a “big, big, big” hire.

Payton, 59, is the only candidate who would seem to fit that description, and other teams may be realizing they will not be able to entice him to leave FOX this year. Linked to preparing a big Payton push, the Panthers hired Frank Reich. The Cardinals adding a host of new candidates Monday points to them realizing Payton is likely an unrealistic goal, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com offered during a Pat McAfee Show appearance (video link). Payton interviewed with the Cardinals on Thursday. It will take a first-round pick and at least some Day 2 selections to pry Payton’s rights from New Orleans, but the way this search is going, hints of desperation may soon come out of Denver.

If the Broncos cannot lure Payton from FOX, they will either need to circle back to what appear to be their lower-tier candidates or add names to the list. As of Monday night, no new names are on the radar, Klis reaffirms, adding the Broncos will not send the Saints two first-round picks for Payton. That was a rumored Mickey Loomis ask weeks ago. For a team that entered the offseason preparing an “ultra-aggressive” search for an experienced HC to execute a turnaround, this figures to be a pivotal week for its new ownership contingent.

Broncos, Jim Harbaugh Met Over HC Vacancy; Team To Expand HC Search?

JANUARY 29, 9:40pm: Troy Renck of Denver7 is in line with the NFL Network pair in terms of the new names being added to Denver’s search with things having not gone according to plan so far. However, 9News’ Mike Klis reports (via Twitter) that the Broncos are actually still focused on their original list of candidates who are still available, and that “there is a plan” the organization is on course to follow. In any case, Denver will be a key team to watch as the HC story unfolds in the coming days.

JANUARY 29, 7:30am: Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL.com hear that, even after Harbaugh’s announcement that he would be remaining at Michigan, he continued to have conversations with Penner and Broncos GM George Paton. Penner did not make an offer to Harbaugh during last week’s summit, though it does not appear that the door to a Harbaugh-Denver partnership is closed quite yet. Indeed, Harbaugh has reportedly said that the Broncos’ job is the one that he would want if he elects to return to the pros.

Both NFL.com and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter) say that the Broncos could begin to expand their head coaching search given that some of their top choices in Payton, Harbaugh, Ryans, and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are either out of the running entirely or no longer appear to be likely options. If that happens, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan could get a call, and the club has reportedly done research on Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka.

In addition, NFL.com reports that candidates like Raheem Morris, David Shaw, Jim Caldwell, and Ejiro Evero could all be back in play, although Troy Renck of Denver7 suggests otherwise (Twitter link).

JANUARY 28: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was once again one of the names most commonly floated as a candidate in advance of this year’s NFL head coaching cycle. However, he ultimately remained committed to staying in Ann Arbor for at least the 2023 season, a decision which seemed to mark the end of his involvement in discussions surrounding the league’s remaining vacancies.

Despite that, Broncos CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor to meet in person with Harbaugh last week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The latter interviewed with Denver virtually as part of their initial list of candidates to replace Nathaniel Hackett; his experience made him – along with Sean Payton – a serious contender for the position before he made it official he will once again stay at the college level.

As Schefter notes (and several others have since corroborated), the sit-down was primarily a matter of Penner doing his due diligence with Harbaugh. Denver’s HC search has been far more methodical this offseason than the one in 2022 which resulted in Hackett being hired for his first opportunity as a bench boss. His marked lack of success in that post has, in part, steered the organization towards an experienced coach. Harbaugh no longer being in the running could change that to an extent, especially if Payton ends up on another staff or remains as a Fox analyst for the 2023 season.

Harbaugh, 59, interviewed with the Vikings last year and was connected to the openings in Denver, Carolina and Indianapolis in 2023 prior to his announcement confirming he will still coach the Wolverines. In the wake of that decision, the Broncos have shifted their attention to the likes of defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero and 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans. The latter seems to be a top target for Penner and Co., though signs are now pointing to him being the frontrunner for the Houston vacancy.

That could put more pressure on the Broncos to land Payton, something which would require draft compensation being sent to the Saints and a sizeable contract being doled out for his services. Earlier this week, however, Payton’s second interview with Denver was put on hold, so uncertainty remains on all sides in that situation. In any case, Schefter adds that some feel this cycle was likely be the last in which Harbaugh was a serious candidate to re-join the NFL coaching ranks, though this in-person meeting suggests he could still draw interest in 2024.

Rory Parks contributed to this post.

Jim Harbaugh To Stay At Michigan

Stationed once again on an NFL head coaching carousel, Jim Harbaugh does not intend to leave Michigan. He confirmed Monday he will stay in Ann Arbor.

Following a statement from Michigan president Santa Ono indicating Harbaugh informed him he would continue as the Wolverines’ HC, Harbaugh confirmed the same (Twitter links). After his previous statement included the phrase, “No one knows what the future holds,” this one is more declarative about his intentions. Barring something unforeseen, Harbaugh is coming back for a ninth season leading his alma mater.

I love the relationships that I have at Michigan — coaches, staff, families, administration, President Santa Ono and especially the players and their families,” Harbaugh said. “My heart is at the University of Michigan. I once heard a wise man say, ‘Don’t try to out-happy happy.’ Go Blue!

A year after interviewing for the Vikings’ HC job, Harbaugh met with the Broncos a week ago today. He was the first candidate to interview for Denver’s HC vacancy and has been connected to the team since Nathaniel Hackett‘s firing. Harbaugh, 59, has expressed a desire to someday return to the NFL, citing unfinished business from his four-year run with the 49ers. That business will again be on hold, as Harbaugh again jumped off the NFL carousel. Harbaugh called Broncos CEO Greg Penner on Monday morning to inform him of the decision to stay at Michigan, Mike Klis of 9News tweets.

While the Vikings did not offer Harbaugh their HC job in 2022, the eight-year Michigan HC was believed to be the Broncos’ 1-B option. Sean Payton has resided as Denver’s 1-A for a bit now, and Harbaugh’s decision to remain in the college ranks further amplifies the Broncos’ Tuesday meeting with Payton. Both Payton and Rams DC Raheem Morris will meet with new Broncos ownership Tuesday in Los Angeles.

The Broncos and Harbaugh were in talks, but Klis adds the parties did not come close to discussing a contract. Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice have ties to Harbaugh dating back to his Stanford days, and ex-Broncos GM-turned-consultant John Elway does as well. These connections appeared to increase the chances Harbaugh would finally make the jump back to the league. This probably will not be the last Harbaugh-NFL connection, given the news cycles surrounding the fiery leader’s future over the past several years. But the Broncos must move on.

Reports of Harbaugh being interested — especially as a report of Michigan being investigated for potential violations surfaced — in returning to the NFL ended up again preceding an announcement Michigan will keep its HC. He contacted the Panthers about their job, speaking with David Tepper. That conversation did not endear Harbaugh to the Panthers, it appears, and the Colts — rumored to be interested back in December — had not set up an interview. Here is how the Broncos’ HC search looks as of Monday afternoon:

Sean Payton Prefers Broncos Job To Other HC Vacancies?

Russell Wilson‘s first Broncos season sounded alarm bells about his future, calling into question the team’s decision to trade for the nine-time Pro Bowler and hand him a five-year extension before the season began. Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett never seemed a match, but even as the 34-year-old quarterback fared better upon the latter’s dismissal, the veteran passer’s presence certainly affects the Broncos’ coaching search.

But Sean Payton may still view Wilson as an asset. The high-profile coaching free agent would sign off on working with Wilson, according to the Washington Post’s Mark Maske (on Twitter). The Broncos are believed to be the early frontrunners for Payton, Maske adds.

The Saints have granted permission for the Broncos, Cardinals and Texans to speak with Payton. But Payton’s view of this year’s available jobs remains unclear. He is set to meet with the Broncos on Tuesday in Los Angeles; no other known meetings have been scheduled. Payton, 58, is believed to be intrigued by the Broncos’ new ownership group, Maske adds. Fronted by Rob Walton and new CEO Greg Penner, this contingent is running the Broncos’ latest HC search — with help from GM George Paton — and has a clear advantage when it comes to dollars.

Wilson finished this season 27th in QBR, plunging off a cliff from even an injury-marred 2021 season (10th). One of the NFL’s top quarterbacks from this era has either seen his prime come to a screeching halt much earlier than expected, or the Hackett union and the offense he designed for Wilson (with input from Wilson) caused considerable damage. Wilson put the Saints on his radar during the 2021 offseason, listing New Orleans (along with the Chicago, Dallas and Las Vegas) as an acceptable trade destination. The Seahawks did not trade Wilson in 2021, pulling the trigger in 2022 for a compensation package fronted by two first-round picks. Considering how poorly Wilson’s 2022 season went, Payton selecting the Broncos would be a bit of a gamble. For Wilson, however, the longtime Saints HC’s arrival could be tremendously beneficial.

Payton viewing Wilson as an asset comes shortly after a report surfaced indicating the quarterback might deter the former Super Bowl-winning HC from picking the Broncos. Some around the league are skeptical Payton would sign up to fix Wilson, but the Broncos are likely to offer their next coach the chance to have final say on personnel matters. Denver’s next HC will report to Penner and not Paton, a change from the team’s 2021 and ’22 setup. While such an arrangement can lead to incongruity, it should appeal to HC candidates.

The Broncos are believed to have Payton as their 1-A candidate, with Jim Harbaugh at 1-B. Michigan, however, is — as should be expected, given Harbaugh’s track record — trying to retain its longtime HC. Michigan president Santa Ono confirmed (via Twitter) conversations with Harbaugh are ongoing. Harbaugh then offered some words of support for Ono’s overtures, opening the door to a scenario where the NFL interest — including a Monday Broncos interview — leads to another new Harbaugh contract with Michigan.

Payton could also opt to pass on this year’s collection of jobs and wait for 2024. The Chargers and Cowboys’ wild-card games figure to be of interest as well. Both were on Payton’s early list of possible destinations — well before the Wilson-Hackett partnership created the Denver opening. This Broncos job could have similar appeal at this point, with Maske adding (via Twitter) Payton may still hold the Denver gig in high regard even if the Dallas position opened up.

Broncos Interview Jim Caldwell, David Shaw; Latest On Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh Pursuits

9:35pm: Add another list to the Broncos’ head coaching search. Denver interviewed former Stanford head coach David Shaw on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Shaw recently resigned from his post at Stanford after two consecutive 3-9 seasons. Despite the dismal finish to his career, Shaw left the Cardinal with a 96-54 record as a head coach.

Before becoming a mainstay in Stanford, Shaw held assistant coaching roles with the Raiders and Ravens coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers. His success at the NFL level combined with his winning tradition at Stanford made Shaw a hot commodity in the NFL, especially after the immediate NFL success of his Stanford predecessor, Jim Harbaugh, following his rise to the pros.

NFL teams will finally have their opportunity to kick the tires on Shaw, and it appears the Broncos are the first to do so. It would certainly be an interesting fit as Shaw has connections to fellow Stanford alumni Penner and Rice.

12:52pm: The Broncos added another name to their HC search. They are meeting with former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell on Wednesday, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets.

Caldwell’s interview will be in-person, 9News’ Mike Klis adds (via Twitter). A fixture on coaching carousels in recent years, Caldwell has already met with the Panthers. Caldwell’s AFC championship in Indianapolis and two playoff berths in Detroit aside, his entry into this race qualifies as a lower-profile development considering the other names connected to the Broncos.

Sean Payton has spoken with the Broncos, and an interview is expected. The team can interview Payton beginning Jan. 17. But some doubt regarding Payton’s interest in this job has emerged. The Broncos may want Payton more than vice versa, Dan Graziano of ESPN.com notes, and colleague Jeremy Fowler adds the prospect of a long-term Russell Wilson partnership has generated some skepticism around the league.

Wilson had the Saints on his 2021 list of acceptable trade destinations — before the Broncos landed on that list and became his preference — and Payton, from his FOX analyst role, offered some possible solutions to address Wilson’s stunning performance drop-off this season. The 16-year Saints HC is expected to be choosey, though he has said on multiple occasions he will likely coach again. Payton has also analyzed every team’s depth chart in preparation for a potential NFL return. A franchise quarterback is not a requirement for Payton, Jeff Howe of The Athletic writes (subscription required), but a path to one would move the needle. Although Wilson showed signs of his pre-Denver self to close the season, he probably does not qualify as a franchise QB after the year he had.

Payton would also be expected to bring his own personnel staff to Denver, Graziano adds, which could spell more trouble for Broncos GM George Paton. New Denver ownership’s curious plan of having both Paton and the next head coach report to ownership also could sound alarm bells for Payton, Howe adds, though that might not be too much of a concern given the price the Broncos will need to pay to lure Payton. It would not exactly be expected Denver would hire a new GM that is not approved by Payton, for whom the team may well need to trade a first-round pick.

A report Tuesday placed Harbaugh as an early frontrunner, but Fowler clarifies the Michigan HC is behind Payton. If the latter turns down the Broncos, Harbaugh will be the favorite. Harbaugh is rumored to be prepared to bring Tom Gamble, the former 49ers player personnel director who is now with the Wolverines, with him, per Fowler.

Unlike the Panthers, who were believed to be confused when Harbaugh reached out to them, Tom Pelissero said during a Dan Patrick Show appearance the Broncos contacted Harbaugh (video link). New CEO Greg Penner and co-owner Condoleezza Rice‘s ties to Stanford — where Harbaugh coached from 2007-10 — are driving this interest. The Broncos have done extensive research on the former 49ers coach, Fowler adds.

The Colts were rumored to be interested in Harbaugh, but they have not interviewed him yet. It would not surprise if such a meeting took place, with Fowler adding the Colts job appeals to Harbaugh. Jim Irsay‘s overreaching last year has made the Colts job less of a draw for some, Howe adds, but Harbaugh did play for the Colts for four seasons in the 1990s and holds a spot in their ring of honor.

Caldwell, 67, has been out of the league since a Dolphins one-off as an assistant HC in 2019. He joins Payton as an offense-oriented candidate. The rest of the Broncos’ candidate list includes defensive staffers — Ejiro Evero, Dan Quinn, DeMeco Ryans, Raheem Morris. Among this lot, Quinn, who interviewed for the Denver job last year, looks to have the best shot of landing the position, Pelissero adds. Quinn has ties to Paton dating back to their Dolphins days, though he appears to be a fallback option at this point.

Jim Harbaugh Early Frontrunner For Broncos HC Job?

The Broncos’ second HC search in as many years is producing bigger headlines compared to their 2022 process, with Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh regularly connected to the team. A Payton interview is expected, and the longtime Saints coach has spoken with the team. But Harbaugh is further along.

The Michigan coach interviewed with the Broncos virtually Monday, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com notes (video link). The team has sent out other interview requests, and its long-expected interview with defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero occurred Tuesday. But Harbaugh might have an early leg up. The eight-year Michigan HC is the early leader here, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets.

This pushes back on Payton-to-Denver being a done deal, despite the Broncos and Saints having agreed on compensation for the current FOX analyst’s rights. A Payton move — believed to cost a first-round pick and more — would further deplete Denver’s draft arsenal, which the Russell Wilson trade already affected. The Broncos acquired a first-rounder in the Bradley Chubb trade but do not have a second-rounder this year. Denver did not make a first-round pick last year, with the Seahawks obtaining it for Wilson. Harbaugh, nor any of the other known Broncos candidates, would not cost any draft capital.

Despite Harbaugh’s proclamation that he expects to coach Michigan again in 2023, The Athletic’s Nick Baumgardner notes (via Twitter) the former 49ers HC is believed to be eager to return to the NFL. Harbaugh, 59, said he has unfinished business in the league, and the belief is he will strongly consider a return to the league this year. Harbaugh is interested in taking the Denver job, Mike Sando of The Athletic adds (subscription required).

Harbaugh was supposed to interview with the Broncos later this week, but Renck notes the parties bumped it up, making him the first to meet with Denver’s new ownership about the position. Harbaugh certainly carries a feather-ruffling reputation, and Renck adds some among the Broncos have bristled at the notion Harbaugh could become the team’s next coach. A clash with GM Trent Baalke helped lead Harbaugh out of San Francisco eight years ago.

The Panthers are no longer believed to be pursuing Harbaugh, per Sando and The Athletic’s Joe Person, and the Colts — rumored to have interest — have not set up an interview with the ex-Indianapolis QB. These developments clear an early path for the Broncos. Harbaugh interviewed for the Vikings job last year but was not offered, and a recent ESPN report indicated Michigan is under investigation for potential violations. That could help explain Harbaugh’s urgency to give the NFL another shot.

Payton would bring more to the table from an offensive scheming standpoint, something that will be critical as the Broncos attempt to move Wilson back on track. But Harbaugh’s .695 win percentage — in four 49ers seasons — ranks sixth in NFL history. Evero also worked with Harbaugh during each of his four seasons in San Francisco, opening the door — barring the first-year DC landing another HC job; the Colts and Texans are interested — for the Nathaniel Hackett hire to stay on in his current post. The Broncos have also sent out interview requests for 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans, Cowboys DC Dan Quinn and Rams DC Raheem Morris. The two-year Rams defensive boss is set to interview Jan. 17, which doubles as the earliest date the Broncos can meet with Payton.

Latest On Broncos’ HC Search

The Broncos have wasted no time in turning the page on the 2022 NFL season. It was reported yesterday that Denver had been granted permission to interview former Saints head coach Sean Payton for their open coaching position. Payton isn’t the only coach on the radar in Denver, though, and the Broncos have moved forward with plans for interviews with other candidates, according to Mike Klis of 9News.

The search will be led by a committee of owners and general manager George Paton. Owner and CEO Greg Penner intends to lead things with the help of fellow owners Carrie Penner, Rob Walton, and Condoleeza Rice. After failed stints with first-time head coaches Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, and Nathaniel Hackett, the committee is putting preference on previous head coaching experience. The process will begin Monday when Denver will send out permission requests to interview candidates who are currently under contract with other teams. They plan to hold virtual interviews with multiple candidates this week.

The first in-person interview will occur this week and it will reportedly be with current Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero. Despite the team’s struggles this season, Evero has consistently fielded a top 10 defense throughout the year. Denver ranked 10th in points allowed this year, seventh in yards allowed, 10th in rushing yards allowed, and 12th in passing yards allowed. Evero accomplished this feat despite a brutal number of players on injured reserve throughout the season. Evero doesn’t fit the committee’s preference as a potential first-time head coach, but he showed he had the ability to handle a jump in responsibility as a first-time coordinator this year. He also holds a distinction as the only current candidate with an existing relationship with the players.

The two names that have come out of the woodwork already in the search, besides Payton and Evero, are University of Michigan head coach and former head coach of the 49ers Jim Harbaugh and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

Harbaugh announced his plans this week to remain the head coach in Ann Arbor, but that won’t stop NFL teams from knocking on his door, virtually. Harbaugh is expected to be one of the virtual interviewees this week. There is, of course, a chance that Michigan attempts to entice Harbaugh to stay with a pay raise. Despite his coaching success at the college and NFL level, Harbaugh still earns less that Penn State’s James Franklin and Michigan State’s Mel Tucker in the Big Ten Conference.

Payton’s situation was discussed Saturday, including an update reporting that the Broncos and Saints “appear to be on the same page” with respect to trade compensation. The Saints are reportedly looking for a first-round pick and more, and apparently, Denver is willing to pay the price, according to Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network. Rapoport also claims that the Broncos are interested in interviewing Payton as soon as possible, but due to his current obligations to New Orleans, an in-person interview with Payton cannot occur until January 17. The team could have held a virtual interview with Payton this week but reportedly decided to wait until he was fully available.

Denver will likewise have to wait to interview Quinn. The former Falcons head coach is headed to the playoffs with Dallas and, as a result, is not able to be interviewed until the 16th or 17th of January. Quinn was highly sought-after in the last hiring cycle, participating in interviews with the Broncos, Bears, Dolphins, Vikings, and Giants last year. He instead chose to remain in Dallas, signing a multi-year contract extension as the Cowboys defensive coordinator.

Despite the Broncos’ eagerness to move the process along, they are still required to comply with the league’s Rooney Rule. Interestingly, despite being a Black coach, Evero does not count towards the Rooney Rule as an internal candidate. Black coaches expected to be in the running for head coaching gigs this offseason are Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, and Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Morris and Ryans would not fit the committee’s preference for head coaching experience, but since Denver seems to have its heart set on Payton, interviews with these candidates would likely be nominal in nature. If this is, indeed, the case, it would be yet another example of the shortcomings of the league’s current efforts at diversity as teams only appear to be going through the motions when interviewing minority candidates.

The schedule is slowly forming for Penner, Patton, and company. Evero’s in-person interview this week, Harbaugh and others virtual interviews this week, and the pursuit of Payton and Quinn a little over a week from now. After ending the season on a high note with a win over the Chargers, Denver is looking to continue on with its forward momentum in making a home run hire at head coach.

Jim Harbaugh Expects To Stay At Michigan?

January 8: As expected, Harbaugh’s public statement that he plans to remain in Ann Arbor in 2023 is not deterring interested NFL clubs. The Broncos, who have been given permission to interview Sean Payton and who reportedly are in agreement with the Saints on the framework of a trade package to acquire Payton’s rights, still plan to interview Harbaugh, per Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

The NFL.com tandem suggests that Michigan could offer Harbaugh a contract that further entices him to stay put. After the former 49ers HC took a pay cut in 2021 following the pandemic-shortened season, he had his pay restored last year. However, he still earns less than Big Ten contemporaries James Franklin and Mel Tucker.

Interestingly, Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reports that the recent conversation between Harbaugh and the Panthers was not initiated by Tepper, but by Harbaugh himself. Sources tell Jones that Harbaugh’s behavior during his summit with the Vikings last year was “odd,” and that has made Tepper wary. Pelissero and Rapoport confirm that the conversation “didn’t amount to anything,” so it appears that Carolina is out of this particular race.

January 5: Jim Harbaugh‘s NFL market looked to be heating up this week. The Broncos want to interview him, and Panthers owner David Tepper has already spoken with him about the position. The Colts, the team Harbaugh led to the 1995 AFC championship game as a quarterback, are also on the radar.

The Michigan coach said in December he planned to stay in Ann Arbor. Following the run of Harbaugh-to-NFL rumors, the eight-year Wolverines HC attempted to double down. His December statement, however, was a bit more declarative.

I am aware of the rumors and speculation over the past few days. College and NFL teams have great interest in all our personnel, from players to coaches to staff,” Harbaugh said (Twitter link). “… As I stated in December, no one knows what the future holds. I expect that I will be enthusiastically coaching Michigan in 2023.”

Harbaugh landing on NFL radars and then deciding to stay at his alma mater has become a recent offseason tradition, though a return to the league has gained steam over the past two years. The former 49ers HC interviewed for the Vikings job but was not offered the position. Teams are under the impression Harbaugh can be lured back to the pros this year. The Broncos and Panthers seem to be under that impression. Denver is believed to view Harbaugh as its 1-A candidate early in the process.

Thursday’s statement obviously gives the longtime Michigan leader some wiggle room, and Harbaugh going from this proclamation to an NFL job would certainly not be the first time a coach has changed his mind and/or offered misleading comments about his intentions. It does not seem like this statement will force interested NFL teams to back off.

Harbaugh has said in the past he has unfinished business in the NFL. Approaching 60, time is running out for a return to the league. Not too many coaches have been hired north of 60 in NFL history. The fiery HC ranks sixth in NFL history for win percentage (.695), going to three NFC championship games in four seasons in San Francisco. A falling out with the 49ers led Harbaugh to Michigan, where he has elevated the program. The Wolverines went 5-7 in 2014; they have won at least 10 games five times under Harbaugh and have made the past two College Football Playoff fields.