Most underrated edge Broncos have with head coach search in 2023

Sayre Bedinger
Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos CEO Greg Penner before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos CEO Greg Penner before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Denver Broncos have become the third NFL team with a head coaching vacancy here in the 2022 season. It’s been a horrendous year for the Broncos, bordering on historically bad. Nathaniel Hackett became the third NFL head coach since 1994 to be fired amidst his first season on the job and the Broncos’ offense, for a long time, had been keeping pace with the 2000 Cleveland Browns as the worst scoring offense in the last 25 years.

It’s no wonder the Broncos have a head coaching vacancy right now considering the Walton-Penner ownership group was not in place when Hackett was hired early on in 2022. The new ownership group invested $4.65 billion in this team, and being one of the most embarrassingly bad offenses in the league with a quarterback on a brand-new, $245 million deal?

Well, that’s not going to cut it. So what will the new ownership group do about it? For starters, Broncos CEO Greg Penner will be leading the charge in this new head coach search, which will also include the rest of the ownership group as well as GM George Paton. There are undoubtedly pros and cons to the Broncos’ coaching vacancy at the moment and the cons stand out to so many in the fan base because they are glaring.

What are the cons of the Broncos’ head coaching gig at the moment? The perception for many is simple:

  • Russell Wilson’s massive decline in play in 2022
  • Russell Wilson’s massive contract

The general thinking has been, why would any prospective head coach choose the Denver Broncos if they have to be tied to Russell Wilson? Why would they want to inherit a team that has just six picks in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Those are certainly fair questions, but they can’t simply be taken at face value. First of all, the Denver Broncos’ job opening is 1/32 in the world. NFL head coaching jobs will always be attractive, no matter what.

Second of all, Denver is a desirable destination in the NFL. It always has been and always will be. The Broncos are one of the winningest franchises in the history of the game and that tradition is well-respected from people in the league.

Third, Broncos Country is one of the best and most passionate fan bases in the league. The atmosphere at Mile High is electric, and coaches who have come to Denver in the past all know it.

Beyond all of that, the Broncos are planning $100 million in stadium renovations. They have already done work to the locker room and team facility.

The Broncos have plenty going for them in regards to prospective head coaching candidates but one factor that needs way more attention than it’s getting is the fact that this new ownership group has deep, deep pockets. They have already proven that they will spare no expense to make the team better, signing off on the Russell Wilson contract as well as the $100 million stadium renovations, among other things.

When looking at any potential head coach candidates for the Broncos, it’s important to keep in mind that money talks. If I were a betting man, I would be willing to bet that there’s really no line in the sand for Broncos ownership right now when it comes to what they would be willing to spend in order to get the top target on their list.

If this ownership group wants to hire Sean Payton, for example (and we don’t know that to be the case, this is just a hypothetical), they could offer him a contract he may not be able to refuse. Acquiring his rights from the Saints would certainly be something to have to figure out, but in terms of making the Broncos’ job seem attractive to a guy like Payton? Money talks.

And it says more than you might think. Financial investment in the next head coach could also indicate whether or not there’s a proverbial sand timer on Russell Wilson’s time in Denver. Yes, the ownership group has to pay Wilson a lot of money over the next couple of years, but that doesn’t mean the next head coach is going to be completely tied to Wilson, at least not in my opinion.

If these guys come in with a compelling pitch and they are willing to try salvaging Russell Wilson coming off of a horrendous 2022 season, but they’re not willing to stake their job security on Russ, will that be the line the ownership group draws in the sand? I honestly don’t think so. I think they are going to give the best candidate the keys and let them decide whether they want to work with Russ long-term, or give an honest evaluation after 2023.

I don’t think the next head coach is going to be saddled with a poor backup/contingency QB situation, either.

In other words, I think they’re going to be the ones calling the shots. If Sean Payton or Jim Harbaugh comes in and says they want GM control, I think the ownership group would pave the way for that to happen. Again, this is all hypothetical and opinion, not anything set in stone. But if they’re willing to do whatever it takes to restore the winning tradition, then whatever it takes is whatever it takes.

And that includes this ownership’s biggest edge, which is the willingness to pull out the checkbook. What do you want, Jim Harbaugh? What do you want Sean Payton?

What’s the new ownership group’s line in the sand financially? At this point, we have no reason to think there is one. What’s the line in the sand in terms of roster control or players currently under contract, including Russell Wilson? Again, we have no reason to believe that this ownership group will limit itself in terms of candidates just because of a player.

If that means job security no matter what 2023 brings for Russell Wilson? So be it.

Ultimately, I think money and the willingness to let the next head coach decide who is the person in charge of football operations/roster building will be the biggest factors in the Broncos’ favor during this NFL head coaching cycle. What other job opportunities are available?

You can go work in Indianapolis with a meddling owner like Jim Irsay.

You can go work in Carolina and see who you can lure there to play QB.

You can probably go work in Houston for Nick Caserio and have a lot of fun in the NFL Draft for the next handful of years.

You can probably go work in Arizona where Kyler Murray will spend your first year on the job rehabbing from major knee surgery.

What other NFL teams are going to have vacancies this offseason that are so attractive? Again, all of these jobs are 1/32 so they are all going to be attractive to a degree, but the idea that the Broncos are not an attractive opening is simply ridiculous.

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