Denver Broncos can only take so many “big swings” at a head coach

Denver Broncos; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The new Denver Broncos ownership group understands that the next head coaching hire is crucial for the immediate success of the franchise they collectively spent $4.65 billion to acquire. If the next option costs $20-25 million per season, what is that compared to $4.65 billion? The Walton-Penner ownership group does not seem interested or prepared in any way to let money be the reason the Broncos fail to find the right head coach for this team.

According to reports, they are willing and ready to spend big on some of the top potential candidates, even candidates that have been deemed “unrealistic” by many in the media or even just the fan base.

Denver Broncos ownership group ready to swing and spend big on new head coach

The vernacular here is worth noting. Multiple times, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero now have used the term “swing big” or “big swing” in relation to Jim Harbaugh, Sean Payton, and Dan Quinn as candidates for the Broncos. Let’s just put this out there as plainly as we can: One of those options is not like the other.

To acquire Jim Harbaugh would require pulling him from his dream job at Michigan back to the NFL. It would require paying a $3 million buyout. It would require convincing him to come to Denver over other interested franchises. It would likely require at least $20 million per year on a multi-year contract. To acquire Jim Harbaugh as the next head coach of the Denver Broncos? That would be a big swing.

To acquire Sean Payton would require mutual interest, first and foremost. It would require the New Orleans Saints giving permission to talk to him in the first place because, as we saw earlier in the 2022 season, the Dolphins had a first-round pick stripped away after trying to backdoor some conversations with Payton. To acquire Sean Payton would require giving up NFL Draft capital, starting with a first-round draft pick in all likelihood. Getting Sean Payton in the building would require a contract potentially around $25 million per year. That would be a big swing.

But to lump Dan Quinn into that “big swing” category is disingenuous at best. Quinn is a fine NFL coach and a solid defensive coordinator. He has been a head coach in the NFL before and helped take the Atlanta Falcons to the infamous 28-3 Super Bowl against the Patriots. Before that, he was the man at the helm of the Legion of Boom in Seattle. Quinn could presumably put together a strong, veteran coaching staff around him, but how does he fall into the “big swing” category?

He doesn’t.

Dan Quinn would represent a small-ball, “single hitter” type of approach to selecting a leader for the team. Is swinging for singles bad? Not really, you can drive in plenty of runs with a single hitter, someone who can hit for average even if they aren’t the biggest bat in your lineup. But these aren’t the 2011, Tim Tebow Denver Broncos. We don’t need John Fox again.

The Broncos need something totally different in this head coach cycle, and pitching Dan Quinn as a “big swing” candidate whether that’s the Broncos or the media doing it, is extremely belittling to the fan base because did you expect us all to forget that you passed on Dan Quinn just last year for Nathaniel Hackett?

Did you expect us all to forget that nobody ended up hiring Dan Quinn in last year’s cycle? Perhaps that’s because he wanted the Broncos’ job and none other, but that’s hard to believe. Were the Broncos that sold that Nathaniel Hackett could bring Aaron Rodgers with him? One way or another, they didn’t view Dan Quinn as the best possible head coaching candidate.

So let’s say the rumors we’ve read are true, and Sean Payton doesn’t necessarily “want” to coach the Broncos. Let’s say Jim Harbaugh goes back to Michigan. Are we truly to believe Quinn is the best possible candidate this time around? He’s more preferable than any possible first-time coach, such as Shane Steichen of the Eagles who has worked with Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts in recent years?

We’re meant to believe that Dan Quinn is a better short and long-term head coaching option than DeMeco Ryans or even Ejiro Evero, for that matter? Why? Previous experience?

Something just doesn’t add up. Again, I’m not trying to diminish what Dan Quinn has done as an NFL coach. He has had some tremendous success and he deserves a lot of credit for helping turn around the Cowboys‘ defense these last couple of years as well.

But in the last two seasons, we’ve seen Dallas’ defenses deteriorate down the stretch. His time in Atlanta ended unceremoniously and his best years with the Falcons included Kyle Shanahan on the staff as an assistant. And this year, it’s become clear that Shanahan is the best coach in the NFL right now, arguably.

Thanks Joe Ellis.

Ultimately, the answer is no, Dan Quinn is not a “big swing” of a hire in this head coach cycle. There are two big swings that we know of right now: Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton. Until other surprise names are fired or something, the next “big swing” would be someone slightly risky, like a first-time head coach.

It would be a bigger swing for the Denver Broncos to put a vote of confidence in Ejiro Evero and give him the reigns. If the Broncos want to take a big swing, they absolutely should. But nobody should be getting fooled by what the big swings in this cycle truly are.