The Denver Broncos are entering their second year under head coach Sean Payton, and some obvious changes need to be made on the offensive side. The Broncos appear to be moving in a new direction at quarterback, likely will shed at least one of their big-money wide receivers, have some major issues with their running game, and their starting center is slated to be the best center on the open market.
The Broncos have some decent in-house candidates to replace some of their pending departures, including Marvin Mims Jr., Jaleel McLaughlin, and Alex Palczewski. However, there is reason to believe that the Broncos might not have the correct offensive coordinator in place to do so. Here's why the Broncos should consider moving on from Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator, and where they should go with the position.
Why move on from Lombardi?
The Broncos have a massive year coming up for them. In 2024, the Broncos will likely need to compete for a wild card again, while doing so with a new quarterback and a salary cap mess. The Broncos will need to develop a much stronger run game for 2024 and have incredibly dependable pass catchers to maximize what will likely be a limited passing game.
While Lombardi does have a decent track record, he has also failed to maximize offenses. Lombardi's Lions stint included one of Matthew Stafford's worst seasons in 2014, and his Chargers tenure was highlighted by an inability to capitalize on having one of the game's best quarterbacks in Justin Herbert.
Lombardi has struggled to capitalize on immense talent at the quarterback position, so there is reason to be cautious about what he can do with a limited passing game in 2024. The Broncos could serve themselves to move on from Lombardi and bring in a coordinator that they believe might be able to get the most out of what will be a passing game that might be near the bottom of the league and rely on a veteran quarterback overperforming what he has done before, a la Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers this year.
Who could replace him?
Luckily for the Broncos, there are a ton of potential replacements for Lombardi, both in-house and externally. In-house, the most immediate candidates for the Broncos would be quarterbacks coach Davis Webb or wide receivers coach Keary Colbert.
Webb and Colbert have both received praise for their work this past season in Denver, highlighted by the re-emergence of Courtland Sutton as a true number-one wide receiver in the NFL, and Russell Wilson's career revival that almost led the Broncos to the AFC playoffs.
Both coaches have only one year in Denver under their belt, but the Broncos might have to work to keep both coaches if they duplicate their 2023 performances next year. It would make sense for the Broncos to promote one of their two young coaches to keep them around long-term, and Joe Lombardi should not be a huge obstacle in the way of both of those coaches.
Externally, the Broncos could look to recently dismissed Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr, a longtime coordinator under Sean Payton, or former Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has recently re-emerged in the offensive coordinator search of the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.
For Carmichael, he is looking for his first new job since he took the Saints quarterbacks coach job before the 2006 season. Carmichael worked with Payton for the entirety of Payton's tenure and could find his way to Denver this spring, possibly to replace Lombardi.
Kingsbury had a dynamic head coaching tenure in Arizona but led Kyler Murray to some of the more incredible and eye-grabbing seasons in recent quarterbacking history. If Kingsbury is back in NFL coaching circles for good, it would behoove the Broncos to bring him in and try to work with Payton to modernize the Broncos' offense and minimize their 2024 unit, which figures to take a hit this spring in terms of talent.