I never thought we'd be in this position at this point in time, but the Broncos are now in the position of having to find a Head Coach and a General Manager. I expect that those jobs will be filled by two men, and I think that they should be. Also, the Head Coach will have a staff to select. I have some thoughts on each of these topics to share with the community. Let me preface all of this by saying that I think that Pat Bowlen has earned our trust, regardless of what he does. He is a truly outstanding owner.
Personally, I like the work that Jim Goodman has done, and would like to see him retained. Whether or not he is the GM is another question, and really, that comes down to front office structure. I'm not really interested in weighing in on how a front office should be structured, because many models have worked over the years. I just think Jim Goodman should be part of the mix, because finding the best rookie class (by a country mile) in the NFL should have a reward to it.
I don't think that big name flashy GM hires are necessary. I have lived in Cleveland throughout the Phil "I want to be famous" Savage era, and it's been a mess. I prefer a good football man who knows that his role is to stay in the background during the season.
Things get interesting here. Every NFL writer out there, from Mike Lombardi to Bill Williamson has deemed the Broncos job to be easily the best one available. There is a franchise QB and a franchise LT in place. There is also a great owner and a terrific fan base, and a long history of success.
The key young talent that we have is clearly on the offensive side of the ball. It kind of reminds me of the situation that the Colts were in about 7 years ago, when Jim Mora got fired. It worked for them at that time to hire the defensive-minded Tony Dungy as Head Coach, and I am thinking along those lines right now too. Constantly coach up the side of the ball that will always be less talented, by design.
The three names I like at this moment are Steve Spagnuolo, Jim Schwartz, and Raheem Morris.
Spagnuolo is a long-time assistant, and a disciple of the Jim Johnson blitz-happy 4-3 scheme which is employed by the Eagles. His Giants defenses have been outstanding for his two years as their Defensive Coordinator. A potential downside is that he has never been a Head Coach and is already 49 years old, so you probably couldn't consider him a young up-and-comer that you envision in the chair for 20 years.
Schwartz is 42 years old, and has been the DC in Tennessee since 2001. He has an excellent predigree and track record of success. He got his start in Cleveland as a researcher for Bill Belichick, and has worked under Jeff Fisher and Gregg Williams. He's also known as a stats guy, who does work with Football Prospectus and Football Outsiders, which is kind of unique among coaches. He also has coached Albert Haynesworth for his whole NFL career, and there may be a relationship to leverage there.
Morris is actually probably my favorite at this point. He's 32 years old, and save for 1 year at Kansas State in 2006, has not even been a coordinator. He was Assistant DBs Coach for the Bucs in 2004-05 under Mike Tomlin, then DC at K-State for 1 year, followed by spending 2007-08 as DBs coach for the Bucs. He has been named as Monte Kiffin's successor as DC in Tampa. I like the Tampa-2 scheme alongside an explosive offense, and Morris is known to be a really bright young coach. A benefit of the Tampa-2 is that you want undersized, fast guys that not everybody wants to play in it. That allows you to field a good defense on the relative cheap, and continually replenish it through the draft, when a great deal of your salary structure is locked into offensive players. Hiring Morris might be a case of grabbing a guy a year too early, but when you're looking for a 20 year hire, sometimes that's the best move to make.
I'm not that interested in Cowher or Schottenheimer, and don't consider either to be very likely hires. I would be really focused on the three defense guys above at this point, if it were my decision to make.
Some people on here have been saying that they understand the whole staff to have been fired. I don't have the same understanding. From the DP,
"We haven't been told anything," said Scott O'Brien, the Broncos' special-teams coordinator. "We're all under contract. We'll keep working. I'm sure they'll get it figured out."
League sources say that Bowlen already has decided that he'd like to keep several assistants in place, but that he plans to allow the new Head Coach to hire his own staff. I would almost guarantee that Jeremy Bates stays, given his strong performance this year, and the contract extension he recently signed. I would also expect that Bobby Turner and Rick Dennison would be asked to stick around, unless they tried to force their way out of town to join Mike Shanahan. I've also been impressed with the work done by Jedd Fisch, the receivers coach, with Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. I think a desire for some continuity for the league's second-ranked offense is appropriate.
If I worked on defense or special teams, I'd be getting my resume in order. I supported keeping Bob Slowik, if Shanny were staying, because I think Slowik did a credible job with bad cards this season. In this post-Shanny scenario, I obviously no longer want to keep Slowik. I'd like to see a new emphasis on defense and physicality, and new coaches are the best way to achieve a new attitude there. Obviously, the new Head Coach will determine this direction.
A Note About How To Feel
First thing, in my opinion it is not alright, and it will never be alright, to denigrate Mike Shanahan with idiotic names like Shanarat. I've already seen that once or twice on MHR, and it's extremely inappropriate. As the song goes, when you diss Mike, you diss yourself. If you think Mike is inherently a bad coach, you fail the "Do I know anything about football?" test. Thinking he had ceased to be a good fit for this job is a defensible position, and there is probably some amount of merit to it, but he is not a bad football coach, or a traitor, or a bad man.
Mike has handled himself with the utmost class throughout this situation, and he should be commended for that. That is on top of 14 years that any team except the Patriots would be proud to have in their history books, rather than their own history during that time.
Mike should be thought of as distinguished Broncos alumni, the way we thought of Shannon Sharpe when he played in Baltimore. You root for your alumni, unless they're playing the Broncos.
I'm taking kind of a cautious approach to evaluating the next moves. As I said, it is pretty clear that Pat Bowlen has earned some trust with us, and I'll be curious to see what direction he wants to take the team in. I also wish Mike Shanahan the best, and thank him for 14 outstanding years.