The buzz surrounding the Denver Broncos’ head coaching search, and in a pleasant twist, the Broncos appear to be in the market for some of the biggest and most tantalizing names on the market.

Jim Harbaugh, Dan Quinn and Sean Payton, all of whom have led a team to the Super Bowl as head coach, are among the candidates most likely to take the job, according to Vegas, placing the Broncos in a desirable position.

What do the résumés of these prospective coaches look like? What aspects of their track record should Broncos Country be excited about, and which should they fear? Let’s look.

Jim Harbaugh (+200 to be Denver Broncos’ next coach)

Of all the names on the Denver Broncos’ head coaching watchlist, none may be more tantalizing than the Michigan Wolverines head coach, Jim Harbaugh.

Harbaugh joined the 49ers in 2011 and quickly turned them around from being one of the league’s biggest laughing stocks over the past decade.

From 2004-2010, the 49ers were a 46-66 (.411) squad that failed to reach the playoffs a single time. From 2011-2014, which was Harbaugh’s tenure, the 49ers were a perennial contender with a 49-12-1 (.790), and made the playoffs three times. Harbaugh took his team to at least the conference championship game in all of their playoff runs, and the two times they didn’t reach the Super Bowl, the NFC Championship game down to the last play of the game. That’s how close he was from turning an NFC also-ran into a three-time consecutive NFC Champion, immediately after being hired.

Then, following Harbaugh’s departure, the 49ers slunk back to being a bottom-feeding organization for the next four seasons, posting a record of 17-47 (.266).

It’s clear the impact Harbaugh had on the 49ers.

That’s also far from the only program that Harbaugh has turned around.

His head coaching career started at the University of San Diego, where he turned a club that was 19-10 the three years prior, to a program that went 29-6 during his three years, and 22-2 over his final two.

He was then hired by Stanford, who lept from being 1-11 the year prior to hiring Harbaugh, to posting a 29-21 record under his watch, including an 11-1 final season.

Most recently, he joined Michigan, who was 47-42 combined, over the two head coaching tenures that preceeded Harbaugh. Since taking over, Harbaugh has posted a 74-25 record, and has taken the Wolverines to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Harbaugh would give the Denver Broncos a proven winner who not only knows how to turn a losing operation into a victorious one, but he also has demonstrated a clear ability to instill a culture into his teams. Harbaugh’s teams are consistently physical, with a stout defense and hard-nosed run game, which bullies its opponents into submission. With a bevy of different offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators, programs, and regions, these identities have remained constant.

That should be appealing to the Denver Broncos, who have been devoid of nearly all identity for much of the last 7 seasons. The only identity one could even attempt to cling to is that of Denver’s terrific defense, which should fit nicely with Harbaugh.

Harbaugh also has connections with the only two members of the Broncos’ coaching staff that Broncos Country actually seems to like. Ejiro Evero worked under Harbaugh, during Harbaugh’s time in San Francisco, and Jerry Rosburg worked under Jim Harbaugh’s brother, John, in Baltimore, as special teams coordinator, for over a decade. Considering the cross-pollination between the two Harbaugh staffs, that could easily lead to Rosburg sticking around.

Now, the negatives with Harbaugh are nearly as simple as the positives.

He’s got an extremely intense personality, and that reportedly wore people thin over time in San Francisco. As a result, some speculated that the college game is best for him, because players aren’t generally with the program for longer than five years, making it tougher for Harbaugh to wear them down. At the NFL level, when dealing with salaried adults, Harbaugh’s style might not jive.

The other big knock is his consistent failure to win the big game. His playoff résumé in San Francisco was super impressive, but it also features a Super Bowl loss and two Conference Championship game losses. At Michigan, he’s 1-6 in bowl games, including a loss this year to heavy-underdog TCU. He’s dispelled this narrative some by winning back-to-back B1G Championships, and by beating Ohio State in consecutive seasons, but the concerns about coming up just a little short persist.

Harbaugh’s success has also made him a widely coveted commodity, and he’ll have the ability to pick his job. How much more will the Broncos have to pay him to become the best job on the table?

All that said, if Harbaugh starts to wear NFL figures thin in year four, he’d already be positioned in the upper third of NFL head coaches, as only 12 out of the 32’s current head coaches have been with their team for at least four seasons. For Harbaugh to even cause problems in year four, he’s got to reach year four, and that denotes success for an NFL head coach. Also, losing in the AFC Championship consistently would be an immense upgrade from where the Denver Broncos currently find themselves.

Sign me up.

Dan Quinn (+250 to be Broncos’ next coach)

Dan Quinn is the only one of these three who was involved in the Denver Broncos’ coaching search last season, and he was a finalist for the job, which will certainly help his odds this time around.

Quinn was set for his second interview with the Broncos, although he ultimately lost out to Nathaniel Hackett before that second interview could be completed. On top of that, aiding his chances of being Denver’s next head coach is the fact that he and general manager George Paton go way back.

Since January of 2015, it has been reported that Quinn and Paton have a strong desire to work together. Those ties were also very obvious during last year’s hiring cycle as Quinn immediately opened the interviewing cycle as a clear favorite, and is currently the favorite in this cycle according to sportsbooks.

However, the fact Quinn entered the interviewing cycle, and lost out to Nathaniel Hackett to the point where his second interview wasn’t even completed, despite having the inside track with Paton, should raise some eyebrows in concern.

His Atlanta Falcons coaching stint could also raise concern. Although he reached a Super Bowl with Kyle Shanahan as his offensive coordinator, Quinn then failed to adequately replace Shanahan, leading to the collapse of the offense. DVOA, and advanced metric, watched the offense drop from being the best in football in Shanahan’s final season, to ninth-best, to 15th-best, to 22nd-best, before the 2020 season. With Shanahan in the building, Quinn boasted a winning percentage of .600. Following Shanahan’s departure, Quinn had a winning percentage of just .455.

Quinn’s ‘Legion of Boom’ defense also failed to materialize in Atlanta, as his defense, in terms of points allowed, found itself in the NFL’s top-third just once in his six years at the helm, while they found themselves in the bottom-third four times. DVOA has Quinn’s Falcons defenses in the bottom half of the league every year of his tenure except 2020, when Quinn was dismissed five games into the season.

That said, there are still some aspects of Quinn’s résumé that are appealing. He’s an experienced veteran head coach, with a winning playoff record, who has been beloved by players everywhere he’s gone. Yet, unlike ‘player’s coach’ Nathaniel Hackett, Quinn’s units have been consistently buttoned up, and he has proven himself as a defensive play caller.

One of the critiques of his Atlanta defense was that it was rigid and he didn’t adapt to the roster talent. That’s changed dramatically since. He overhauled his defensive scheme in Dallas, and created one of the most unique-looking defenses in all of football, simply to maximize the skill set of Micah Parsons.

The adaptability and growth he’s shown, as well as his experience guiding an NFL locker room, are desirable traits, but his résumé as a head coach is far from ideal.

Sean Payton (+575 to be Denver Broncos’ next coach)

Sean Payton would be another whale of a hire for the Denver Broncos, and like Jim Harbaugh, he might not be the most likely hiring at face value.

Following Drew Brees’ retirement, Payton stepped down from his job as Saints head coach, only to immediately start scoping out other NFL jobs. That feels like a pretty transparent way to attempt to dodge a messy situation, and instead, pick a job that’s ready to compete.

Do the Denver Broncos look much better, or for that matter, better at all, than the Saints job that Payton just walked away from?

It should also be noted that even if Payton decided Denver was his preferred destination, the Broncos would have to acquire him via trade, as his contract still belongs to New Orleans. That’s dicey considering Denver doesn’t have much draft capital to sacrifice, and they have a lot of holes they’ll need to plug if they want to win now, which, again, might be a requisite with Payton.

However, if Payton was interested in the Broncos’ job, it would be very difficult to say no.

Sean Payton is one of the league’s very best offensive minds, but unlike the shiny, brand-new, youthful offensive coordinator hire — which has been all the rage in recent years — Payton has a proven track record, and the most experience of anyone on this list, as an NFL head coach.

Seeing what Denver just went through with the parade of Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, and Nathaniel Hackett this past season, it’s likely we see a premium placed on experience.

Plus, although Payton hasn’t done it in as many stops as Jim Harbaugh, he has demonstrated the ability to rebuild a fledgling team.

He became the New Orleans Saints head coach immediately following Hurricane Katrina. Not only was the team in a less-than-ideal spot, coming off a 3-13 season, but the city was in a horrific place too, considering the devastation they had just experienced.

Then, in his very first season, he won Coach of the Year honors and took the Saints to the NFC Championship.

Ultimately, alongside Drew Brees, he oversaw three mini-eras of contending Saints football, which is amazing, as the franchise had never truly reached ‘contender’ status prior to Payton’s arrival.

Payton is also the only member of this trio with a Super Bowl ring for his work as a head coach, and if not for a bunch of unfortunate bounces in three-straight seasons, he might’ve earned multiple rings.

The fact he has yet to experience this incredible success without a Hall-of-Fame quarterback is one small knock.