The Denver Broncos head coaching search continues as the franchise tries to figure out who will lead the team on Sundays in the future. With perceived finalists for the job receiving interest from other teams, the Broncos will have competition but may have to look at other options.

Latest on the Denver Broncos head coaching search

Many fans in Broncos Country waited last week with the hope they’d know who the next head coach of the Denver Broncos would be. The Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group have kept things close to the vest regarding their first-ever conducted search for a head coach.

It appears the list of finalists has been narrowed down on championship Sunday. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, former Stanford head coach David Shaw, former Indianapolis Colts Jim Caldwell, and current Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero have all been told that the team will be going in a different direction.

How this impacts Evero’s current role as the team’s defensive coordinator remains to be seen. After interviewing with several teams for their head coaching jobs, if Evero is offered a job, he’d take it. However, when the Broncos hire their next head coach — whether or not Evero stays on as the DC if offered is an entirely different question.

It’s fair to say the perceived optics of this head coaching search have been unorthodox, but time will tell. Broncos players have told Mile High Sports how much they value and love playing for Evero not only for how beneficial his scheme is but for how he coaches them. If Denver goes another direction at defensive coordinator based on the head coaching hire, who they hire there will have strong shoes to fill.

Broncos not closing the door on Jim Harbaugh
Last week, the Broncos were radio silent on all fronts of the search, including from team CEO Greg Penner and his wife Carrie Walton Penner who flew to Ann Arbor to meet with Jim Harbaugh — who initially interviewed for the head coaching vacancy before deciding to return to Michigan.

Despite meeting in person last week, the Broncos and Harbaugh did not discuss any offer. The door remains open for both sides as the search continues.

“A source close to Penner said no offer was made during this week’s visit and that he wanted to visit Harbaugh in part because it was the only candidate he hadn’t interviewed in person,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday morning. “But Harbaugh has remained willing to listen and has told people if he were to return to the NFL, the Broncos’ job is one he’d want.”

As the search ramps up this week, Denver could very well make a strong push at Harbaugh if other candidates elect to go elsewhere.

DeMeco Ryans focused on other opportunities?
If the Broncos choose to go the route of hiring a first-time head coach, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans is the leader in the clubhouse. However, the Houston Texans will be Denver’s top competition for Ryans considering he played for the organization and his wife has family in the area.

A homecoming for the former Texans player makes sense, but if Penner and the rest of Broncos ownership want to make a push, they have several appealing cases to make despite not being too focused on Denver. Along with NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, Ian Rapoport noted that Ryans communicated to Broncos brass late last week that he was focused on other opportunities.

Financially, the Broncos have previously acknowledged that the next head coach will have unlimited resources at their disposal to get the job done. On the other hand, Ryans’ time in Houston as a player has personal value to him — and the Texans possess two first-round picks (2nd, 12th overall) in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The overall nucleus for the Texans has promise for a first-time coach like Ryans’ if he were to take the job, but the Broncos have a strong nucleus of a talented, experienced roster in most of the major positions necessary to have instant success in a coach’s first season. While Houston appears to be the favorite to land him, don’t be surprised if the Broncos make one more strong push early this week for Ryans.

Is Sean Payton out of the mix?
Sean Payton was initially perceived as the Denver Broncos top target in their head coaching search. However, as the process has continued to move forward, Denver’s stance has appeared to soften on the former New Orleans Saints head coach. While the Walton-Penner Family Ownership group hasn’t scheduled any second interviews with perceived finalists, there is a widespread belief that Payton may not get one in Denver.

Draft capital could play a big part in the decision with Denver currently possessing just six picks in the 2023 NFL Draft — including three picks in the top 69 with a late round one pick and two picks in the third round. Outside of the first three picks, Denver possesses a fourth, fifth, and a sixth-round pick which was acquired from the Pittsburgh Steelers via the Malik Reed trade.

Last week, Washington Post Reporter Mark Maske tweeted that various elements of the Broncos job appeal to Payton, but a potential power struggle with a member of the ownership group is something the former Saints coach is hesitant with. Payton himself refuted the report, but the truth itself remains to be known.

At the end of the day, the Broncos ownership group needs to have the power and control when running the franchise. A head coach has elevated responsibilities, but their job is to lead the on-field product to wins.

The last thing Denver needs is a power struggle between any coach and ownership — because those things never end well and only detract from the bigger picture items necessary for a struggling football team to turn the ship around.