The Denver Broncos’ hunt for a head coach is starting to reach a fever pitch, with three interviews and one unofficial meeting already conducted, and rumors are swirling around the franchise, Sean Payton, and Jim Harbaugh, like a typhoon.

The latest buzz comes from ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, who had a lot of insight to share in regard to the Broncos, in a recent article discussing all the NFL rumors they’re currently hearing.

“After talking to several industry sources this week, the sentiment I hear a lot is this: If [Sean] Payton says no to Denver, then [Jim] Harbaugh will be the lead candidate,”  Fowler reported in the piece, implying that Payton is the lead candidate, with Harbaugh right behind. “Still much to play out, with Denver waiting to talk to Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and others. But I’ve continued to hear that Denver has done a lot of research on Harbaugh, talking to people who have worked with him in the past to gauge his coaching style. One official from a team searching for a head coach believes Harbaugh wants the Colts job. No word yet on whether Harbaugh plans to speak with Indy brass, but the connection is obvious for the former Colts quarterback.”

Harbaugh and Payton being listed as the top two targets for the Denver Broncos is likely exciting for the fanbase, as those two coaches are comfortably the two whales of the hiring cycle.

Unfortunately, the interest might not be mutual.

As Fowler stated above, Jim Harbaugh might prefer the Colts’ job, and, as was mentioned elsewhere in the piece, Payton seems to prefer Los Angeles.

“Sean Payton is a good match in that he’s the best coach available and Denver — which offers stable ownership and a roster with talent — is drawn to that,” Fowler wrote. “But some around the league are skeptical about whether Payton wants to tie his future to Russell Wilson, who struggled mightily in 2022, though he improved late in the year. A massive six-year deal can assuage any concerns if Payton wants to wait out Wilson and develop another quarterback eventually.”

Graziano seems to be hearing something similar.

“I’m starting to believe Denver might want Payton more than he wants them, though that Walmart money might end up talking before all is said and done,” Graziano reported, while referencing the Walton-Penner Group’s deep pockets. “And it was only a couple of years ago that everybody thought Payton and Wilson were trying to team up in New Orleans, so maybe he sees something in Wilson he believes he can make work. There’s widespread belief Payton will want to bring his own personnel people with him, maybe even his own GM, so you wonder what that would mean for current Broncos GM George Paton. I’d also be surprised if Payton did anything before we got more clarity on the availability of the Los Angeles jobs.”

Graziano also alludes to Payton’s long-reported interest in either Los Angeles-based NFL head coaching job. If either of those jobs open up, which is yet to be seen, it could steal Payton away from the Broncos.

Also, whereas Payton might be scared off by the presence of Russell Wilson, Graziano seems to think Jim Harbaugh might not be as perturbed by the aging quarterback, and highlights Harbaugh’s personality as the bigger hurdle.

“I do think quarterback is the key, as it is for just about any candidate for any one of these jobs. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an elite, top-level quarterback — Harbaugh did a lot of winning in San Francisco with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. But it does have to be someone he can count on and build around. And then that word, “synergy,” is a big one, not just with the general manager but with ownership and others in the building. One thing you do always hear about Harbaugh is that his personality is unique, and that as great a coach as he might be, not everyone who works with him has always thought they meshed with him. I’ve been told those types of concerns were a factor with Vikings ownership when he went to interview there last year. I do wonder if the recent stories about what’s going on with Michigan and NCAA investigators give Harbaugh more urgency to land one of these jobs this year.”

The NCAA’s investigations into Jim Harbaugh are another interesting wrinkle in this situation, as it could easily motivate him to run to the NFL, where the NCAA can’t really touch him.

Whether or not the Broncos can reel in the big fish is yet to be seen, but the fact the Walton-Penner Group are going all-out to try and remedy Denver’s problems should foster optimism among the fanbase.