Young guns may be sexy, but leave it to Elway to pluck Harbaugh or Gruden

1757

It was one quote.

And some in the Denver media decided to declare it 100 percent fact.

Before any head coaching interviews were even conducted, Broncos GM John Elway had seemingly made up his mind.

“Obviously there are a lot of young guys out there that have a lot of potential and [are] very bright young guys, so hopefully we can get one of those,” Elway said Monday when asked about his ideal coaching candidate at the retirement press conference of Gary Kubiak.

Apparently, this means the Broncos are only interested in a ‘young guy’ with ‘potential.’

At least that’s been the narrative ever since Elway uttered the sentence Monday morning.

Not so fast.

Look, there’s no doubt Kyle Shanahan is the favorite in the clubhouse to be the Broncos’ next head coach. The Falcons’ offensive coordinator has done a brilliant job this year and is a logical fit with his last name and Denver ties.

Dolphins’ defensive coordinator Vance Joseph isn’t far behind. The former CU standout is a rising star in the coaching ranks and will someday make a very good head coach.

But just because Shanahan and Joseph fit the criteria of what Elway said he’s looking for doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk one of those two will be hired. In fact, it doesn’t mean anyone fitting that criteria will be hired.

Again, it’s one lousy quote.

Would you really put it past No. 7 to go ‘splashy’ on this hire? To shock the football world and make the Broncos the talk of the NFL world even as they sit out the postseason for the first time in forever?

I wouldn’t.

If Elway has a chance to land a big name coach, with the proper financial backing from ownership to pay the man, he’ll do it.

This team is too talented and too close to winning another Super Bowl to just hand the keys to a young kid without doing due diligence on other, more experienced candidates. Those phone calls may not be publicized, but I’ve got a gut feeling Elway will make them.

Even if the answer is almost assuredly “Thanks, but no thanks,” picking up the phone is a no brainer. And when that call comes from John Elway, the person on the other end might listen just a little bit longer than they would for anyone else.

There are two dream candidates to be the next head coach of the Broncos. Either would be an absolute slam dunk.

Let’s delve…

JIM HARBAUGH

Yes, Harbaugh is ‘home’ at Michigan, and yes the odds are fairly astronomical he’d leave, but keep in mind two key things.

First, Harbaugh doesn’t like to sit still. He’s always eager for the next challenge and has bounced around the last decade. He was at Stanford for just four years, going 29-21 during that span, including 12-1 in his final season in 2010 before jumping to the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers.

He spent four years in the Bay Area, going 44-19-1 and missing out by mere yards on a Super Bowl championship.

Harbaugh has been at Michigan the last two seasons, posting back-to-back 10-3 records and reviving the program.

That’s three marquee jobs the last 10 years, in places he could have spent his whole career if it weren’t for some strained relationships and bigger aspirations. To think Harbaugh is completely set at Michigan with that track record of moving around is silly.

Second, the man has unfinished business in the NFL. The aforementioned Super Bowl loss was to the Baltimore Ravens and his brother, John, by a score of 34-31 – a game in which San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick had a goal-to-go situation in the waning seconds to win it all.

A Super Bowl ring is a real possibility for the next head coach of the Broncos with this defensive core. Harbaugh knows that; it might be the only type of job that could actually lure him back to the NFL.

JON GRUDEN

If it feels like Gruden’s been on your television as an analyst and not a head coach for well, forever, that’s because it’s been nearly forever.

Gruden, or ‘Chuckie’ as the Internet prefers, last coached in Tampa Bay in 2008 when he went 9-7 with the Buccaneers. That (of course) is the same franchise he won a Super Bowl with in 2002 and went on to coach for another six years.

Gruden is 95-81 in his NFL career, and has posted just three losing seasons in 11 overall as the man in charge between Tampa Bay and Oakland.

Sure, his job as ESPN’s Monday Night Football color commentator is cushy, but if Gruden is ever going to get back into coaching, now feels like the time. He’s 53 years old and obviously isn’t getting any younger. He’s still hip and trendy, but those MNF announcing gigs don’t last forever. If he’s going to jump back in one last time, what better situation than this one?

In addition to his announcing duties, Gruden is a regular during ESPN’s draft coverage with his ‘QB Camp’ segments featuring top NFL prospects and has gotten to know everyone from the likes of Andrew Luck to Johnny Manziel. Whether a QB’s become an NFL star or a surefire bust, Gruden’s befriended him along the way.

That obviously includes Denver’s 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. Does anyone really hate the idea of Chuckie and The Pirate being the Broncos head coach and QB combo for the next decade?

***

The Broncos are probably going to hire Kyle Shanahan or Vance Joseph. I get that. And I think you get that, too.

But it was still just one quote.

John Elway won’t let it define his search. If he’s not happy with Shanahan or Joseph after talking with them, he very well could make a big splash.

Harbaugh or Gruden would cause the biggest waves.

SHARE