The rumors are flying. Black Monday has occurred, and with it a good amount of head coaching positions have opened up around the NFL. Two of the most common names being thrown around are both of the Denver Broncos coordinators; Adam Gase on the offensive side and Jack Del Rio on the defensive side of the ball.
They both have received some calls, especially Gase. He has met with delegations from the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons between January 2nd and 3rd.
Del Rio, on the other hand, has not been talked about nearly as often. He has, however, been linked to the Oakland Raiders and in fact met with them on January 4th. The rumors claim that there is mutual interest between the Raiders and Del Rio, which makes sense, due to all of his links to the area.
There was similar interest after the 2013 season with Gase and Del Rio. Gase was the offensive coordinator for one of the best offenses in the history of the NFL and Del Rio put together a solid, albeit, inconsistent defense, with all the injuries they faced. Instead of doing interviews, they turned them down for the time being, up until now.
With both potentially leaving, who are some options the Broncos can look at to fill their shoes? Let’s start on the offensive side of the ball.
Cutcliffe has not been linked to the Broncos in rumors at all, or any NFL coaching position for the matter. On top of that, he has a nice head coaching position at the college level with the Duke Blue Devils football program. So why is he on the list? It is simple really; because of the work he has put in with Peyton Manning over the years. Cutcliffe worked with him often when Manning was coming back from injury and at Tennessee. He also knows, and understands, the type of offense Manning likes to run.
With that said, it is unlikely that Cutcliffe will be on the Broncos sidelines any time soon. He has the previously mentioned head coaching position at Duke University and has built that program up and probably wants to stick with it till the end. So, while it is a nice thought, it is unlikely.
Probability: Extremely low.
Studesville has been with the Broncos for five seasons, all as the running backs coach. However, he did get a look as the interim head coach when the Broncos fired Josh McDaniels in 2010. He has experience with the players on the offense and having been a running backs coach for 14 of his 18 years in the NFL, could possibly help the running game become more consistent.
While he does have the experience in the offense, he may not be well-rounded enough to be an offensive coordinator. It would explain his 14 years as a running backs coach and why he didn’t get a serious look to become to full time head coach before they hired John Fox, or why he didn’t get a look when Mike McCoy left and Gase was promoted to offensive coordinator. With Studesville, it really could go either way for him to potentially replace Adam Gase.
Moore has a job in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals. He is their assistant head coach and offensive consultant. He has years of experience working in the Manning offense, having done so with the Indianapolis Colts for many years. His experience working with Manning could go a long way to help the offense, if Gase were to leave.
The issue is, Moore has a job with the Cardinals. Being the assistant head coach and offensive consultant is a nice job. While being an offensive coordinator would be somewhat of a promotion, he may not want to leave the job he has. Even if he does, the Cardinals may not give their permission for him to meet with the Broncos. Like Cutcliffe, it would be nice to have someone familiar with Manning, but just as unlikely with Moore as it is with Cutcliffe.
The final candidate is Callahan, who has been with the Broncos for the last five seasons. He is the offensive assistant, so he knows the inner workings of the Broncos offense. When McDaniels was fired and Studesville stepped in as interim head coach, Callahan saw a lot of work with the Broncos running backs. If Gase were to leave, who better to step in than someone with this kind of experience from inside the organization?
There are not many reasons why Callahan wouldn’t be a good fit if Gase were to leave. The biggest cause for concern would be his eight years of total experience as a coach. He is young and maturity could be an issue. The last concern is with his time in the offense, but it could be a good thing. With all this time in the offense, would he bring enough change to possibly fix the issues the Broncos have? Would he be willing to change them, or would he just be a "yes man" to those above him and possibly the players?
Other names to keep an eye on: Aaron Kromer, former Chicago Bears offensive coordinator. Has years of experience working as an offensive line coach. He could help fix the Broncos offensive line troubles. Marc Trestman, former Chicago Bears head coach. Has years of experience working with quarterbacks. Could do wonders working with Brock Osweiler. Marc Norvell, current offensive coordinator for Arizona State. Smart college offensive mind, has worked with Osweiler before. Doug Marrone, former Buffalo Bills head coach. Has years of experience working on the offensive side of the ball, although it is unlikely he takes a coordinator position, unless he can’t get a head coach job.
That's it for the offense. Obviously, there are more choices out there, but these are the top four choices (in this writer's opinion) if Gase were to leave. Now onto the defensive side of the ball.
Ryan runs a 3-4 defense, while the Broncos have been in a 4-3 for years. So, just how does he fit in? Well, the Broncos may use a 4-3 front look, but their personnel are better fit for a 3-4 front. Also, Ryan did a lot with the New York Jets with less talent than the Broncos currently have on defense. The biggest bonus to adding Ryan is how he defends the Patriots. He always defends them really well and those games ended up hard fought, close games, most of the time.
Ryan, however, has come out and said he won’t take a step back for a defensive coordinator position. On top of that, he has a dominating personality that could clash with John Fox. The last of it is the scheme Ryan brings. He brings a 3-4 defense and Fox is a 4-3 scheme coach. Fox may not be okay with the change on the defensive front Ryan would want to make.
Probability: Next to impossible.
Smith is in his fourth-straight season as the Broncos linebackers coach and eighth season overall with the franchise. He has loads of experience from around the NFL, in all three phases of a team and has been a defensive coordinator before, too. He has done a great job with the current Broncos linebackers, especially Brandon Marshall, who went from being abandoned in Jacksonville, to a great player for the Broncos. Smith knows the Broncos scheme and does a great job working with the players.
The concern with Smith is, will he be a “yes man” to John Fox? The Broncos need someone who will make the defense more of his own, instead of doing what Fox wants. Smith also would need to step back, and see what is wrong with the defense, and put the work in to fix it. With him being part of the team for so long, he may not be willing to change too much, whether it's working or not. However, he is the most likely candidate if/when Del Rio leaves.
Allen was fired from the Oakland Raiders head coaching position during the season. Before he got the head coaching position, he was the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2011. It would be rather ironic to have Del Rio replace Allen as the Raiders head coach, after he replaced Allen as the Broncos defensive coordinator in 2012 and especially so if the Broncos bring Allen back to replace Del Rio. However, Allen has experience working with Fox and some of the players. A lot of the personnel is different, but there are a lot of the same role/style players that could be utilized by Allen.
With Allen, most of the issues and concerns come from what he did as the defensive coordinator. He did a good job in the position, but not great, by any means. Granted, the talent around the defense is better now than it was then. He has one year of being a defensive coordinator under his belt, so experience is a concern as a defensive coordinator.
Buckner is a former defensive linemen in the NFL, and he currently coaches with the Arizona Cardinals. Specifically, he coaches their defensive line. He has built a great unit in Arizona with, arguably, less talent than the Broncos have on the defensive line. He is a coach from outside the organization, which could bring change to the defense, potentially for the better.
Being from outside the organization also hurts Buckner, as he doesn’t know how things work within Dove Valley and could bring on too much change. Also, he does not have experience as a defensive coordinator. In fact, his only experience comes from being the defensive line coach for the Cardinals for only two years.
Other names to keep an eye on: Marvin Lewis, current head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals. Only viable if he gets fired. Chris Beake, current defensive assistant for the Broncos. Knows the scheme and how things run in Denver. Bud Foster, current defensive coordinator for Virginia Tech. Would be fresh blood in the NFL after spending nearly 20 years in his current position. Mike Smith, former Atlanta Falcons head coach. Has years of experience working on the defensive side of the ball. Kirby Smart, current defensive coordinator for Alabama Crimson Tide. Highest paid college defensive coordinator, but has a good job already. A jump to the NFL may be coming, but likely later, rather than sooner.
The list can go on and on, and outside of people inside of the organization, no one knows what they are planning to do if/when Jack Del Rio and Adam Gase leave. There is a lot of time between now and then, as teams can’t hire Del Rio or Gase until the Broncos season is completely over. Most teams don’t like to wait before they hire head coaches, so if the Broncos make another Super Bowl run, Gase and Del Rio could be back next year, due to teams interested in them impatiently going in a different direction.