There could be other candidates, but the obvious choice to replace Mike Nolan after his surprising departure from Denver is Dean Pees.
Pees and Denver head coach Josh McDaniels worked together as defensive and offensive coordinators, respectively, in New England. Pees is letting his contract expire and he will become a free agent. The Broncos and Nolan mutually decided to part ways. Nolan is reportedly close to becoming the defensive coordinator in Miami.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if because of Pees’ availability that McDaniels used it as an excuse to let Nolan move on.
From what I hear, Nolan and McDaniels got along decently. But they just didn’t feel like they were strong professional matches. The two came from a different background. McDaniels quickly hired Nolan last year mainly because Nolan ran the 3-4 defense McDaniels was accustomed to. The two share the same agent, so it was a convenient, fast marriage.
Because Nolan and McDaniels didn’t feel like they were a great fit, expect McDaniels to be focused on making the right hire this time.
That’s why Pees makes so much sense. McDaniels already knows he is a good fit with Pees. They worked well together in the past.
This is an important hire for McDaniels. Nolan, despite not being a good fit for McDaniels, performed well in Denver. Although Denver had a defense that was a work in progress, the Broncos finished No. 7 in overall defense.
The key for McDaniels is to find someone who he works well with professionally, and someone who will continue to build the defense in Denver.
At this point, all signs point to Pees.