ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With Gary Kubiak’s departure, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway will begin his third search for a head coach.
Kubiak told players after Sunday's 24-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders that he will retire after two seasons as head coach. Kubiak led the team to a Super Bowl victory last season but will step away for health reasons.
In 2011, Elway needed to rebuild after a 4-12 finish, and he hired John Fox. After four division titles, a 35-point loss in the Super Bowl to close out 2013 and a lackluster playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts to end the 2014 season, Elway replaced Fox with Kubiak.
This time around, Elway will search for a coach to fix a struggling offense with two young quarterbacks who still have ground to cover on the learning curve.
The Broncos’ defense, with Von Miller signed long-term, and those two young quarterbacks will be the attractions for head-coaching candidates. Trevor Siemian, who turned 25 this past week, topped 3,000 yards passing, and rookie Paxton Lynch was the Broncos’ first-round pick this past April.
The Broncos’ list of candidates is expected to include some familiar names. It certainly should include Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who runs a similar scheme to Kubiak’s with the Falcons.
Shanahan’s father, Mike, led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins during his 14-year tenure with the team. Kyle played high school football in suburban Denver and was a fixture around the team in his youth. He also is calling plays for the league’s most productive offense, as the Falcons are scoring 33.5 points per game. They are the only team in the league that is averaging more than 30 points a game.
Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell also runs a version of the West Coast offense and is expected to be under consideration, as would be Seattle defensive coordinator Kris Richard.
Two other defensive coordinators -- Miami’s Vance Joseph and Detroit’s Teryl Austin -- whom the Broncos have considered as head-coaching candidates in the past likely would again be in the search. Joseph interviewed for the job before Kubiak was hired by the Broncos in 2015, and Austin declined an interview days before Kubiak was introduced.
Another name to watch, given that he is a former Broncos assistant who is now one of the league’s hotter candidates, is Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Cooter was on the Broncos’ staff when Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase was Denver’s offensive coordinator.
Both Gase and Peyton Manning consistently said Cooter played a pivotal role in the team’s historic 2013 season. The Broncos set an NFL record with 606 points, and Manning set a record with 55 touchdown passes. It was the only season in league history in which a team topped 600 points.