Denver Broncos' coaching search goes coast-to-coast as 10 candidates (so far) have made their case

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos have finished the first round of interviews for the team's head-coaching job.

They covered four time zones -- five cities and seven interviews this past week alone -- and got almost all of them done face-to-face. Now they'll decide if any of the 10 people they've interviewed gets a callback as they move toward the selection of the kind of leader general manager George Paton has said he wants to replace Vic Fangio.

Paton and others in the organization spent the weekend reviewing the interviews and were whittling down the list, including decisions about who would get a second interview. While some of the candidates have been told they are no longer part of the search, the Broncos brought Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to their complex Monday for a second interview and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is scheduled to interview a second time this week.

Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell could be interviewed a second time as well. Coaches such as O'Connell, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, cannot be interviewed this week because their teams are in conference championship games.

A couple of big-picture items to remember: Since Mike Shanahan was hired in 1995, the only Broncos head coaches to take the team to the playoffs had been head coaches before: Shanahan, John Fox and Gary Kubiak. None of the three first-time head coaches during that span (Josh McDaniels, Vance Joseph and Fangio) made it past three seasons.

Here's a rundown of whom the Broncos spoke to, the biggest football questions those coaches had to answer and any potential hurdles they face -- in the order they were interviewed by the team:

Aaron Glenn

Age: 49

Current job: Detroit Lions defensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Glenn played 15 seasons in the NFL with four different teams. A three-time Pro Bowl selection as a player, he made the transition to coaching after first working as a scout with the New York Jets for two years.

He worked in both the Jets' pro personnel department as well as college scouting. Couple that with his work as a secondary coach with the Browns (2014-2015) and Saints (2016-2020), and Glenn has the job diversity in his background Paton has said he wants.

Football questions he had to answer: He's been a coordinator for one season. And in that season the Lions finished 29th in the league in total defense, 31st in scoring defense, 29th on third down and 31st in the red zone.

His work down the stretch with a depleted depth chart got noticed by some in the league. Yes, the Seahawks did pile on 51 points in Week 17, but five of the Lions' final nine opponents scored 20 or fewer points.

Bottom line: He has played at a high level in the league, worked in scouting, been one of the best position coaches in the league during his time with the Saints and players have responded to him at every stop.

His plan for the offense as well as his ability as a first-time head coach, to assemble a staff would be top priorities.

Luke Getsy

Age: 37

Current job: Packers quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: He has plenty of responsibility in one of the league's best offenses with the quarterback poised to win back-to-back league MVP awards.

Paton spent enough time around the NFC North during his 14 years with the Minnesota Vikings to have scouted the coaching staffs of the other teams in the division as well as the rosters for well over a decade.

Football questions he had to answer: It's an enormous jump from a position coach to a head coach, especially for a coach who has had no playcalling responsibilities in the NFL. Packers coach Matt LaFleur has let his assistants call plays in the preseason at times, but calls them in the regular season.

He, too, had to outline how much reach he would have in the league to assemble a staff to help him in his transition and not slip too much defensively.

Bottom line: Getsy, in the right scenario, could also be a candidate for the Broncos' offensive coordinator, but in terms of the head-coaching job, he would have to roll out a very specific, and doable, plan for his coordinators, starting with who he could actually hire.

Nathaniel Hackett

Age: 42

Current job: Packers offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Of the offensive assistants the Broncos interviewed, Hackett has the deepest résumé as a former playcaller for both Buffalo and Jacksonville before his time with the Packers.

When his father, Paul, was on Marty Schottenheimer's Kansas City Chiefs staff, Hackett was a ball boy for the team and even filled in as a long-snapper during drills at times. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has lauded Hackett's preparation and ability to break down, as well as deliver, the information to players.

Football questions he had to answer: Hackett had to detail how he would make the transition to running the entire team as well as the construction of the defensive staff. Also, how he would keep his game day organized if he, as a first-time head coach, was also going to try to call plays.

Bottom line: Hackett is a football lifer who is at the stage of his career when a head-coaching job is the next step. He has the background in an offense the Broncos clearly want to play, has worked with quarterbacks at all phases on the developmental curve. Construction of the staff will be the biggest item on his to-do list.

Kellen Moore

Age: 33

Current job: Cowboys offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: The Cowboys finished the regular season as the league's scoring leader -- 31.2 points per game -- and one of only two teams that topped 500 points.

He played six years in the league after a record-setting career as a Boise State quarterback.

Football questions he had to answer: He's coached four seasons overall and all four of those years have been with the Cowboys since he started as the team's quarterbacks coach in 2018. There isn't much vocational diversity that comes with that and he's seen one team's infrastructure along the way.

He's been in the highly visible role as a playcaller for one of the league's most high-profile teams so he understands pressure, but it's a big step to run the whole show. And it likely didn't come up specifically, but it is a little strange the Cowboys may have been the only opponent the Broncos dominated on both sides of the ball this season and yet Paton chose to interview both Dallas coordinators.

Bottom line: He's the youngest candidate among those the Broncos interviewed or slightly older than McDaniels was -- three months shy of his 33rd birthday -- when the Broncos hired him in January of 2009.

And while age is just a number, Moore would have had to show the Broncos a maturity regarding how he would run the day-to-day operations of the team as well as how he would construct his staff with a limited background outside of the Cowboys.

Dan Quinn

Age: 51

Current job: Cowboys defensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Paton and Quinn were both with the Miami Dolphins previously and many in the league have said Paton has eyed Quinn since taking over the Broncos last January. Quinn is the only one of the 10 interviewed who has been a head coach in the league -- he was 43-42 with the Atlanta Falcons when he was fired five games into the 2019 season.

Football questions he had to answer: Essentially explain what happened when Kyle Shanahan left the Falcons -- he was the offensive coordinator -- after the 2016 season and the team went 10-6, 7-9, 7-9 and 0-5 under Quinn before he was fired in 2019.

In Atlanta, Quinn had a solid quarterback in place -- Matt Ryan -- and a respected general manager in Thomas Dimitroff. Answering why success was elusive, for the most part, after Shanahan's departure should have been covered.

Since guiding the fabled Legion of Boom secondary in Seattle -- the Seahawks were the league's No. 1 scoring defense in 2013 and 2014 -- just one of Quinn's defenses has finished in the top five in scoring (this year's Cowboys team) and five have finished 19th or worse over the past seven seasons.

Bottom line: Quinn has been considered the front-runner because of his previous work with Paton as well as his Super Bowl appearance with the Falcons. But he would need a big-time plan for the offensive staff to fare better than the Broncos' last two head coaches with defensive backgrounds.

Jerod Mayo

Age: 35

Current job: New England Patriots inside linebackers coach

Why Broncos interviewed him: He has spent 11 years in the winning culture in the NFL over the past 25 years -- eight as a player and the past three as a coach for the Patriots.

He also has some business-outside-of-football perspective, having worked in finance for a health care company before he started his coaching career. Mayo's players have spoken highly of him and Mayo said last week Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been an "open book'' for him "whether we're talking about X's and O's, or structuring a team or anything like that.''

Football questions he had to answer: McDaniels was a former Patriots assistant who had no head-coaching experience, too. McDaniels didn't last through his second season as Broncos head coach.

Mayo will have had to show what would be different during his tenure and how he would make the substantial jump from just three seasons as a position coach to head coach.

Bottom line: Those who know Mayo in the league say he is smart, driven and understands how to communicate with those around him. He also has the benefit of actual business experience, outside of football, in terms of organization and a big picture assessment of things. So much so, even with just three seasons of coaching experience, many in the league were not surprised the Broncos interviewed him.

Jonathan Gannon

Age: 39

Current job: Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Paton was the Vikings' assistant manager during Gannon's four seasons as an assistant defensive backs coach with the team (2014-17). Gannon, like Glenn, has a background in scouting with one season as a college scout for the Rams to go with two seasons in the team's pro personnel department.

Eagles coach Nick Sirianni has said Gannon will make "a great head coach."

Football questions he had to answer: Gannon would have had to explain how he would make the jump from a short run as a playcaller to leading a team. He has been the Eagles' defensive coordinator for one season -- they finished 18th in scoring defense, 10th in total defense.

The Eagles were much better during their 7-2 stretch to close out the regular season as they allowed 16.6 points per game in Weeks 8 through 17 against a long list of backup quarterbacks. Philadelphia lost, 31-15, to Tampa Bay in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

Bottom line: Another candidate with a shorter coaching résumé who fits the leader-communicator profile Paton outlined the day Fangio was fired. And like the rest of those candidates the construction of his staff, and especially the construction of staff and playbook on offense, are enormously important.

Brian Callahan

Age: 37

Current job: Bengals offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: Callahan has the most history with the Broncos among those interviewed. Callahan was such a good assistant coach with the Broncos he survived two coaching changes and worked on the staffs of McDaniels, Fox and Kubiak, including the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 winner.

As a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator he's worked with Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr and now Joe Burrow. His father, Bill, is a long-time, and well-respected offensive line coach (he's currently with the Cleveland Browns).

Football questions he had to answer: He's in his third year as a playcaller for the Bengals with a 25-year-old superstar behind center in Burrow so Callahan figures to now be on the "hot" list for jobs in the foreseeable future. He has the luxury of patience, so more than any other, Callahan had to show how much he really wanted the job with the Broncos.

Because more than one general manager in the league has crossed a guy off a list for the old didn't-seem-like-he-wanted-the-job assessment.

He would also need to show how the Broncos would not take a step back on defense.

Bottom line: His history in the offense the Broncos want, his success in working with some of the game's best quarterbacks and his overall view of the game make him one of the most well-rounded candidates even though he is one of the youngest.

Kevin O'Connell

Age: 36

Current job: Rams offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: He played in two games during an NFL career that spanned five seasons, five teams and three practice squads. Coaches with that kind of background often do well communicating with players worried about their standing or future.

He's worked in the Mike Shanahan-rooted offense the Broncos want to run, especially during the past two seasons as Sean McVay's offensive coordinator with the Rams. And while he doesn't call plays for the Rams -- McVay does -- O'Connell oversees game preparation, meetings and does plenty of the heavy lifting before game day each week.

Football questions he had to answer: Like the others on the offensive side of the ball, O'Connell had to not only outline his plan for the team's struggling offense, but outline what kind of defensive staff/playbook he would assemble in a division that contained two of the league's top five scoring teams this season.

Bottom line: O'Connell has drawn raves for his work in the Rams' offense, as well as his work with quarterbacks since he began coaching. The move to the big chair is in his future, but the Broncos have to decide if they believe enough in his overall vision at this point on the developmental curve.

Eric Bieniemy

Age: 52

Current job: Chiefs offensive coordinator

Why Broncos interviewed him: He played nine seasons in the NFL, has coached in college and was with the Vikings for five seasons when Paton was with the team as well, including Bieniemy's time as Minnesota's assistant head coach. And the Broncos have seen the quality of his recent work up close given the Chiefs haven't lost a game to the Broncos since Sept. 17, 2015.

The Broncos offense needs points and Bieniemy has been part of an offense that has scored plenty of them on the way to two Super Bowls over the past three seasons. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has publicly said, multiple times, how important Bieniemy has been to his development into both a league and Super Bowl MVP.

Football questions he had to answer: Bieniemy is on the hasn't-called-plays list of candidates for the Broncos. Any time an assistant works for a head coach like Andy Reid, who has such a pronounced presence on one side of the ball, that assistant coach is always going to have to outline his responsibilities when he's interviewed for another job.

He would also have to outline his staff construction. Any team looking to hire Bieniemy -- like Hackett, Getsy, Callahan and O'Connell -- will have to decide how much of the success comes from the uber-talented quarterback running the plays and how much is from the plays themselves.

Bottom line: Bieniemy, with his 11th interview for a head coaching job in the past four years, may have been through the job search circuit more than the rest of the candidates combined. The past two offensive coordinators for Reid who were named head coaches -- Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy -- didn't call plays with the Chiefs either.

Reid and Mahomes have heartily endorsed Bieniemy to be a head coach and given he was the last of the 10 to interview, he had the closing argument of sorts.