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5 best Denver Broncos coaching candidates to replace Nathaniel Hackett

Denver Broncos coaching candidates

The Denver Broncos coaching search in 2022 landed on Nathaniel Hackett, bringing in the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator to revitalize the offense. A few months later, Hackett is out and Denver must begin a coaching search for the second consecutive offseason.

Hired on Jan. 27, 2022, many viewed Hackett as the bait that would entice quarterback Aaron Rodgers to demand a trade to Denver. Instead, Rodgers stayed in Green Bay and the Broncos traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, Noah Fant and Shelby Harris to the Seattle Seahawks for Russell Wilson.

Related: Denver Broncos schedule

Entering the season with optimism, things quickly spun out of control for Denver. Hackett’s inexperience showed immediately. Horrible time management in Week 1 cost the Broncos in their season-opening loss to Seattle. Hackett later acknowledged he made the wrong call, but the issues persisted.

  • Nathaniel Hackett record: 4-11

Coming out of November with a 3-8 record, Denver’s offense averaged just 14.3 points per game (32nd in the NFL) and it ranked 26th in total yards per game (319.1). It all came just months after the Broncos’ front office invested significant draft capital and cap space into the unit.

While it’s rare, there is a history of NFL coaches being fired after one season. The Houston Texans fired David Culley in January after his lone season at the helm, while Urban Meyer was dismissed by the Jacksonville Jaguars with cause.

The writing was on the wall. Beat writers and NFL insiders were confident Hackett won’t make it into his second season. After losing 51-14 to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Denver officially cut ties with its first-year head coach.

Here are five Denver Broncos coaching candidates that should be targeted in 2023.

Dan Quinn, Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

During the last Broncos coaching search, it came down to Hackett and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Ultimately, the decision seemed to be influenced by the need to entice a star quarterback to Denver. If general manager George Paton gets a second chance, Quinn should be the overwhelming favorite to become Denver’s next head coach.

Dallas Cowboys defense by seasonsPPG AllowedDefensive DVOAYards per Play Allowed
202029.6 (28th)23rd (6%)5.9 (23rd)
202121.1 (7th)2nd (-15.2%)5.5 (21st)
202220.2 (6th)2nd (-14%)5.1 (10th)
Statistics via Pro Football Reference and Football Outsiders

Quinn doesn’t necessarily fix the Broncos’ problems on offense. However, this is a veteran coach who is beloved by players in the locker room and knows how to handle in-game situations. He would need to hire the right offensive coordinator, but the Broncos could help influence that. One thing is for certain, Quinn will be among the likely candidates to replace Hackett if a move comes.

Jonathan Gannon, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon has generated massive buzz around the NFL in the past two seasons. He received a few head-coaching interviews in 2021 and then became a mind multiple teams insisted on bringing into the interview room in 2022. Expect him to be among the NFL coaches hired in 2023.

He interviewed with Denver, but he didn’t become a finalist for the position. In the months since his return to Philadelphia, Gannon is coordinating one of the best defenses in football.

  • Philadelphia Eagles defensive stats: 4.8 yards per play (2nd), -10.7% DVOA (5th), 301.9 total YPG allowed (2nd), 20.5 (10th)

The 39-year-old defensive coordinator is connecting with a roster that has a balance of Pro Bowl veterans and young players with talent who need excellent coaching. There’s also a possibility that if Eagles’ offensive coordinator Shane Steichen remains in Philadelphia, Gannon could get quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson to serve as his offensive coordinator and play-caller.

Ken Dorsey, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator

NFL: Buffalo Bills Training Camp
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Considering the heavy investments made into the offense and the likelihood Russell Wilson would seek input regarding his next head coach, offensive minds will certainly be among the potential Denver Broncos coaching candidates.

Buffalo wasted little time naming Ken Dorsey as its offensive coordinator to replace Brian Daboll. After all, he played an influential role in the development of quarterback Josh Allen. The perennial NFL MVP candidate has praised Dorsey on multiple occasions and the Bills’ locker room gravitates toward their offensive coordinator because of his attitude.

This is also about more than Allen alone. Dorsey served as quarterback coach during Cam Newton’s MVP season in 2015 and Newton still credits him for that success.

“(Dorsey) is an extremely hard and efficient worker. He made my life as easy as possible. Not only is he a hard worker, but he has a vibrant killer instinct. He’s a known proven winner over the years.”

Cam Newton on former quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey (H/T Bills Wire)

This could be precisely the type of coach Paton wants working with Wilson, building an offense around the veteran quarterback’s strengths and getting the most out of him despite his age. Plus, Dorsey will know plenty of bright minds on the defensive staff to make his defensive coordinator or he could retain Ejiro Evero.

Eric Bieniemy, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator

NFL: AFC Divisional Round-Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Interviewed by the Denver Broncos in January, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy presents another intriguing option to potentially replace Nathaniel Hackett. In a season without Tyreek Hill, Kansas City’s play-caller is still proving he is an integral part of the team’s success over the years.

Related: NFL QB rankings

Plenty of excuses have been made in recent years to explain why Bieniemy hasn’t been hired as a head coach. Some have pointed to his legal issues early as an adult, but off-field decisions years ago didn’t prevent Meyer or Mike Vrabel from being hired. Concern about him not being the primary play-caller in Kansas City is a problem that didn’t prevent the likes of Hackett, Nick Sirianni, Dan Campbell and Zac Taylor from becoming head coaches.

There’s a reason Bieniemy has a strong endorsement from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes raves about him. Entering Week 13, the Chiefs’ offense is averaging the most total yards (430) and points (29.6) per game. On top of that, Kansas City leads the NFL in first downs (278) and third-down conversion rate (51.2%).

All of that would seem to make Bieniemy a much better option for the Broncos than Hackett. In addition, he has years of play-calling experience and a far better track record with quarterbacks.

Kellen Moore, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

If the Denver Broncos are seeking a young coach with a great offensive mind and ties to the Pacific Northwest, Kellen Moore stands out. The former Boise State star turned down an opportunity to coach his alma mater and is believed to be among Jerry Jones’ favorite coaches in the NFL.

Moore is more than just a beneficiary of great talent. He coordinated one of the best offenses in football last season, with Dallas leading the NFL in scoring (31.2 PPG), total yardage (407 ypg) and it averaged the fourth-most points in the second half (14.3) per game. The proof behind Moore’s ability to adjust in bad circumstances can be found early this season.

When Dak Prescott went down in Week 1, many believed the Cowboys’ offense would fall apart. Instead, Moore’s play-calling made Cooper Rush look like a viable starting quarterback. From Week 2-7, Dallas averaged 128.4 rushing yards per game, converted 35% of its third-down attempts and scored 20-plus points in each of its four wins. As for Rush, he posted a solid 80.1 QB rating, which is just below Wilson’s passer rating (82.3) this season.

With Prescott back under center, the Cowboys’ offense is capable of taking them to the Super Bowl. Dallas runs a balanced offense, with a 51-49 split between the pass and ground game. The 34-year-old is one of the rising names in the NFL and his tenure as play-caller in Dallas is a lot more attractive than anything Hackett did in Green Bay or Jacksonville.

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