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Top Head-Coaching Candidates If Denver Decides To Fire Vance Joseph

By Chad Jensen

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (247 SPORTS) - The Denver Broncos are losers now of three in a row. The same issues that have plagued Denver since Vance Joseph was hired as head coach have continued to hinder this team through three straight losses.

Denver Broncos v New York Jets
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Vance Joseph of the Denver Broncos looks on prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 07, 2018 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Justin Heiman/Getty Images)

After an inspired Week 4 performance vs. the Chiefs, the Broncos went on the road and laid an egg at MetLife Stadium, falling to the New York Jets 34-16. Coach Joseph is running out of excuses.

PHOTO GALLERY: Jets 34, Broncos 16

Nothing he's done has worked for the Broncos. Joseph is now 1-9 on the road as head coach and 7-14 overall.

The fanbase is restless and tired of the excuses. Those of us who cover the team have run out of ways to explain away the comedy errors and prop up this coaching staff.

After losing on the road to a 1-3 team, I'm not sure there's a single NFL club the Broncos could beat right now, and if that's not an indictment on Vance Joseph, I don't know what is.

The 2018 season already feels like it's out of control. The Broncos invested heavily into personnel this past offseason, and it has not paid dividends.

GM John Elway could soon pull the plug on the Joseph era in Denver. And when he does, what coaches are out there to replace him?

Jim Bob Cooter, OC, Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions
Offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter of the Detroit Lions (credit: Leon Halip/Getty Images)

Jim Bob Cooter is another young name that's been floating out there for a couple years now. At just 34 years old, Cooter has skyrocketed up the NFL coaching ladder, following a similar trajectory as Sean McVay.

Cooter would be an intriguing option for the Broncos, and would make a lot of sense. He might be young, but Cooter spent 2013 as an offensive assistant in Denver as part of the Adam Gase-led staff that broke all the records on the way to scoring 606 points — the most all-time.

John Elway knows Cooter, and the young coach has gone on to establish a lot of success since his time in Denver. Everywhere he's gone, Cooter has exceeded expectations.

McVay broke the age-barrier perception around NFL ownership circles, which could open the way for a guy like Jim Bob Cooter (yeah, that's his real name) to find a head-coaching gig within the next couple years.

John DeFilippo, OC, Minnesota Vikings

John DeFilippo is one of the hottest names in NFL coaching circles. His star began to burn bright from 2016-17 as the quarterbacks coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

DeFilippo is credited with the development of Carson Wentz, as well as the success Philadelphia had with Nick Foles after Wentz was lost for the season with a torn ACL. With Foles at the helm, the Eagles would go on to win the Super Bowl.

DeFilippo accepted a promotion — but he had to go outside of Philly to get it. As the new OC of the Minnesota Vikings, we'll see whether DeFilippo is able to kindle the same kind of magic with the transplanted Kirk Cousins as he did with Wentz and Foles.

But at age 40, DeFilippo is one of the most intriguing names out there on the prospective head-coaching market, especially considering the recent success of Sean McVay in Los Angeles — also a young, innovative first-time head coach.

Dave Toub, OC, Kansas City Chiefs

Dave Toub
Special teams coach Dave Toub of the Kansas City Chiefs looks on in the first half of the preseason game against the Green Bay Packers on August 28, 2014 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Konstantaras/Getty Images)

Dave Toub has to be licking his chops, seeing card-carrying members of the Andy Reid coaching tree have great success around the NFL. Look at Doug Pederson in Philadelphia and Matt Nagy in Chicago; both former Reid disciples.

The Broncos had the chance to hire Toub in January of 2017. After making him one of just three head-coaching interviews, Denver's brass ultimately chose to pass on Toub and instead hire Vance Joseph.

Toub has been biding his time ever since. Reid's assistant coaches are traditionally very smart and always on top of the cutting edge developments around the NFL. The Chiefs are perennially one of the most well-coached teams in the league, and Toub has a phenomenal reputation as a special teams coordinator with 15 years of experience.

Toub's special teams unit leads the NFL in most of the key statistical categories. The Broncos might have missed the boat on this one, but don't be surprised if John Elway goes sniffing around Dave Toub once again, if in fact Denver has a head-coaching vacancy in the near future. And at 56, Toub isn't over the hill, nor is a total greenhorn.

Matt LaFleur, OC, Tennessee Titans

Speaking of Sean McVay, Matt LaFleur was his OC in year one at the helm in L.A. Under LaFleur, the Rams finished as the No. 1 scoring offense, though much of the credit rightfully goes to McVay and his design.

LaFleur interviewed for the Titans open head-coaching vacancy this past offseason, but the job went to Mike Vrabel. The Titans liked what they saw from LaFleur, however, and offered him the OC job under Vrabel.

McVay, ever the nice guy, allowed LaFleur to leave for a lateral position. There's only one reason LaFleur would take the same job in a different NFL city; more money.

Like DeFilippo, LaFleur has been on the cutting edge of offensive innovation in the NFL, but soon to be 39, he could use at least this one more season as a coordinator, paying his dues before becoming a head coach somewhere.

Jim Schwartz, DC, Philadelphia Eagles

Jim Schwartz is a name most NFL fans should be familiar with. As the former head coach of the Detroit Lions (2009-13), he's already squandered his first opportunity. But he's only 52 years old.

Sometimes it takes a couple stops before a head coach truly comes into his own (see Belichick, Bill, and Carroll, Pete). Schwartz hails from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, as a former assistant, but he's also got experience working under several different NFL progenitors in the coaching realm, including most recently Doug Pederson.

Schwartz's unit was key in allowing the Eagles to overcome the loss of Carson Wentz last year. Schwartz is a defensive-minded coach, but he comes with a lot of experience. It wouldn't surprise me if he's already high on Denver's future wishlist.

James Bettcher, DC, New York Giants

After Bruce Arians retired in Arizona, James Bettcher was forced to look for employment elsewhere as a defensive coordinator, and he found it under Pat Shurmur in New York. Bettcher has been an up-and-coming name in the coaching world for a couple years now, but he's really under the microscope in the massive market that is the Big Apple.

Despite a lack of talent, Bettcher still led the Cardinals to a top-10 ranking last year, finishing as the No. 6 total defense. He's coached in the NFL since 2012, and has served as a coordinator each year since 2015.

Considering the Giants ostensible lack of defensive talent, if the 40-year-old Bettcher is able to coordinate this unit to any form of success, he might find an opportunity out there as a head coach beyond 2018.

Kris Richard, DBS Coach/Defensive Passing Game, Dallas Cowboys

It wasn't all that long ago that Kris Richard was still playing in the NFL. A former pro cornerback drafted in the third round back in 2002, Richard's playing career didn't last all that long. His last year as a player was in 2007 with the Raiders.

He's been in the coaching game ever since. That was his true calling, and he's quickly made a name for himself. At just 38, he has popped up on the radar as an up-and-comer in NFL circles.

As one of the progenitors of the Legion of Boom, Richard served as DBs coach in Seattle from 2012-17. He was hired to coach the Cowboys DBs, while also 'coordinating' Dallas' defensive passing game.

Richard is known as a guy who can manage big egos, and his coaching resume is replete with production. Jerry Jones probably hired him in Dallas as an eventual candidate to replace Jason Garrett.

Dennis Allen, DC, New Orleans Saints

Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos
Head coach Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders leads his team against the Denver Broncos on September 23, 2013. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Most Broncos fans know who Dennis Allen is. Allen was hired by John Fox to be defensive coordinator in Denver back in 2011, and he did a heck of a job.

Both of Fox's coordinators that year would go on to earn head-coaching gigs elsewhere, with Allen leaving in 2012 to coach the Raiders. It didn't turn out well for Allen as the head man in Oakland, though.

It took some time, but his star has finally begun to take on a bright sheen again. As the DC in New Orleans since 2015, Allen's unit underperformed for many years but finally broke out in 2017.

Like Schwartz, Allen's already received his opportunity to be a head coach, and most guys only get one. But he's picking up momentum again. If the Saints have another productive season, it wouldn't surprise me to see Allen hired somewhere, and he does have ties to Denver and John Elway.

Allen would be an extremely unsexy hire for the Broncos, however. I'd view this one particularly of low probability.

Bill Musgrave, OC, Denver Broncos

Bill Musgrave
(credit: CBS)

I've said it for awhile; Bill Musgrave is head-coaching material. What he has lacked on his resume is sustained success.

Like most NFL coaches, Musgrave has bounced around the NFL. A former pro quarterback himself, Musgrave was the impetus for Derek Carr's development in Oakland.

If Vance Joseph does get fired in-season, you can count on Musgrave getting the interim job. Would he ever be considered by John Elway and Gary Kubiak as a viable candidate to hold the job long-term? From what I've been told, the answer is yes.

Elway and Kubiak "love" Musgrave, and they have a long history with him. Musgrave played under Kubiak when Kubiak was Broncos OC back in the 90s, and served as Elway's backup for a time. Don't sleep on 'Billy Moose' as a legit candidate in Denver if things don't work out with Joseph.

Teryl Austin, DC, Cincinnati Bengals

Teryl Austin has been champing at the bit to get a head-coaching gig in the NFL. Just over the last few years, he's interviewed for 10 different head-coaching vacancies around the NFL.

The Broncos wanted to interview Austin in 2015, but he declined the request, because he knew John Elway had his heart set on hiring Gary Kubiak.

Austin is now coordinating the defense in Cincy under Marvin Lewis, and who knows? He might end up as Lewis' replacement when Lewis no-doubt gets fired at the end of this season.

Paul Guenther, DC, Oakland Raiders

Paul Guenther is a very good NFL coach. But he doesn't have a lot of tools to work with in Oakland, after the firesale Jon Gruden opened on the defensive side of the ball this year.

But Guenther coached under Mike Zimmer and Marvin Lewis, toiling away in Cincy for years. When Zimmer left for Minnesota's head job, Guenther was promoted to DC.

Cincy's defense continued to play hard-nosed football under Guenther, but the defensive stalwart was caught up in Gruden's hype train. The Bengals wanted to keep Guenther, according to him, but he chose to leave for Oakland.

At 46, he's still young. He's a firebrand, though I worry that his future head-coaching candidacy is going to be tarnished significantly in Oakland. As far as career choices go, that probably wasn't the wisest for Guenther.

Chris Petersen, Head Coach, Washington Huskies

Currently the head coach at the University of Washington, Chris Petersen is famous for putting Boise State on the map, leading the Broncos to two BCS bowl game wins (2007, 2010 Fiesta Bowls).

As the head man at Washington, Petersen has helped resurrect the program, leading the Huskies to national prominence. Washington has seen multiple players drafted highly in the NFL in recent years, and it's due in no small part to Petersen's eye for talent and coaching ability.

He has been at Washington since 2014, and is often the subject of much NFL speculation when the coaching carousel rolls around each year. Will he ever make the jump to the pro level? Probably, though I'm not sure it'll happen any time soon. College coaches can weary from the high-pressure recruiting game, and Petersen's reputation around the NFL is sterling.

David Shaw, Head Coach, Stanford Cardinal

David Shaw has been another college head coach named often in the NFL coaching carousel. He's establish a winning program since taking over as the head man at Stanford in 2011.

Shaw succeeded Jim Harbaugh, who himself had departed for greener pastures in the NFL, and helped launch Andrew Luck into the NFL stratosphere. Shaw coaches a tough, physical brand of football that always stays true to the fundamentals.

Stanford is never going to be the most innovative offense, but they've run a pro-style system under Shaw that has made their quarterback, offensive line, and running back prospects valuable in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators.

Shaw makes pretty good money, though Chris Petersen is currently the highest-paid coach in the Pac 12. If Shaw chooses to make the jump to the pros, it will likely come down to an NFL team pursuing him with vigor and offering him a boat-load of money.

As a former Stanford Cardinal himself, John Elway has an established relationship with David Shaw. This one would make a lot of sense, but certain stars would have to align.

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