The Denver Broncos’ search to find their next head coach is underway.

Out of the gate, it appears the two leading candidates are Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh.

But what if the Broncos don’t land one of those candidates? Who of the remaining six has the best chance to be Denver’s next head coach?

Would it be one of the candidates who has former head coaching experience in Jim Caldwell, Dan Quinn, Raheem Morris or David Shaw? Or would it be one of the respected defensive minds of Ejiro Evero or DeMeco Ryans?

The DNVR Crew gives their take.

All odds below are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

If not Payton or Harbaugh, who has the best chance to be the Broncos’ coach?

Zac: Dan Quinn — The day after the Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett, Greg Penner, who is leading Denver’s search, said, “At the starting point, it has to be about culture and leadership,” when discussing what he’s looking for in the Broncos’ next head coach.

The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator has tremendous leadership skills and has established winning cultures in the past as both a coordinator (in Seattle and Dallas) and as a head coach (in Atlanta). And while past head coaching experience isn’t 100 percent necessary, according to Penner and George Paton, that will be an important factor.

Although hiring the 52-year old wouldn’t catch all of the national headlines, like landing Payton or Harbaugh would, it would bring stability to the organization, a tremendous leader and a respected person and football mind.

Among the four candidates not named Payton or Harbaugh, Dan Quinn would be the least-risky move. After an embarrassing 5-12 season, the Broncos’ new ownership would feel most comfortable going with the most stable candidate.

Oh, and his connection with George Paton would help push him over the finish line if it isn’t Payton or Harbaugh.

RK: Dan Quinn — Before they took the lines down, our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook had Dan Quinn as a +150 favorite to get the job.

I look at this as a three-horse race. You have ownership wanting to make a “home run” hire, that of course could only come in two forms—Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh—and then you have George Paton wanting to hire his guy—Dan Quinn.

The way I see it, if Denver can’t secure one of the top two guys, it becomes Quinn’s job to lose. And it’s not as if he doesn’t check some of the big boxes for ownership too. He has the coveted head coaching experience, compiling a record of 43-42 during his time as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. He is certainly known as more of a “CEO type” when it comes to his head coaching style and he passes with flying colors when it comes to my end-all-be-all test of “would they hire this person as a Walmart executive.”

It would not be a sexy hire but Quinn is certainly a strong option outside of the clear top two.

Hank: David Shaw — The 12-year Stanford head coach was hardly mentioned in the leadup to the Broncos’ coaching search, but I think he’s the team’s third choice behind Sean Payton and Jim Harbaugh, and I think he’d accept the job if offered.

Shaw’s Stanford teams have fallen off since the pandemic, but I chalk that up to the ever-changing transfer rules and a general lack of talent. Shaw is, of course, to blame at the end of the day, but the cause of the problem is recruiting, and that won’t be relevant in the NFL.

In his first eight years as head coach at Stanford, Shaw averaged more than 10 wins per season while winning two Rose Bowls, three Pac-12 Championships and four Pac-12 Coach of the Year Awards. He garnered significant NFL interest but always balked at the idea of leaving his Stanford gig, which ESPN’s Adam Schefter mentioned on Friday.

“A few years back, almost any NFL team that had a head-coach opening would check in with David Shaw,” Schefter said.

Why would Shaw turn away NFL suitors? Well, he made $9 million in 2022, which made him the sixth-highest-paid coach in college football, according to 247Sports. There was no reason to give up a high-paying job while winning at the highest levels of college football. If he comes to Denver, Shaw would probably be due for a raise on that salary.

I’m not alone in thinking David Shaw could be near the top of the Broncos’ list.

“They’re going to take big swings,” Schefter said of the Broncos’ owners. “Those big swings would include Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw.”

Picks Picks Picks

Seahawks @ 49ers (-9.5)

Zac: 49ers.

RK: Niners.

Hank: Seahawks.

Chargers (-2.5) @ Jaguars

Zac: Chargers.

RK: Chargers.

Hank: Jaguars.

Dolphins @ Bills (-13.5)

Zac: Bills.

RK: Bills.

Hank: Bills.

Giants @ Vikings (-3)

Zac: Giants.

RK: Giants.

Hank: Giants.

Ravens @ Bengals (-9.5)

Zac: Bengals.

RK: Bengals.

Hank: Ravens.

Cowboys (-2.5) @ Buccaneers

Zac: Buccaneers.

RK: Boys.

Hank: Cowboys.


Last week

RK: 4-0-1

Zac: 3-1-1

Hank: 3-1-1


Zac: 97-87-2

RK: 89-94-2

Hank: 79-105-2


Zac Stevens was born and raised in Denver, went to the University of Denver and now covers the Denver Broncos. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from DU in 2014, Zac worked for the Cleveland Browns as a remote scout. He then jumped straight into the journalism industry at the beginning of 2016 covering the reigning world-champion Broncos and joined DNVR soon after. Catch him on Twitter @ZacStevensDNVR and daily on the DNVR Broncos podcast as the co-host.