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What the Broncos can learn about their head coach and quarterback search from the four remaining playoff teams

Zac Stevens Avatar
January 25, 2022

Only the New York Jets have a longer playoff drought than the Denver Broncos. The lowly Jets.

Two of the biggest reasons why Denver hasn’t made the playoffs since the Peyton Manning era is one, well, the quarterback position and the second is they’ve cycled through head coaches since 2016.

This offseason, George Paton will attempt to fix both to get the Broncos back to playoff football. As the general manager searches for a new head coach and an upgrade at the quarterback position, it would be wise for him to take a look at the four teams currently still in the playoffs to try and identify a winning formula.

Here are the major takeaways from the Chiefs, Bengals, Rams and 49ers that the Broncos could use to upgrade the most important position in sports as well as the most important coach in sports.

Head Coach

The lineup

Cincinatti Bengals: Zac Taylor

Kansas City Chiefs: Andy Reid

Los Angeles Rams: Sean McVay

San Francisco 49ers: Kyle Shanahan

Don’t be afraid to go young

The two youngest coaches in the NFL, McVay and Taylor, are in the NFL’s Conference Championship games. The two youngest coaches represent half of the coaches remaining in the playoffs. Youth is not a reason to not hire a coach.

In fact, three of the remaining coaches are 42 years old or younger. Only Andy Reid, 63, is older than the average age of all of the head coaches in the NFL, which is 51.

Offense offense offense offense

Every single team still alive in the search for the Lombardi Trophy is led by an offensive-minded head coach.

Despite the NFL drastically shifting toward offense over the past decade, Denver’s past two head coaches have been defensive-minded. The Broncos have finished last in the AFC West more times than not under those two coaches combined.

Sure, a defensive mind can and will still win in the future, but the four teams still in the playoffs show that it’s never been a better time to find the right offensive-minded head coach.

Previous job experience not a requirement

Andy Reid is the only coach left in the playoffs who had previous head coaching experience. Taylor, Shanahan and McVay are all first-time head coaches.

Just because Vance Joseph and Vic Fangio didn’t pan out as first-time head coaches doesn’t mean that first-time coaches can’t have success.

In fact, McVay and Shanahan led their teams to the Super Bowl in their second and third seasons as head coaches, respectively, while Taylor has the opportunity to do that this year in his third season.

Quarterback

The lineup

Cincinatti Bengals: Joe Burrow

Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes

Los Angeles Rams: Matthew Stafford

San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo

Massive investment

Quarterback is the most important position in sports. That’s why it’s no surprise the final four teams all have massive investments in the position.

Burrow, Mahomes and Stafford were all first-round picks. That’s a significant investment.

Garoppolo, on the other hand, wasn’t a first-round pick, but that didn’t stop the 49ers from making him the NFL’s highest-paid quarterback shortly after acquiring him from the New England Patriots.

Burrow is the only quarterback remaining that doesn’t have a massive contract. It’s only a matter of time—one year precisely—until the Bengals will be allowed to give Joey B. a Mahomes-sized deal.

The last time the Broncos had a massive investment in a quarterback was when they signed Peyton Manning to nearly a $100 million deal. That worked out well. Nowadays, those massive deals are almost closer to $1 billion than $100 million with Mahomes’ deal coming in at $500 million.

Since Manning, however, the most Denver has invested in the position was a second-round pick in the draft on Brock Osweiler and Drew Lock and $18 million per year in free agency on Case Keenum. Those are all bargains when it comes to the most important position in sports. It’s no surprise why the Broncos haven’t had above-average play from the position.

Top-10 pick

Outside of Garoppolo, the other three quarterbacks were all top-1o picks. Burrow and Stafford went No. 1 overall.

While Mahomes slipped to No. 10, the Chiefs traded up from pick 27 to 10—costing them an additional first-round pick—in order to draft him.

Additionally, while the Rams didn’t draft Stafford, they gave up two first-round picks in order to get him.

Despite having three top-1o picks in the past four years, Denver did not draft a quarterback, even with the likes of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson on the board.

In fact, the Broncos have never once drafted a quarterback with a top-10 pick. They could change that this year with the No. 9-overall pick.

Multiple ways to get one

While a massive investment is almost a nonnegotiable in terms of getting a good enough quarterback to guide a team to a Super Bowl, there isn’t only one way to acquire that signal caller. The four remaining playoff quarterbacks prove that point.

Burrow and Mahomes were drafted by their teams with premium picks.

However, Stafford and Garoppolo were acquired via trades.

Especially in today’s NFL, where players have more power than ever, the Broncos don’t have to find their next franchise quarterback in the draft. With the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson potentially available this offseason, George Paton could land a Hall-of-Fame quarterback via a trade.

Saying that, however, if Denver can’t pull off one of those massive deals, the draft, specifically the top-10, is another place to find a franchise quarterback.

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