We have our first look at the candidates Denver’s first year GM will consider.
After dropping two straight games, the Broncos find themselves in a precarious spot ahead of their week six matchup with the Raiders. Barring a significant injury, it already looks like there are six near-locks for playoff spots out of the AFC. The Buffalo Bills are 4-1 and have the easiest remaining schedule in football, while the Chiefs and Chargers as well as the Ravens and Browns are competing for division crowns in the AFC West and North. When you add in the fact someone has to win the AFC South, and the Broncos look like they’re fighting the rest of the conference for the seventh seed barring a collapse in Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, or Los Angeles.
It makes the week six contest against the Las Vegas Raiders a a must-win game.
Following the Broncos tilt with the Raiders, they’ll turn around and face the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. If Denver drops both contests they’re 3-4 after playing one “heavyweight” on their schedule in Baltimore. Two games against the Chargers and Chiefs as well as contests with the Cowboys and upstart Bengals remain.
This next week looks like a huge potential turning point. Win and the Broncos are still chasing the playoffs. Lose, and the first year general manager can begin preparations for once his redshirt year comes to an end. Since Paton’s been hired, Vic Fangio’s status as the Broncos head coach looked precarious. The new boss didn’t hire him, and with both John Elway and Joe Ellis set to walk into the sunset after 2021 comes to a close and no owner in sight, Paton looks like he’ll have full control of the organization.
If the Broncos decide to fire Vic Fangio, the next head coach will be a Paton guy. On Thursday we got our first glimpse at who that man might be when the Broncos flagships’ Benjamin Allbright dropped the short list of replacements on Twitter.
Let’s overlook the fact that the only way Allbright got such a list is from Paton himself or from whoever may have discussed a new coaching staff with him (which means discussions did happen) and turn our attention to the list itself.
The 38-year old Gannon is currently the Eagles defensive coordinator, which means he has five games calling plays in the NFL. Philly’s currently 2-3 with wins over the Falcons and Panthers, they’ve allowed more points than they’ve scored. By Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric that measure efficiency and accounts for opponents, the Eagles defense ranks 11th thanks to a top ten pass defense.
Before he was hired to his current post by first year head coach Nick Sirianni, Gannon was a DB coach for the Indianapolis Colts under Frank Reich. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach, quality control coach, and GA.
One thing that makes Gannon an interesting addition to the list is that he left coaching after 2007. In 2009 he joined the St. Louis Rams as a college scout and worked on the personnel side until the Titans hired him as a quality control coach in 2012. He has some experience on the personnel side of football.
The 39-year-old son of a longtime NFL coach Norv Turner is currently the offensive coordinator of the Washington Football Team. Turner’s been a play caller for what amounts to about one and a half seasons in the NFL. He was the interim OC after Ron Rivera was fired in Carolina, and Rivera hired him to coordinate Washington’s offense in 2020.
If you’re looking for results, Turner’s a bit of a mixed bag. Two of the four games Turner coordinated for the Panthers were among the worst performances they put on film all season. Washington’s offense was less efficient than the Broncos last season. Through five games this season, Turner’s offense ranks 13th in DVOA despite more starts for Taylor Heinicke than Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Quinn is in his first season as the Dallas Cowboy’s defensive coordinator after five years as the Atlanta Falcons head coach. The 51-year-old previously served as the defensive coordinator of the Legion of Boom Seahawks and won a ring against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in 2013. He’s also worked in the NFL as an assistant head coach, defensive line coach, and quality control coach.
What makes Quinn an interesting name on this list is how different his system is from the Broncos’ current one. While both he and Vic Fangio have their expertise on the defensive side of the ball, Quinn’s system is built around single high coverages and bringing an eighth defender in the box to help against the run. To his credit, it’s worked like magic with the Cowboy’s current personnel. Through five games, Dallas ranks 6th in DVOA and they’re a top ten unit against both the run and pass.
A former backup quarterback, Garrett is in his second season as the Giants’ offensive coordinator after close to a decade as the Cowboys’ head coach. From afar, it looks like Garrett’s offense would be a decent fit for what I imagine the Broncos personnel will look like in 2022. Over the last two seasons they base out of 11 personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) with 12 (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB) being the second most utilized grouping. Like Denver in 2019 and 2020, New York makes liberal use of both gap and zone blocking up front.
On this side of studying the Giants offense, I’ll admit Garrett is one of the least intriguing names on this list. His Cowboys teams rarely, if ever lived up to expectations despite Tony Romo and then Dak Prescott under center.
Yet another retread, but Frazier may just be the best candidate on this list. He also looks like the early favorite to these eyes. The 61-year-old played for the Monsters of the Midway before he turned to coaching. He’s been a head coach twice. The first time at Trinity International University, the second time for the Minnesota Vikings where his path crossed with George Paton. In a league where connections are everything, Paton’s familiarity with Frazier can’t be understated.
Frazier’s currently the defensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills, where he’s done a masterful job working with Sean McDermott to build the best defense in the NFL. Just about any way you slice it, Frazier’s work shines. Through five games Buffalo has the stingiest scoring defense in the NFL. By DVOA, they rank first by a country mile: There’s a bigger gap between the Bills pass defense and the second place Panthers than Carolina and the 17th ranked Packers.
Not to be overlooked: Frazier’s defense slowed down the Chiefs offense in week four, holding Patrick Mahomes to 33/54 for 272 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. It was arguably the worst game of the future Hall of Famer’s NFL career.
The Bills blitzed Patrick Mahomes on just 1-of-63 dropbacks last night. Buffalo opted to play coverage and try to get home with 4 rushers.
A strong effort from the entire defense, as they held the Chiefs to just one passing play of 20+ yards.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) October 11, 2021
The last name on the list may be the most enigmatic. The 51-year-old Bevell’s been an offensive coordinator for four different NFL franchises, starting with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006. George Paton was hired as the Vikes director of player personnel in 2007.
After leaving Minneapolis, Bevell worked as the offensive coordinator and play caller for the Seattle Seahawks. He was the play caller when Russell Wilson beat the Broncos in Super Bowl 48. He was also the OC when Marshawn Lynch didn’t receive a goal line carry in the closing minute of Super Bowl 49.
In 2019 and 2020 he was the Lions OC and play caller, and he was a critical part to Matthew Stafford’s hot start to the 2019 season before injuries derailed his season. At present, Bevell’s working as the play caller for Urban Meyer and rookie Trevor Lawrence. I have it on good authority it’s a post he regrets taking because of all the dysfunction around the Jaguars.
Beyond his own familiarity with Paton, Bevell’s appeal is built around how his system fits the Broncos personnel. He uses an 11 personnel base offense and the typically leans on a vertical passing game that fits the strengths of players like Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick. I do have concerns about how he’d maximize the Broncos offensive line and running backs as his blocking scheme’s been extremely dependent on inside zone the last three years.