3 Best Coaching Options to Maximize Broncos' Russell Wilson in 2023

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3 Best Coaching Options to Maximize Broncos’ Russell Wilson in 2023

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    Former Saints head coach Sean Payton

    Former Saints head coach Sean PaytonTodd Kirkland/Getty Images

    A little less than a year ago, the Denver Broncos altered the course of their franchise by trading for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

    Denver went all in on the likely future Hall of Famer, dealing two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant for Wilson and a fourth-round pick.

    However, pairing Wilson with rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett didn’t work. The former failed to play at an above-average level, and the latter was fired before the end of the season. Denver is now entering the second stage of its coaching search, which is to be headed by CEO Greg Penner and others.

    “The second round of interviews will involve Penner, his wife and co-owner Carrie Walton Penner, and Broncos controlling owner Rob Walton,” Mike Klis of KUSA in Denver wrote. “George Paton will be around for follow-up discussions and to help the coaching finalists tour the Broncos’ facilities.”

    While there are several attributes the Broncos should prioritize—such as the experience Hackett didn’t have—Denver should be focused on finding a coach who can get the most out of Wilson. The quarterback is under contract through 2028 and still has $107 million in dead money on his contract. In short, he isn’t going anywhere soon.

    With this in mind, let’s dive into the three of Denver’s coaching candidates who would best maximize the 34-year-old in 2023.

Jim Caldwell

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    DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 31: Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell chats with the media following a NFL football game between Detroit and Green Bay on December 31, 2017, at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. (Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Former Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell is among the offense-minded candidates Denver has interviewed. Along with Sean Payton and unlike former Stanford head coach David Shaw, he has been a head coach at the NFL level.

    This should be a big piece of the equation following the Hackett debacle. The former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator struggled with things like clock management and in-game decisions, facets of the game to which Caldwell is accustomed.

    Shaw learned these skills as Stanford head coach, and he has been a positional coach at the pro level, but Caldwell has been in charge of two NFL teams and coached the Indianapolis Colts to Super Bowl XLIV.

    With the Lions, the 68-year-old went 36-28 as head coach and made two playoff appearances in four years. The Lions have not returned to the postseason since he was fired, and his ability to make the team competitive during his tenure should not be undersold.

    He knows how to run the show, and with an offensive background—he last served as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach in 2019—he should know how to make the most of Wilson’s talents.

    Unlike Payton, Caldwell wouldn’t cost the Broncos draft capital to acquire.

Sean Payton

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    ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 09: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

    Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

    Sean Payton may be the front-runner for the job, but Denver will have to trade to acquire his rights because he’s still under contract with the New Orleans Saints.

    According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, the Saints and Broncos “appear to be on the same page about potential trade compensation.”

    The 59-year-old won’t come cheaply, but he would be a logical choice with Wilson in mind. He’s a Super Bowl-winning head coach, a former quarterback, the 2006 AP Coach of the Year and knows how to get the most out of his signal-caller.

    Yes, Peyton’s biggest successes came with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees under center. However, one must consider the fact that Payton’s Saints went 9-8 in 2021 with the combination of Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston at quarterback.

    Winston posted a career-high 102.8 passer rating in Payton’s final year in New Orleans. Hill, an unorthodox run-first signal-caller and gadget player, went 7-2 as a starting QB under Payton.

    Brees, Winston and Hill all have very different quarterbacking styles, and Payton found relative success with each of them. It’s hard to believe he couldn’t unearth similar success with Wilson in Denver.

Dan Quinn

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    OXNARD, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 08: Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn of the Dallas Cowboys is seen during training camp at River Ridge Fields on August 08, 2022 in Oxnard, California. (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)

    Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

    Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn stands out from Denver’s defensive candidates—Quinn, Denver defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris—because he has been a high-level NFL head coach before.

    Morris has also been a head coach, though he never took his team to the Super Bowl, a feat Campbell achieved with the Atlanta Falcons.

    While Quinn might not have a direct influence on Wilson, he could help maximize Denver’s talent-laden defense. This would make life easier on the 34-year-old signal-caller.

    The 52-year-old would, presumably, have a pipeline in place to bring with him a quality offensive coordinator.

    Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur and Mike McDaniel were all offensive assistants under Quinn in Atlanta.

    San Francisco running backs coach Bobby Turner also worked under Quinn in Atlanta. Cowboys quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier, who was an offensive coordinator at Alabama, Florida and Michigan, Washington and Fresno State, is another intriguing coach to whom Quinn has ties.

    If Denver can obtain a quality offensive coordinator, it should have no qualms about hiring a defensive head coach, and Quinn would be a great hire.


    *Contract information via Spotrac.