ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the coming days or weeks, John Elway will select the 17th head coach of the Denver Broncos.
Denver’s new coach, once chosen, will be tasked with helping the Broncos return from the depths of back-to-back losing seasons to playoff contention.
And Elway, who has hired three coaches during his tenure that began in 2011, hopes this is his last hire for a while.
"This is no fun, going through this,” Elway said Monday during his end-of-season press conference. “It's not something I want to do, but then again, I understand what my job is. My job is to give … the Denver Broncos the best chance to win.
“… I hope that we can hire a guy that can be here for the next 10 years, 15 years. But it's a tough league, and this league is about parity. It's about creating that and when you're good at some point in time, it's going to catch up to you and that's the great challenge. Again, we've got to answer that bill."
As Elway aims to meet the latest challenge, he must make a series of choices. Should he hire and up-and-coming coordinator or a former head coach? An offensive genius or defensive stalwart?
Elway didn’t offer those specifics Monday, but he did provide a glimpse at his priorities as he begins his search.
"I want them to be great on one side of the ball and great at what they do — whatever that position that may be — whether it be a coordinator or whatever they've done,” Elway said. “I look for greatness on that side. For me, I look for experience. I want the guys that understand the game, they understand X’s and O’s but also have the ability to lead men. That's a big part of it in today's world.
“Those are two things that I look for, and there are guys we have [a] feel for. I think there are a lot of things that go into a head coach that it's a feel thing. We're going to try to find that guy with that 'it' factor, that can make those right decisions and also lead men. We're confident that we can find that guy."
Elway later clarified that when he says experience, he doesn’t necessarily mean as a head coach.
"Body of work is really kind of what we're looking for,” Elway said. "The thing is, I can sit here and say, 'This is what I want,' but obviously we get out there, get in the interview process and different guys are going to give you feels different ways. We'll do as much homework as we can before we get into the interview process and try to find out which one is the best fit for us."
Elway said he’s found three or four “very-good candidates” already, and he said he’ll move quickly as eight teams aim to fill vacancies.
He did not rule out trading for a coach.
"At this point in time, we're looking at everything,” Elway said. “So, like I said, we're fours hours out from relieving our coach of his duties. So, the process that we go through and where we're going to go now, everything is a possibility. I always listen to everything."
At least two coaches, though, were not being considered for the job as of Monday afternoon.
Elway said both former Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan and former offensive coordinator Adam Gase were not candidates “at this point in time.”
While Elway searches for the right coach, many Broncos players will wait to see if their own wish lists are fulfilled.
Linebacker Todd Davis said as a defensive player, he hopes the Broncos hire a defensive-minded head coach. Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. wants a coach that brings an evolved scheme that can help the Broncos compete in the age of run-pass option plays. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said he’s ready to be in a “pass-happy offense.”
Quarterback Case Keenum simply wants a coach that empowers his or her players.
“I haven’t thought about that a ton,” Keenum said Monday. “I think that it’s obviously very important who you have coaching and you have calling the shots. There’re a lot of great qualities that you look for, a lot of great coaches that I’ve played for. Drawing on the qualities of coaches that I’ve played for before, somebody that instills confidence in me and my teammates, somebody that’s energetic that you respect, that you know is working hard, is in the trenches and somebody that has your back. That’s a big part for me, that I love playing for those guys. I’ve got a lot of trust in John. I know his job is not easy. He’s working his tail off and those guys upstairs, they’re going to make the best decision and do the best thing for this team.”
And outside linebacker Von Miller just answered the question in typical Miller fashion.
“I like to think that I’m a coach’s dream,” Miller said laughing. “I like to think that no matter what coach we have, I’m going to try to make his job as easy as possible. With me, especially with my role as a leader, I know what it is. I don’t think any coach that we bring in here, my role is not going to change. I’ve got to lead these guys, continue to try to inspire these guys and continue to develop as a leader as well. No matter what coach we bring in here, my role won’t change. Or maybe it will, I don’t know.”
Even if Miller’s role doesn’t change, Elway is hopeful the team’s record will shift back to an acceptable standard.
That belief, though, is easy to hold.
Finding candidates? A little bit more difficult.
And choosing the right coach to lead the Broncos for the foreseeable future? That’s where Elway will find his biggest challenge.
“A lot of us have the issues identified,” Elway said. “The hard part is finding the solutions, and that's what my job is. That's what our job is as a staff.
“That's what we're going to work our tail off to do."