The Broncos' 2021 season has ended, but the excitement is far from over. General Manager George Paton and the Broncos are in the midst of searching for a head coach, and the hire will help determine the future of the organization.
We don't yet know which direction the Broncos will choose to go in, but there are still plenty of questions to answer.
In this edition of "Ask Aric," we're answering questions about what type of coach the Broncos should hire, how the hire impacts the plan at quarterback and how the decision could impact the rest of the roster.
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Shouldn't they go for an offensive[-minded] head coach as the offense has been the issue for a while now? - @codered6789
That would certainly be the best choice from a popularity standpoint. It's clear on social media that fans are largely hoping that the Broncos hire the next big offensive mind. And that's totally fine to feel that way; the Broncos' offense has struggled for a long time and needs to be better. But there's more than one way to fix the problem, and Paton can't worry about making the choice with the highest poll numbers. He's simply got to worry about finding the coach that puts Denver in the best position to win games. If the Broncos hire an offensive coach that leads them to victory, that's great. And if they hire a defensive-minded coach that finds a strong offensive coordinator and leads the team to wins, that's also great. The bottom line is that this hire will be judged on wins and losses, not which choice generates the most public applause.
Say the Broncos hire [Kellen] Moore at HC. Do you see him wanting to push for [a veteran like Aaron] Rodgers or [Russell] Wilson or do you see him wanting a young guy to work with like [Drew] Lock? - @faygo_stan
I think the key for any coaching candidate — whether offensive-minded or defensive-minded — is to have a plan for both scenarios. If the Broncos go out and trade for a veteran quarterback or sign one in free agency, the team's new head coach needs to have a plan to put that player in a position to succeed. And if Denver decides, instead, to draft a young quarterback — or run it back with Drew Lock — the new coach needs to have a similar blueprint for that scenario. It cannot be one or the other. There's too much uncertainty in the NFL to not have audibles if the ideal plan doesn't work out. It's hard to imaginePaton would pick a coach that doesn't have a plan for either option.
Is the search for a … coach more important than a QB? - @AGslashtone
Paton got a version of this question during his end-of-season press conference, and he made it clear that while quarterback is the most important position in sports, the team is currently focused on finding a head coach. Paton has been methodical ever since joining the team last year, so this approach is no surprise — and it seems like a fair approach. Here's what I'll add: Both are critical to forming a Super Bowl contender. Each year, there are teams that find success with a great coach and scheme and an average quarterback. And there are also teams that have a great coach and average play-caller and scheme that find success. For a team to truly realize it's potential, though, you need an above-average person at each of those spots. It may be trendy to suggest a coach or quarterback can change everything alone, but the Broncos will need to hit on both to return to their previous heights.
Given the defensive personnel that we have under contract, will it be an easy transition to potentially a different scheme under a new DC? - @Steve_cochran63
Steve, that's a fair question, as it might impact the team's base defensive alignment. The Broncos could go from three down linemen, two stand-up edge rushers and a pair of inside linebackers to four down linemen and a trio of inside linebackers. It may have a slight impact on if the team adds edge rushers who prefer to have their hand in the dirt and the traits they look for in inside linebackers and interior defensive linemen, but I wouldn't overstate that too much. The truth is that teams play so much in sub-packages in today's NFL that it shouldn't have a huge impact. In nickel and dime packages, teams play with limited down linemen, which should limit the impact of any sort of change to defensive scheme.
Who will our inside linebackers be next season? Will [Kenny] Young, [Josey] Jewell or [Alexander] Johnson return? - @TheTrueJake58
Well, I think it's fair to count Baron Browning as a likely starter, so the Broncos will need at least one more starter and a quality reserve player. I'd be surprised if all three of those players are back in Denver, but it's possible that two of the three could return. Denver could also add a player in free agency or the draft as it looks to solidify its inside linebacking corps. Jewell has been a bit overlooked since he got hurt so early in the season, but he was perhaps the Broncos' best defensive players in that Jaguars game and was playing some very good football. If Denver wants to pair a veteran with the young Browning, Jewell would be a strong option.
Which player [do you] think [will] be tagged? - @BestKidWilkins
Courtland Sutton was a potential candidate before he got re-signed this season, but I wouldn't expect the Broncos to use the franchise tag on any of their impending free agents this year.
Odds Melvin Gordon returns? - @squalls1
Gordon is one several of the Broncos' unrestricted free agents to monitor. I'd add the aforementioned Jewell, Johnson and Young to that list, and Teddy Bridgewater and Bryce Callahan are obviously worth watching, as well. Gordon had a strong season, as he ran for 918 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns for the sixth consecutive year. He was one of the Broncos' best offensive players, and he formed a strong duo with Javonte Williams. Gordon has expressed a desire to return to Denver, but there's plenty of factors that go into that. We'll have to wait and see on Gordon's future.