With the 2021 regular season now in the rearview mirror, a handful of teams are beginning the search for a new head coach to lead their organizations in 2022 and beyond.
After several head coaching spots opened up early this week following the Week 18 slate of games, NFL.com's Judy Battista evaluated each organization and ranked which teams boast the most attractive job opening for potential coaches. The Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran also spoke to a league source who ranked the open jobs. Both Battista and O'Halloran also broke down the good and bad of each potential head coaching job.
Battista ranks the Broncos as the No. 2 most-enticing head coaching spot, citing young talent on both sides of the ball as a big draw for head coach candidates.
"The Broncos job has plenty of upside," Battista wrote. "There is a core group of young players, led by Patrick Surtain II and Javonte Williams, to build around. Denver has a stout defense and talented players at the skill positions."
O'Halloran, whose source named Denver the No. 1 destination for potential head coaches, also acknowledges the Broncos' roster as one of the franchise's top draws. In addition to a stacked defense, many of the Broncos' key offensive weapons are locked up for the foreseeable future. Williams is heading into the second year of his rookie contract and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is going into his third, and Denver also re-signed WRs Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton this season.
"2020 first-round cornerback Pat Surtain II is a foundational player on defense," O'Halloran wrote. "Top receivers Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick and Jerry Jeudy are under contract for at least the next three years (including Jeudy's 2024 option)."
O'Halloran and Battista both cite a bevy of draft picks and a good amount of salary cap space in 2022 as reasons why the Broncos' opening will be one of the most coveted jobs on the market.
"[General Manager George] Paton is widely respected around the league for his communication and player evaluation skills," O'Halloran wrote. "[The] Broncos have a wealth of draft capital (11 picks) to either acquire a quarterback or stock the depth chart."
Battista and O'Halloran both note that the Broncos' QB situation remains unsettled, but they agree that the upsides in Denver will be too good for most coaching candidates to pass up.
"There is cap space," Battista wrote. "There are extra draft picks. And this is one of the NFL's greatest football towns. A quick turnaround is possible, especially because the offseason focus will be on finally fixing the quarterback position. All of that will make this one of the most attractive jobs available."
Below the Fold
Following the end of the regular season, Pro Football Focus reviewed the rookie seasons of all 32 first-round draft picks and evaluated their potential going forward.
Denver's pick at No. 9 overall, rookie cornerback Surtain, had an impressive season and earned high marks from PFF.
"Surtain is another rookie who looked immediately at home in the NFL," PFF's Sam Monson wrote. "He plays with rare patience that young corners typically don't develop until much later into their careers. Passes thrown into his coverage generated a 69.7 passer rating, and he was penalized just twice all season. Surtain also made plays on the football, picking off four passes and breaking up another eight."
Surtain was thrust into a starting role in Week 2 following an injury to CB Ronald Darby. Surtain didn't relinquish his starting spot until an injury sidelined him for Denver's final game in Week 18.
Surtain has certainly impressed during his first season, and despite a rookie error here or there, he has performed like the cornerback Denver expected him to be all along. With a full season under his belt, Surtain looks primed for a dominant 2022 with the Broncos.
"He had some struggles, but all of his below-par performances came in the first half of the season, with the second half of the year hinting at the player he could soon become," Monson wrote.