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Saturday, December 11, 2010
A Denver candidate to keep an eye on

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

There will be a lot of names floated in connection to the Denver Broncos’ head-coaching vacancy.

Here’s one name to file away for next month: Mike Nolan.

It makes perfect sense that Nolan is somebody Denver considers. Ownership is familiar with Nolan as he had two previous stints with the Broncos, including last season when he was the team’s defensive coordinator. He also brings head-coaching experience, after three season as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

While he and Josh McDaniels parted ways after one season because they decided they couldn’t work well together, Nolan got along with other key factions of the team. Most importantly, the Broncos’ defense was successful under Nolan. It has crashed badly ever since Nolan left to become Miami’s defensive coordinator.

Denver has had five defensive coordinators in the past five seasons. It will likely have a sixth defensive coordinator next season. Bringing back Nolan would give the unit much-needed stability, something that the Broncos badly crave since McDaniels lasted only 23 months.

Another factor would be that owner Pat Bowlen can hire Nolan without breaking the bank. Bowlen still has to pay Mike Shanahan and McDaniels next season.

Denver COO Joe Ellis said earlier this week the new coach likely won’t have the personnel power Shanahan and McDaniels had. I don’t think that would be a stumbling block for Nolan, who would likely cherish the chance for another head-coaching opportunity.

I’m not saying Nolan will end up being the choice, or that he is the perfect choice, but his candidacy in Denver makes sense for a lot of reasons.