AFC West: Bob Stoops

Denver's plan takes shape

January, 2, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Broncos, guarded and secretive during Mike Shanahan's 14-year tenure, are beginning the post-Shanahan era open about the search to replace him.

The team, which shockingly dispatched Shanahan on Tuesday, has moved quickly to cobble together a short list. The team may add others to the list but has already scheduled several interviews.

Here's a look at the coaches under consideration:

Steve Spagnuolo

New York Giants, defensive coordinator

Scheduled interview: Saturday.

The skinny: He is one the most sought after current coordinators in the league. His unit has consistently been one of the best in the NFL. Denver is said to be very intrigued by Spagnuolo. Some consider him a favorite for the job. The Jets are also in hot pursuit.

Josh McDaniels

New England Patriots, offensive coordinator

Scheduled interview: Sunday.

The skinny: McDaniels, 32, is considered one of the better young offensive minds in the league. He did a brilliant job preparing Matt Cassel after Tom Brady was lost for the season in Week 1. The Broncos may be leaning toward a defensive coach, but considering Denver's strong offensive pieces, getting someone like McDaniels to take over for Shanahan could be tempting. McDaniels has interviewed with Cleveland.

Raheem Morris

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, defensive coordinator

Scheduled interview: Wednesday.

The skinny: Morris is basically the defensive version of McDaniels. Morris, too, is 32. He was just promoted to defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay. He is inexperienced but considered a potential coaching star. He has a chance to win the job with a dynamite interview.

Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys, offensive coordinator

Scheduled interview: TBA. Likely next week.

The skinny: He was the hot coaching prospect last year and is the supposed coach-in-waiting in Dallas. His shine may have lost some luster after the drama on the offensive side of the ball in Dallas this season. Still, Denver has long been intrigued by Garrett. He'll get a long look.

Bob Stoops

Oklahoma Sooners, head coach

Scheduled interview: Nothing is set. Initial contact has been made.

The skinny: He is believed to be Denver owner Pat Bowlen's top choice. But it's unknown if he would leave the school, which is playing for the national championship next Thursday. It will be interesting to see how Stoops handles the situation in the days leading up to the game. If he is not interested, expect him to make it clear fairly soon to avoid a distraction. If Stoops wants this job, it could be his.

Rick Dennison

Denver Broncos, run game coordinator

Scheduled interview: Next week

The skinny: A former Denver player and a longtime Denver assistant, Dennison knows the Broncos' way very well. Still, he has to be considered a major long shot.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Denver Broncos are going to talk to several candidates as they work to replace Mike Shanahan.

Names are starting to surface and there will be many familiar ones on the list, but one of the most intriguing candidates is a little known name: Tampa Bay secondary coach Raheem Morris. Denver will interview him in the coming days.

In NFL circles, Morris is considered a potential coaching star. In the summer, I wrote a column looking at assistant coaches who could be hot head coaching candidates in 2009. Morris' name was mentioned by many NFL insiders as I did the reporting for the column.

He is considered a bright young defensive mind and a motivator.

There are a lot of reasons why Morris could be a great fit for Denver. The Broncos need an overhaul on defense. Denver's offense is strong and is good enough to make a playoff run. It has been the Denver defense that has been bringing the team down in recent seasons.

Also, if Denver brought in a defensive-minded coach, it could keep several current assistant coaches on the offensive side of the ball, including passing game coordinator Jeremy Bates, who just signed a three-year contract. Bates has a good working relationship with Denver quarterback Jay Cutler and his presence could make the transition from the Shanahan era more smooth on offense.

The Broncos are not afraid of bringing in a young coach. They are looking for a youthful, enthusiastic coach. Morris, 32, could be just what the team needs. One of his mentors is Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin.

If Morris were to replace Shanahan, he could depend on Tomlin for advice since Tomlin went through a similar situation as he also replaced a legendary Super Bowl winning coach.

Because Denver is going to look at several coaches, Morris may not be a favorite to land the job. But he surely is an intriguing candidate.

Shanahan firing notes

December, 31, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

It is being reported the Cleveland Browns are planning to talk to Mike Shanahan about their open position. Shanahan could be intrigued by the power that the Cleveland job would offer and the chance to work with young quarterback Brady Quinn. The word is Shanahan is as open to coaching in 2009 as he is intrigued by the idea of talking the season off.

In his press conference, Pat Bowlen said that Broncos' personnel staff is safe. The thinking of the organization at this point is to bring in a new coach and have him work with the current front office.

The team may keep passing game coordinator Jeremy Bates. If so, that could mean the team is leaning toward keeping a defensive-minded coach.

Here are some of the more interesting quotes from Bowlen and Shanahan's press conference in Denver Wednesday:


On whether he has a role available for John Elway

"John Elway has lots of things to do and he's got a business life of his own and he is a very busy man, involved with the (Arena Football League) Crush. I haven't talked to John, and I don't have any idea if he has any interest."

On whether he has talked with any of the players and gotten their reactions

"I talked to (QB) Jay Cutler, and Jay understood the conversation. I talked to him this morning. I didn't get any negative feedback. I think he understands enough about the business of football, the game of football, that there are going to be coaching changes and changes in organizations. I didn't sense that Jay had any negative feelings about it, and I'm sure he is very interested in who is going to be the next head coach. Obviously, he is the man around here now, so I will be talking with Jay."

On how he would react if Shanahan got a job within the AFC West

"I wouldn't be too happy if it was Kansas City. But Mike will have a lot of opportunities to go to different teams. If I am consulted by one of those teams, I will give him the highest marks I can."


On what he thought Bowlen was going to talk to him about

"I wasn't really sure. Maybe lunch, my new restaurant that I have to promote that I'm not getting any cash for right now."

On what he is looking for in his next job

"Everything...  and players. (Whatever) gives you the best chance to win. A person (owner) that wants to compete, a person that wants to win the championship as badly as you do. That would be No. 1. Ownership that wants to win just like you do and is willing to go to extremes to get that done."

On if he talked with QB Jay Cutler

"I did talk to Cutler this morning. He tried to get in contact with me last night, and I called him this morning."

On the importance of Denver keeping some of its offensive staff

"Whoever the head coach that comes in (is), if he doesn't see what the offense did both in the running game and the passing game and the youth, (he) would have to be crazy not to try to keep the people that made it happen."

On if he wants to coach in college or the NFL

"Yeah, I think I'm an NFL guy. I'm not ruling anything out because when you don't have any jobs, beggars cannot be choosers. I'll just kind of wait and see. I'll look at anything out there to be honest with you, but I do love the NFL."

On if he would be surprised with John Elway working in Denver

"I think it would be great. You know what John Elway means to Denver. If I was a free agent coming in and John Elway was there, I would sign for no money. So it all depends on what John wants to do. There is a lot of time involved and John has got a lot going on. But I think John would be perfect for any organization, especially this one, if that's what he wanted to do."

This is what former Denver coach Dan Reeves had to say about Shanahan's firing on SIRIUS NFL radio:

"First of all it's a shock. I had no idea that that would happen. I don't think anybody did. Gosh, I think Mike had three years left on his contract and he and [owner] Pat [Bowlen] seemed to have such a great relationship. I certainly didn't see that. I know that had to be a big disappointment, having a three-game lead with three games to go and to have that happen. It had to be disappointing for everybody. I was shocked. They have constantly been one of the top offensive teams in the National Football League since Mike has been there and their defense over the last six or eight years has really struggled. But, you know, when you're in charge of everything then certainly the brunt of the decision has to fall on your shoulders."

Stoops could be on Bowlen's radar

December, 31, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

An intriguing name has come up as a possible candidate to succeed Mike Shanahan as Broncos coach: Bob Stoops.

Two NFL sources said Tuesday that Broncos owner Pat Bowlen has long been enamored with Stoops, the coach of Oklahoma. Bowlen is an Oklahoma alumnus. Stoops brought his staff to Denver's training camp for a day two years ago to observe.

At the very least, Stoops will be on Denver's list of prospective coaches.

There has long been rumors that Stoops could end up in the NFL. Perhaps if the Sooners win the national championship next week, Stoops would find it the right time to bolt to the NFL.

Some people close to the situation believe Bowlen may not be able to come up with the money it would take to bring Bill Cowher to Denver, especially since Shanahan is owed about $20 million over the next three years. Shanahan signed a three-year contract extension in the spring of 2007. Ironically, had Shanahan not be given the contract, his previous deal would now be expired.

Bowlen could probably come up with a financial package appealing to Stoops. The question is, would Stoops be given total control or would be working with a general manager? It would be risky giving a college coach full control.

While this is only the beginning of the process, Stoops could be a name to keep on an eye in the Denver coaching search.