Broncos' search in holding pattern

Updated: January 10, 2009, 2:22 PM ET
Associated Press

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- And on the seventh day of their search for a head coach, the Denver Broncos huddled.

After interviewing seven candidates over six intense days, the Broncos spent Friday going over the credentials of those potential coaches and mulling whether a second round or even a second wave of interviews was necessary.

Owner Pat Bowlen hasn't indicated what his next move will be, although he wants to name a coach as soon as possible to start fixing a franchise that has fallen into mediocrity despite a wealth of up-and-coming offensive talent.

Team spokesman Patrick Smyth said there weren't any more interviews lined up as of Friday afternoon.

One of the NFL's best jobs opened up last week when Bowlen stunned the league by firing Mike Shanahan, who was 146-91 in 14 seasons in Denver, winning two Super Bowl titles in the 1990s but only one playoff game since John Elway retired.

Shanahan's successor will inherit a resurgent offense and a deteriorated defense, the result of poor personnel decisions on draft day and in free agency. He'll also have much less power than Shanahan because Bowlen is going to split up the duties and hire a general manager after he gets his coach under contract.

Shanahan was basically the CEO of the Broncos, having final say on just about all matters in football operations, an arrangement that Bowlen apparently grew tired of. He also didn't like the Broncos' slide into the ordinary following the team's failure to beat Pittsburgh at home in the 2005 AFC Championship Game.

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Since then, the Broncos have gone 24-24 and haven't returned the playoffs, their longest drought since 1980-82.

Denver went 8-8 this season, when it became the first team to blow a three-game division lead with three weeks left, a collapse that culminated with a 52-21 drubbing at San Diego that sent Shanahan packing with three years and $21 million left on his contract.

Bowlen, chief operating officer Joe Ellis and personnel chief Jim Goodman flew out east last weekend to meet with two of the hottest names on the market, Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Then, it was back to team headquarters, where the Broncos brain trust flew in defensive coordinators Raheem Morris of the Buccaneers and Leslie Frazier of the Vikings, Dolphins assistant head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinators Jason Garrett of the Cowboys and Denver's Rick Dennison, who was Shanahan's deputy for 14 years.

Quarterback Jay Cutler, who is going to his first Pro Bowl along with fellow 2006 draft pick Brandon Marshall next month, has lobbied the team to keep quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who is one of about a half dozen of Shanahan's assistants that Bowlen would like to see stay and work with the new coach.

The Broncos have one of the league's top offenses, but it needs fine-tuning. Although they ranked second in the league in yardage, they're proficiency in scoring was middle of the pack, thanks to a heavy dose of turnovers and missed field goals.

Denver's defense needs another overhaul after allowing a league-high 448 points and managing a measly 13 takeaways under Bob Slowik, Shanahan's third defensive boss in three seasons.

Shanahan plans to take a year away from coaching but will still collect his annual $7 million salary. He had three years left on his contract when he was dumped.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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