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Bengals' Callahan calls Denver a 'special place'

Rams' O'Connell honed craft under top coaches
Bengals Seahawks Football
Posted at 4:26 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 19:10:13-05

DENVER — Brian Callahan requires no recruiting visit to sell him on the Broncos head coaching job.

Callahan broke into the business in 2010 with the Broncos, hired at age 25 as a offensive assistant. He spent six years with the Broncos, meeting his wife in Colorado, becoming a father and winning a Super Bowl ring in 2015.

So it's fair to assume his Zoom interview with general manager George Paton included some good memories for the Bengals offensive coordinator.

"Denver is a special place for me because that was my first job," Callahan said during his media availability on Wednesday with Cincinnati reporters. "When I left it was for a promotion, so there are a lot of good feelings I have about Denver."

Callahan is on his third team since his Mile High exit, finding traction and garnering attention as the Bengals' offensive boss the past three seasons. Led by nervy star quarterback Joe Burrow and standout rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase, the Bengals averaged 27 points per game this season, ranking seventh overall.

Callahan, 37, has achieved a decent balance, with the Bengals seventh in passing yards and 23rd in rushing leading into Saturday's divisional playoff game at the Titans.

Callahan, whose father, Bill, is a longtime NFL and college coach, carved out time Thursday for the Broncos interview via Zoom. He said Wednesday that it would not distract him from this week's challenge.

"It's later at night, early in the morning, if I need to prepare for something (like an interview). And these are things that you slowly prepare for over time and you get a chance to collect your thoughts on your time," said Callahan, explaining this opportunity comes from team success. "It's an honor to be included in a process like this. But I would never take anything away from my preparation for a game of this magnitude."

Following Callahan's interview on Thursday, Paton and his search committee planned to speak in person in Los Angeles with Rams' offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell.

O'Connell, like Callahan, is considered part of the next wave of premier offensive coaches, and that cannot be easily overlooked considering that six of the eight teams remaining in the playoffs feature bosses with offensive backgrounds.

O'Connell began keeping notebooks on defenses in college as a quarterback, then received a doctorate playing under New England's Bill Belichick. He became a quasi-assistant as a third-string quarterback for the Jets under Rex Ryan. Among other things, O'Connell helped decipher and design blitzes to attack the Patriots.

His coaching career accelerated in Washington in 2017, and he has polished his resume the past two seasons as the Rams offensive coordinator, learning from coach Sean McVay.

"It's a real honor to have your name thrown out there (for jobs). I think it really speaks to the head coach I work for now and all of our coaches and players, and what our guys have been able to do this year," O'Connell said last week. "I really do believe that."

The Broncos will finish their interviews when they speak with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy on Friday in Kansas City. There could be a follow up with finalists, though nothing has been formalized.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn remains the favorite for the job, but there are plenty of impressive coaches in the mix, including Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and Eagles defensive boss Jonathan Gannon, who has been called this cycle's Brandon Staley after interviews with Texans, Broncos and Vikings.

Quinn, who could bring line coach Aden Durde as his defensive coordinator in his next stop, has received interest from six teams, adding the Giants on Wednesday. It would not be a surprise to see him receive multiple offers.