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Broncos enter home stretch in coaching interviews

Callahan, O'Connell, Bieniemy scheduled for Thursday, Friday
Kevin O'Connell
Posted at 4:14 PM, Jan 19, 2022

DENVER — Coaching searches once centered on a few phone calls, a quick visit to the facility and an offer. With a private jet at his disposal and the pressure to make the fourth coach in seven years a lasting one, Broncos general manager George Paton and associates have crisscrossed the country over the past 10 days.

By Wednesday night, Paton will have finished seven interviews following discussions with Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. Thursday, he will interview Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan via Zoom and Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell in person in Los Angeles and finish Friday with Chiefs offensive boss Eric Bieniemy face-to-face.

In the end, there will be 10 notes to compare, interviews to weigh, a fit to find. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who talked with the Broncos on Tuesday morning, remains a top candidate. He brings energy, attitude, personality and a history of making strong connections with players. He led the Falcons to a Super Bowl — yes, they squandered a 28-3 lead — but his stint dissolved in 2020. Quinn's offenses were strong in Atlanta, and industry insiders insist he will build a strong staff in his next stop.

By this weekend, the Broncos should have enough information to make an offer to Quinn or any of the other nine candidates, including Nathaniel Hackett.

There's almost certainly going be an other opportunity for Quinn. He has interviewed with the Broncos and Bears, and is scheduled to talk with the Vikings, Dolphins, and the Giants, who submitted a slip on Wednesday. The Jaguars also asked, but Quinn is not expected to speak with them. The interest in Quinn could accelerate the time table for multiple teams.

The Broncos met with Mayo in a Providence, R.I., hotel on Wednesday. He is a rising star as a former player who is drawing some Mike Vrabel comparisons. But he's never been a coordinator, casting him as a longshot for the Broncos. Gannon spent multiple years with Paton in Minnesota. This past season was his first in charge of a defense and it came with mixed results, especially in the passing game where opponents completed 69.4% of their passes.

Kevin O'Connell, who has attracted interest from Texans and Vikings, brings a strong candidacy. He looks like a young John Lynch and formed his coaching strategy from his playing experience. He kept notebooks on defenses and film studies as a player at San Diego State. As a third-string quarterback with the Jets in 2011, he began acting as a coach. He has served stints with Cleveland, Washington and Los Angeles.

Now, he appears ready for the next step after learning under Rams coach Sean McVay.

Callahan, like Paton, went to UCLA and began his post college life as a freshman high school coach. This is similar to Paton's path, though Paton took a detour to Italy to play and teach the game.

Bieniemy deserves high marks for his work with the Kansas City offense. The Chiefs host the Bills this weekend, seeking a third-straight berth in the AFC Championship Game.