Two more interviews to go before Denver Broncos decide on next head coach

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Denver Broncos head coach Jerry Rosburg, right, talks with an official during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers in Denver, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Denver Broncos have two more interviews lined up for their vacant head coaching position: defensive coordinators DeMeco Ryans of the 49ers and Dan Quinn of the Cowboys.

Team owner Greg Penner and general manager George Paton will meet with Ryans on Thursday and Quinn on Friday.

Quinn was also a candidate a year ago when the Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired after his team showed a disturbing lack of discipline in a 51-14 loss to the Rams on Christmas Day.

The Broncos are searching for their sixth head coach since their last trip to the playoffs following the 2015 season.

They interviewed Sean Payton, who is still under contract with the Saints, and Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris in the Los Angeles area on Tuesday.

Payton, who worked as a studio analyst this season, won the NFC South seven times with the Saints and the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, amassing a 152-89 record. He stepped down after Drew Brees retired following the 2020 season.

Payton has two years remaining on his contract and thus would have to be traded. The Saints, who have granted the Broncos, Cardinals and Texans permission to speak with him, are requiring significant draft pick compensation.

The Saints don't have a first-round pick in the 2023 NFL draft after a trade with the Eagles that gave New Orleans two first-rounders last year.

The Broncos began their interviews last week, speaking with their own defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero, former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, former Stanford head coach David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh, who decided to stay at the University of Michigan.

Jerry Rosburg took over as interim head coach following Hackett's dismissal on Dec. 26 and went 1-1. The Broncos, who averaged a paltry 15.5 points per game under Hackett, averaged 27.5 points against the Chiefs and Chargers, both of whom made the playoffs.

With Rosburg in charge, Russell Wilson looked more like the nine-time Pro Bowler he was with the Seahawks in a 27-24 loss at Kansas City and a 31-28 win over the Chargers, giving the team a glimmer of hope that his poor performance in 2022 was more about a bad fit than a slippage of his skills.

The Broncos started out slowly last season following what came to be known around Denver as “Camp Cupcake” in which Hackett eliminated 7-on-7 drills, a staple of training camps for generations, and hardly had his team do any live hitting or full-speed drills in the interest of safety and preventing injuries.

That approach backfired as the Broncos ended up with a league-high 22 players on injured reserve, including Garett Bolles, Javonte Williams and Tim Patrick on an offense that lacked many playmakers by season's end.

The new head coach will inherit one of the NFL's top defenses to go with that fixer-upper on offense.

Bolles, who is rehabbing from ankle surgery, said he and fellow veterans Justin Simmons and Brandon McManus, “have seen a lot of turnover and a lot of change,” and he wants to new head coach to know that “we have a lot of great fighters on this team,” one that is “hungry to win.”