Broncos' brain trust mulls over seven head-coaching candidates

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, Broncos executives 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.

Broncos 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.

The job opened up last week when Bowlen stunned the NFL 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 Hall of Fame QB 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 will split up the duties and hire a general manager after he gets his coach under contract.

Shanahan exclusive

Adam Schefter sat down with former Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for an exclusive interview on GameDay Morning following the coach's firing.

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

Since then, the Broncos have gone 24-24 and haven't returned the playoffs, their longest drought since 1980 to 1982.

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 and 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 east last weekend to meet with two of the hottest names on the coaching market, New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and New England 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 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Leslie Frazier of the Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins assistant head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinators Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys and Rick Dennison, who was Shanahan's deputy in Denver for 14 years.

Quarterback Jay Cutler, who will go to his first Pro Bowl along with wide receiver Brandon Marshall next month, has lobbied the team to keep quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who's one of about six 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 the team ranked second in the league in yardage, its proficiency in scoring was middle of the pack because of a heavy dose of turnovers and missed field-goal attempts.

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

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

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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