The Denver Broncos appear to be swinging for the fences in their head coach search, with Denver’s top two targets being Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, according to numerous reports.
But Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd said he thought that Harbaugh was a better match in Denver than Payton, posting on Twitter that his “style is the perfect fit” for the Broncos.
“Harbaugh’s calling card — college and pro — [is] he builds strong offensive lines and run games,” Cowherd said January 10 on his radio show. “He did it at Stanford, he did it at the 49ers, he did it at Michigan. Three for three, that’s what he does, builds o-lines and build run games.
“I think that’s the way out of this mess for Denver,” he said.
Harbaugh had a two-hour virtual interview with the Broncos on January 9, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, and “has been engaged with the Broncos,” according to a January 12 story by ESPN’s Pete Thamel. However, later in the day on January 12, Sports Illustrated’s Chad Jensen reported on the “wet blanket” that Michigan president Santa Ono threw on the Harbaugh-to-Denver momentum.
Ono tweeted about his “positive and constructive conversations with our … Football Coach.” In a statement from Harbaugh posted by the university, he gave what SI’s Jensen called “yet another lukewarm assurance” to Michigan fans that he’d stay at the school.
Why Payton Is Not a Fit in Denver, According to Colin Cowherd
“Sean Payton would change the identity, but I think he would eventually be frustrated with Russell Wilson’s limitations as a pocket quarterback,” Cowherd said.”There’s a real possibility — I don’t believe this, but many do — that Wilson is past his prime and that he’s totally limited.”
During the 15 years as the Saints’ head coach, he never had a mobile quarterback running his offenses. Up until his last season with the Saints, 2021, Payton had future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, a renowned pocket passer, at quarterback. After Brees retired, he had Jameis Winston and Trevor Siemian leading the offense. Only Taysom Hill could be truly could classified, but Payton used him more as a gadget player.
Payton, who is still under contract with New Orleans through 2024, is scheduled to have an in-person interview with the Saints on January 17 in Los Angeles, according to a January 12 tweet from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Payton seemingly has the endorsement of Wilson, who will enter his second season as Broncos QB.
“I’ve been around Sean,” Wilson said after the team’s season finale, according to BroncosWire’s Jon Heath. “He’s one of the world’s best, obviously. … He’s competitive as can be and he knows how to push guys at the ultimate level.”
‘Denver’s the Blueprint,’ Colin Cowherd Says
If Harbaugh were to coach in Denver, he would have to fix the Broncos’ offensive line, which gave up an NFL-worst 63 sacks, tying the franchise record for most in a season (1963).
“You rebuild the o-line, it’s what Jim does,” Cowherd said. “Javonte Williams, an emerging star running back got hurt, he returns and then you ask Russell Wilson to use his mobility like he asked Andrew Luck to, Colin Kaepernick to, Alex Smith to. Harbaugh’s had the mobile quarterback and he’s always done it the same way. We have a blueprint for Jim, Denver’s the blueprint.”
Denver’s rushing attack ranked in the middle of the pack in the NFL at just 113.8 rushing yards per game. In a West Coast offense, the running game needs to be effective and the top priority and it wasn’t this season for the Broncos.
While Harbaugh was coaching the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014, his rushing attacks never ranked worse than eighth in the NFL and they owned a top-four attack for three out of the four years. San Francisco averaged 139.2 yards per game on the ground in Harbaugh’s four seasons.
Harbaugh can Beat the Chiefs
In the coaching interviews, the candidates will be asked how can the Broncos find a way to beat the Chiefs since it has been 15 straight wins for the Chiefs.
In three meetings that Wilson has faced off against Mahomes, Denver’s franchise quarterback is just 1-2 against him.
Cowherd also explained how Harbaugh and Denver could beat Kansas City, “Bully ball, run games, keep him on the bench. That’s the only way you’re going to beat Mahomes. Russell isn’t going to out-duel him, can’t out-track meet him, that’s not what he does at this point in his career.”
Cowherd continued, “It’s what Harbaugh did at Stanford when they beat Pete Carroll as a 40-point underdog, they played keep away. It’s how he beat the Seahawks with Kaepernick, it’s how he just beat Ohio St. the last two years at Michigan. Harbaugh’s style is perfect for Denver and how they get out of this mess.”