Fast-Rising NFC Assistant Could Be ‘Ideal Fit’ as Broncos Head Coach

Denver Broncos

Getty Denver Broncos QB Russell Wilson (left) watches the game from the sidelines.

It all comes down to this.

Week 18 across the NFL will decide home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the NFC East and AFC South champions, as well as feature six teams jockeying for position and an NFC Wild Card winner still to be crowned.

Meanwhile, as the top half of the league plays games with varying degrees of playoff implications, the rest of the NFL already has one eye trained on the future; coaching searches, the quarterback carousel that is about to fire up, and even some general managers could be eagerly awaiting pink slips on Black Monday.

Heavy’s football mailbag series continues on Friday, January 6 — hosted by Heavy NFL insider Matt Lombardo — to answer questions about your favorite team(s).


Denver Broncos

Q: Who is a real head coach candidate for the Broncos not named Sean Payton or Jim Harbaugh?

The Denver Broncos head coaching vacancy is going to be one of the more fascinating to watch unfold this offseason.

Denver being linked to Jim Harbaugh is very real, aided by the NCAA investigating level II violations committed by the University of Michigan stemming from recruiting violations during the COVID dead periods, among other infractions.

Likewise, Harbaugh left himself more outs than an extra-innings baseball game by including the term “no one knows the future” in his statement affirming his commitment to coaching the Wolverines this fall.

However, Harbaugh is far from the only potential candidate who would be an ideal fit in Denver.

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has a chance to be the first head coach hired and could be an ideal fit for the Broncos’ talent and scheme.

Likewise, Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen may be uniquely positioned to turn around Russell Wilson and the Broncos’ offense, after guiding Jalen Hurts to an MVP-caliber season and Philadelphia’s offense to average 392.0 yards and 28.4 points per game.

However, after Nathaniel Hackett’s failure to build a system around Wilson, and given the wealth of talent on the Broncos’ defense, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans could an attractive option to owner & CEO Greg Penner.

If Harbaugh remains at the University of Michigan, Johnson, Ryans and Steichen could be ideal candidates for the Broncos’ opening in 2023.


Detroit Lions

Q: If Ben Johnson gets a head coaching gig, any idea where Detroit would turn at offensive coordinator? Internal hire again?

Dan Campbell has built something special with his coaching staff chock-full of former players, who have the recent playing experience to be relatable to the locker room.

A playoff berth, and Johnson’s potential departure to run an organization of his own, would be a testament to the health of the program Campbell is building. However, losing Johnson would create a significant void for the Detroit Lions.

Two candidates; one internal and one from the outside, could soften the blow of losing Johnson and perhaps even elevate the Lions’ offense to new heights next season.

According to one NFL offensive coach, Eagles quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, could wind up being the most hotly sought-after offensive assistant in the league.

Johnson has worked closely alongside Jalen Hurts the past two seasons, as Hurts produced the most effective season of his three-year career, entering Week 18 completing 67.3% of his passes for 3,472 yards with 22 touchdowns to 5 interceptions while adding 13 rushing touchdowns.

Similar to Detroit’s old-school rushing offense, the Eagles’ ground attack is averaging 139.6 rushing yards per game, and some of Philadelphia’s rushing concepts could be easily importable into the Lions’ scheme.

Meanwhile, promoting Lions running backs coach Duce Staley could prove a seamless transition for the offense.

Staley has designs on becoming a head coach, has served as Campbell’s assistant head coach, and taking over play-calling duties would be a major step towards landing a head coaching gig of his own.

Promoting Staley would keep continuity in scheme for quarterback Jared Goff, and give Detroit the opportunity to continue building on the momentum the running game has established this season.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Q: Do the Buccaneers squeeze in snaps for Kyle Trask in Week 18 regardless of the score against the Falcons?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the opportunity to get a very real look at a very possible future in Week 18.

Tampa Bay is locked into the No. 4 seed, regardless of the outcome against the Falcons in the season finale. Likewise, there is a legitimate possibility that Tom Brady retires or plays elsewhere in 2023.

Given the lack of postseason ramifications, and the uncertainty facing Brady’s future, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kyle Trask play meaningful snaps. And he should.

Both from the perspective of keeping Brady healthy, as well as getting a glimpse of his potential successor, the Buccaneers would be wise to give Trask the bulk of snaps against the Falcons.

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