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Denver Broncos save Eric Bieniemy for last

The Chiefs offensive coordinator will be the 10th head coach candidate to interview with George Paton and his committee.

DENVER — Dan Quinn, with his head coaching experience and long, apparently close relationship with George Paton, deserves to be the odds-on favorite for the Broncos’ next head coach.

But shouldn’t Paton and the Broncos give serious consideration to an offensive-rooted candidate?

While all three phases have inflicted their share of damage during the Broncos’ ongoing six-year playoff drought and five-year losing skid, the dunce hat goes to the offense. Over the past six seasons, the 16th ranked team in the 32-team NFL has averaged 22.9 points per game. The Broncos have averaged a mere 19.5 points since 2015, and not once has their average output reached 21 points.

Broncos points per game

2016: 20.8

2017: 18.1

2018: 20.6

2019: 17.6

2020: 20.2

2021: 19.7

Paton, the Broncos’ second-year general manager, does have five offensive coordinators – Nathaniel Hackett, Eric Bieniemy, Kellen Moore, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Callahan -- included in his list of 10 head coach candidates to replace Vic Fangio, a defensive-oriented head coach who was fired last week after posting a three-year record of 19-30.

Prior to Fangio, the Broncos had another defensive-raised head coach, Vance Joseph, who had a two-year record of 11-21. That’s five years of defensive-minded leaders with a combined 30-51 record -- a stretch when, again, the offense stunk. Quinn would make it three defensive coordinators in a row the Broncos have hired as head coach.

Hiring an offensive coach this time has its logic. Of the five offensive coordinators, Paton and his posse are considering only two – the Cowboys’ Moore and the Bengals’ Callahan – who are game day play callers. The Chiefs’ Bieniemy has occasionally been given a chance by head coach Andy Reid to call plays, as he did during a 28-24 Kansas City win in the regular-season finale two weeks ago against the Broncos.

Regardless, two of Reid’s previous offensive coordinators – Matt Nagy and Doug Pederson – didn’t call plays, and they got head coach jobs. Bieniemy is as head coach qualified as any.

Credit: AP
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy walks on the sideline during an NFL football against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Cleveland. The Chiefs won 37-21. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Bieniemy had three stints with the University of Colorado – as a consensus All American running back for the Buffaloes’ 1990 co-national championship team; as a running backs coach for his alma mater in 2001-02; and as offensive coordinator for head coach Jon Embree in 2010-11.

The Broncos will be the 11th team Bieniemy has had a head coach interview with in the past four seasons.

Paton and his search committee – personnel executives Darren Mougey and Kelly Kleine, contract and cap maven Rich Hurtado, player development director Ray Jackson and public relations guru Patrick Smyth – will stay in Los Angeles following their interview with O’Connell on Thursday night, then fly out Friday to Kansas City, where they will hold their 10th and final head coach candidate interview with Bieniemy.

After meeting with Bieniemy, Paton’s Platoon will regroup and decide whether to hold a second round of interviews with one to three finalists.

Paton is expected to hire his next head coach sometime next week.

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Credit: AP
Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy walks onto the field before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)