Call it due diligence or legitimate intrigue, but the Denver Broncos were at one time “exploring” a possible marriage with John Harbaugh.
The revelation came to light on Sunday, as 9News’ Mike Klis reported that Denver was interested in the still-Ravens head coach, but “last I was told was Broncos didn’t think he would be available and they weren’t going to trade high draft pick so they moved on.”
Klis’ hearsay was in direct response to Adam Schefter’s scoop that two unnamed NFL clubs are looking into Harbaugh’s availability and “strongly considering” making a trade for the Super Bowl-winning coach.
Overtures are unlikely to advance beyond the cursory stage. The Ravens and Harbaugh remain locked in contract negotiations, and the sides expect that an extension gets done — eventually.
“The Ravens still are determined to try to work out a new deal this offseason for Harbaugh, whether that’s in a week or a month,” Schefter said.
If the sides can’t get a deal done, Harbaugh would enter the last year of his contract and then be on track to be a coaching free agent at this time next year.”
Harbaugh’s compiled a 104-72 record in 11 seasons with Baltimore and led the organization to a 2012 championship. The Ravens missed the playoffs each of the past four years and started 2018 on a rough note, igniting speculation about Harbaugh’s departure. They went on to win six of their final seven games, however, with dual-threat rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson replacing Joe Flacco and sparking a dormant offense. Combined with a stifling defense and top-flight instruction from Harbaugh and his staff, the Ravens improbably captured the AFC North crown.
This type of leadership — noticeably absent under Vance Joseph — is what drew the Broncos to Harbaugh. So much so that general manager John Elway was asked in Monday’s year-end press conference about dealing draft picks for coaches.
He didn’t rule it out.
“At this point in time, we’re looking at everything,” Elway said. “So, like I said, we’re four hours out from relieving our coach of his duties. So, the process that we go through and where we’re going to go now, everything is a possibility. I always listen to everything.”
A December report indicated that Baltimore “reset” the Broncos’ plans by retaining (or saying they’re retaining) Harbaugh. The Miami Dolphins were (are?) also hot on his trail, according to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.
Assuming Denver removed itself from Harbaugh’s orbit, they’re expected to choose the 17th head coach in team history from a group of five candidates: former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor, Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak, Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, and Bears DC Vic Fangio.
Elway and his search committee will wrap up their interview cycle with Fangio in Chicago on Monday morning.