The Denver Broncos have carved out a niche as one of the best franchises in NFL history. Along the way, the team has had some pretty great – and not-so-great – head coaches to speak of.
There is a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right into the list of Denver Broncos head coaches.
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Denver Broncos Head Coach History
Frank Filchok (1960-61, 7-20-1 record)
The first coach in NFL history, he was infamous for being suspended by the NFL from 1947-1950 for associating with gambling during his time as a player. The team went 4-9 in year one and just 3-11-1 in year two, a forgettable two-year stretch that most beginner franchises experience.
Jack Faulkner (1962-64, 11-29-2 record)
Faulkner came over from a stint with the Los Angeles Rams to take over the head job. He was also the general manager and the catalyst in the move from brown/yellow to orange/blue/white in the uniforms. He earned AFL Coach of the Year with a 7-7 record in year one, but things quickly fell off the tracks
Mac Speedie (1964-66, 4-10 record)
Things continued to be awful for the Broncos under Mac Speedie. He was a great receiver during his time but wasn’t up to it as a coach. As a matter of fact, things went so bad for Speedie and the Broncos that he quit just two games into his second season, though he did stay on as a scout until 1982.
Ray Malavasi (1966, 4-8 record)
When Speedie left, he gave the job to interim head coach Malavasi. He finished the season with a 4-8 record, somewhat commendable given how things had gone to that point. He would have success with the Rams eventually, failing to land the head job in Denver after that year.
Lou Saban (1967-1971, 22-45-3 record)
Not related to the legendary Nick Saban of Alabama fame, Lou had been the head coach for the Boston Patriots, Buffalo Bills and University of Maryland before taking the head job in Denver. Acting as general manager as well, he was there for the implementation of Mile High Stadium and a whole lot of losing, resigning before his 5th season ended.
Jerry Smith (1971, 3-2 Record)
Just 10 years into the franchise and already on their second interim head coach. A great defensive coach, Smith did fine in the final five games of the 1971 season filling in for Lou Saban. Despite a solid short-term record, Smith did not get the job going forward.
John Ralston (1972-1976, 34-28-5 Record)
Ralston brought the first winning seasons to Denver, having above-.500 campaigns in four of his five seasons. Even still, the Broncos didn’t make the playoffs in any of those seasons, seeing his best year as his last at 9-5 overall.
Red Miller (1977-1980, 40-22 Record)
Miller was the first truly successful coach in Denver history. He had winning seasons in his first three years, including taking the team to a 12-2 record and a Super Bowl XII appearance in his first season. Miller would go on to become the 32nd member of the Denver Broncos Ring of Fame in 2017.
Dan Reeves (1981-1992, 110-73 Record)
Without a doubt, the longest-tenured coach in Denver history to this point. Reeves also had John Elway to work with, taking the team to five AFC Championship Games and three Super Bowls. Unfortunately, all three of those would be losses. He would also coach the Atlanta Falcons against the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Wade Phillips (1993-1994, 16-16 Record)
Phillips was the defensive coordinator for four years before succeeding Reeves. Wade’s tenure was absolutely average in two years, seeing him go 9-7 and 7-9 in those two campaigns. He is the blip on the radar between two of the most successful coaching stints in franchise history.
Mike Shanahan (1995-2008, 138-86 Record)
Shanahan would become the greatest coach in Broncos history during his 14 years with the franchise. Most importantly, he was at the helm for the first two Super Bowls in franchise history, back-to-back wins in Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. He is still beloved to this day throughout the Denver area.
Josh McDaniels (2009-10, 11-17 Record)
A period in which the Denver faithful would rather forget. McDaniels was a Bill Belichick protégé but brought with him nothing but controversy. He started hot with six straight wins, but a video-taping controversy and a lot of losses saw him fired with four games left in 2010.
Eric Studesville (2010, 4-1 Record)
Studesville filled in for the fired McDaniels with four games remaining in the 2010 season. The running backs coach at the time, Studesville filled in admirably for what would amount to be a 7-9 team. He would stick around but not as head coach after that.
John Fox (2011-2014, 46-18 Record)
Fox had a great run during his short period in Denver. After an 8-8 season, the team acquired legendary quarterback Peyton Manning, ultimately losing in Super Bowl XLVII. Another 12-4 season a year later and suddenly Fox was out the door.
Gary Kubiak (2015-2016, 21-11 Record)
Kubiak had been beloved in Denver going back to the Elway days and came in at the right time. He won the most recent Denver Super Bowl, sending Manning out on top after Super Bowl 50. Even with terrible quarterbacks the next year, the Broncos went 9-7 under Kubiak.
Vance Joseph (2017-2018, 11-21 Record)
A strong defensive coach, Joseph’s tenure as head coach is forgettable. Even worse, he delivered the first back-to-back losing seasons since 1971-1972.
Vic Fangio (2019-2021, 19-30 Record)
The Broncos tried another vaunted defensive coach and got similar results. He was likable but ineffective, racking up nearly double as many losses as wins before being fired in 2021.
Nathaniel Hackett (2022, 4-11 Record)
Not much to say here. A nightmare season in which newly acquired quarterback Russell Wilson had his worst season ever. Hackett was fired with two games to go in his only season.
Like every franchise, the Broncos have had their share of good and bad coaches. Of late, it has been the latter, and the Broncos hope to find a coach soon that will lead them back to the glory days of the late 1990s and early 2010s. They hope that new head coach Sean Payton can be that man.