CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- A vacancy hangs over the head coach's door at Dove Valley. It is one of the league's most attractive, yet difficult jobs. The previous two bosses claimed five division titles in six seasons, and appeared in two Super Bowls, winning one.
The expectations remain vivid: championship or bust.
Gary Kubiak delivered on the promise, leaving a huge footprint for his successor to fill. General Manager John Elway has requested permission to interview Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and is expected to meet with Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph. Elway said no current member of the coaching staff will be considered for the position.
"Gary will be missed. But there's three or four possibilities out there that we're excited about," Elway said Monday after the Broncos missed the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
This marks Elway's third coaching search. The previous two brought John Fox, who won a division title in each of his four seasons, and Kubiak, a longtime Broncos player and assistant who restored the franchise to full glory last season.
When the Broncos parted ways with Fox following a first-round playoff exit, the road map was easy. Elway identified Kubiak as his man, acting quickly to hire him from Baltimore. This search is more wide open. But it appears Elway has a profile in mind based on a revealing statement Monday.
"There are a lot of bright young guys out there with a lot of potential," Elway said. "Hopefully we can get one of those."
Beyond Shanahan and Joseph, other potential candidates include Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and Lions defensive boss Teryl Austin.
Austin interviewed when Kubiak landed the Broncos job, and was impressive in his meeting. The Broncos attempted to hire Joseph as their defensive coordinator in 2015, but the Bengals blocked the move.
McDermott has built a strong resume with his aggressive defenses. Shanahan, whose father Mike led Denver to a pair of Super Bowl titles, has gained recognition for his high-powered Falcons' offense. Atlanta leads the NFL, averaging 33.5 points per game. The Rams, Jaguars and Broncos have requested permission to speak with Shanahan.
Anthony Lynn, Buffalo's OC, could be interviewed as well. He is highly thought of as a coach and played for the Broncos. However, the Bills head coaching job is considered his to lose.
Elway said the new coach would have a say on how many current coaches on staff will be retained. He believes several will be, but changes are likely. The chance of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips staying -- his contract is up after an extension couldn't be reached following the Super Bowl -- nosedived following Kubiak's exit. It was no guarantee Phillips remained even if Kubiak hadn't walked away.
Elway believes in the team's defensive identity, and isn't interested in dealing players from that strength. Outside linebacker Von Miller trusts his boss.
"I believe he will find the right guy," Miller said. "He's the king of the comeback."
Elway indicated the quarterback position is not as concerning as it was in March following the retirement of Peyton Manning and free agent departure of Brock Osweiler. Elway is prepared to go forward with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, but wouldn't rule out the pursuit of a veteran.
The process to find a new coach is already underway. The Broncos must move quickly with assistants whose teams are in the postseason, like Shanahan, Joseph and possibly Austin.
"The hard thing is a lot of these coaches are part of playoff teams so we have to work around their schedules,'' Elway said. "We'll talk to them as soon as we can. We're going to try to get the three or four best candidates we can in here.''