POLL: Who should the Denver Broncos pursue as their next head coach?

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Former Denver Broncos coaches Gary Kubiak, far left, and Mike Shanahan, middle left, could emerge as candidates for the head coaching vacancy made available after the team and John Fox parted ways. In-house candidates Jack Del Rio, middle right, and Adam Gase, far right, could also be possibilities. (Photo: Getty Images)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos went from one of the last eight teams playing in the NFL playoffs to one of six NFL teams looking for a new head coach.

That search began Tuesday afternoon, at which point in time the Broncos confirmed that both the team and head coach John Fox had mutually agreed to part ways.

All of a sudden, a sea of questions following the team’s 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts dwindled to just one.

Who will be the new Broncos head coach?

There are several candidates that have been interviewing for the five other vacant NFL head coaching jobs in recent weeks, and two of those candidates are Broncos assistant coaches — those being offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

Officially, Gase has interviewed with the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons. Del Rio, according to ESPN, is the first coach to be called in for a second interview about the Oakland Raiders’ head coaching vacancy. The Broncos had given no indication as of Monday afternoon if either Gase or Del Rio would be a candidate for Fox’s old job.

That said, there has been speculation that if the Broncos would like quarterback Peyton Manning to return for another season, hiring Gase, a coordinator Manning has often championed, would be a prudent move.

On the other hand, there have also been reports that Broncos general manager John Elway has been frustrated with the team’s current locker room culture and level of mental toughness. If that is indeed the case, an effort may be made to get rid of the entire Broncos coaching staff.

If that is the case, perhaps Elway would prefer to bring back a one of two past Broncos coaches who were responsible for building a very successful football culture — those two being Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak. Shanahan was the head coach for Denver’s two Super Bowl-winning seasons, and Kubiak was the offensive coordinator on those teams. Both coaches’ names have also been mentioned in connection with several head coaching vacancies.

Despite invitations for head coaching interviews, however, Kubiak, now an offensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, expressly stated on Sunday that he would be staying with his current team.

“It is flattering and humbling to be invited to interview for a number of NFL head coaching positions, and I greatly appreciate these opportunities,” Kubiak said in a statement released by the Ravens, who also lost in the divisional playoffs last weekend. “But I have decided to stay with the Ravens.”

That said, Kubiak made that statement before the Broncos lost to the Colts and their head coaching job became available. Kubiak is also very close with Elway, having been both a teammate and coach of the former Broncos quarterback, and there has been speculation that should Elway call with an offer, Kubiak might listen.

Having spent the last season out of football, Shanahan doesn’t appear to have ruled anything out. Relieved of his duties with the Washington Redskins after the 2013 season, Shanahan has been interviewed by the Oakland Raiders, with the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers also expressing interest, according to reports. There has also been some speculation that Shanahan’s son, Kyle Shanahan, who resigned from his position as offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns following this past season, might come with his dad as a package deal.

Another former Broncos coach who has reportedly interviewed with multiple teams is Josh McDaniels, Denver’s head coach before Fox. But it is obviously doubtful the Broncos would give the current New England Patriots offensive coordinator another look.

If the Broncos were to decide they like the formula their nemeses in Seattle have devised, they might inquire about Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He is currently chasing another Super Bowl with his current team, but his name has been mentioned this week as the front-runner for the vacant New York Jets’ head coaching job. However, that too was reported before the Broncos’ head coaching vacancy was made public.

One candidate’s name was also taken off the table Monday, with the Buffalo Bills announcing they would hire former Jets’ coach Rex Ryan as their new head coach.

Doug Marrone, who resigned from his job as the Bills’ head coach in December, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin are other candidates who have reportedly interviewed for multiple NFL head coaching vacancies. But none of them have many connections — if any — with the Broncos.

Eric Mangini, Jim Mora, Tom Cable and Hue Jackson are all former NFL head coaches whose names have popped up as possible candidates for this year’s head coaching vacancies. But none have been interviewed by multiple teams, according to reports.

With all the uncertainty about what direction the Broncos will go now, one thing seems a bit more clear: Fox’s name will likely shoot to the top of a lot of lists when it comes to head coaching vacancies.

In particular, CBSSports has reported that Chicago might be a good fit, as the Bears’ current upper management includes Erine Accorsi, who was general manager of the New York Giants when Fox was that team’s defensive coordinator.

It’s no secret why Fox will be an enticing head coaching candidate. During his first stint as a head coach with the Carolina Panthers, he took a team that was 1-15 in 2001 to the Super Bowl just two years after taking the helm.

During his time in Denver, Fox led the Broncos to a playoff win with quarterback Tim Tebow, who’s now out of the NFL. Fox also brought the Broncos to the postseason in each of his three seasons with Manning.

However, it was ultimately Fox’s lack of playoff success with Manning that led to Monday’s mutual parting of ways with the Broncos. Fox’s teams were one-and-done in the playoffs both this year and in 2012, and were walloped 43-8 by the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII.