Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor, Mich., this week to meet in person with Jim Harbaugh about the team's head coaching job, according to sources informed of their situation.
Harbaugh announced earlier this month he was staying at the University of Michigan after interviewing virtually with the Broncos on Jan. 9. But sources say conversations continued in the weeks that followed between Harbaugh and both Broncos general manager George Paton and Penner, who knows Harbaugh through Stanford connections and had the former 49ers coach high on his list.
A source close to Penner said no offer was made during this week's visit and that he wanted to visit Harbaugh in part because it was the only candidate he hadn't interviewed in person. But Harbaugh has remained willing to listen and has told people if he were to return to the NFL, the Broncos' job is one he'd want. Though Harbaugh has not yet gone back on his stated plans to stay at his alma mater, the door remains open.
The Broncos also have expressed strong interest in 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who impressed them in an in-person interview Jan. 19 in California and is perhaps the most coveted candidate in this cycle. But Ryans communicated that he was focused right now on other opportunities. Sources say Ryans is a top candidate for the Texans, with whom he starred as a linebacker from 2006-11. The sides are expected to meet this week, and there is mutual interest in bringing Ryans back to Houston, where he also has family ties. (His wife, Jamila, is from the area.)
Two other top candidates also appear out of the picture for Denver, at least for now. Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn informed interested teams -- including the Cardinals, Colts and Broncos -- on Thursday that he's staying in Dallas. The Broncos also interviewed former Saints coach Sean Payton, but sources say no second interview is scheduled.
Rams DC Raheem Morris, former Stanford coach David Shaw, former Lions and Colts coach Jim Caldwell and Broncos DC Ejiro Evero interviewed for the job, but all were told this week the team was going another direction.
Now, everything is back on the table.
It's possible the Broncos could also expand the search, potentially including coaches who impressed the teams in interviews for the job a year ago, such as Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan.