The Broncos and Harbaugh Ball is a bona fide possibility.

After a 2.5-hour positive video conference connecting Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Broncos’ CEO Greg Penner and his search-and-solve coaching committee Monday, the two sides agreed to continue conversations and negotiations.

The Broncos must go through the process of interviews with five other candidates, including Sean Payton next Tuesday, and Harbaugh must decide definitively if he wants to return to the NFL.

Russell Wilson looking forward to next Broncos head coach, expresses confidence in 3 candidates

With Harbaugh and Payton at the top of the wish list, the Broncos met Tuesday for 3 hours with Ejiro Evero, the team’s defensive coordinator, and have requested interviews with Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, a finalist for the Broncos’ head coaching job a year ago, next Wednesday and 49ers coordinator DeMeco Ryans next week.

Multiple links exist among the half dozen potential Broncos’ coaching contenders, and all six have coached in Super Bowls.

Only Evero and Ryans have not served as head coaches. Evero was in his first season as a coordinator after coaching with the Rams as a defensive assistant with Morris. Previously, he spent four seasons (2011-2014) under Harbaugh with the 49ers. Ryans has coached under Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco since 2017 and was named defensive coordinator in 2021.

Curiously, both Harbaugh and Ryans interviewed with the Vikings last off-season. The Vikings didn’t offer a deal to Harbaugh, and Ryans declined a second interview, choosing to stay in San Francisco.

Ryans and Evero are on the interview list for the Texans. Ryans was a linebacker in Houston the first six seasons of his 10-year NFL career.

Broncos up to six candidates for coach opening; Texans and Cardinals enter coach race

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The Colts will be interviewing Morris and Evero and certainly are interested in Harbaugh, who was the Indianapolis quarterback 1994-1997. Harbaugh also is on the radar for the Cardinals, along with Payton, Ryans and their defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, the former Broncos’ head coach, and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who was interviewed here last year.

Morris, a young assistant with Nathaniel Hackett on the Buccaneers’ staff, was Tampa Bay’s head coach from 2009-11 before being fired. He joined the Falcons staff under Quinn in 2015 as assistant head coach and became interim coach in 2020 when Quinn was fired.

After Harbaugh was selected as Stanford coach he hired Vic Fangio, an assistant under Jim’s brother John Harbaugh with the Ravens, as his defensive coordinator – and Fangio followed him to the 49ers coach from 2011-2014. Harbaugh also had on staff Evero and Ed Donatell (who has coached with the Broncos twice).

If Harbaugh is offered and accepts the Broncos’ job, he certainly will want to keep Evero if he doesn’t get his own head coaching position. Or Harbaugh will reach out to Fangio, who is still being paid by the Broncos. Fangio obviously liked Colorado and told me he’d like to end his career here, but he might be too bitter to return, or Paton, who fired him, might nix his rehiring.

Payton has implied he’d seek Fangio as his defensive coordinator. Payton did say privately in the past he’d prefer Phoenix or Los Angeles as locations where he’d favor a return to coaching. The Cardinals fired Kliff Kingsbury, and Rams coach Sean McVay is contemplating retirement.

So, the Rams could transfer from Sean to Sean, or Payton could choose the Cardinals, the team he worked for as a ball boy.

Woody Paige: Payton or Harbaugh — either might be intriguing

Harbaugh played 14 years as an NFL quarterback, Payton only three games as a “scab’’ quarterback during the league strike of 1987. Harbaugh took the 49ers to three NFC Championships and a Super Bowl loss to his brother’s team in his four seasons. Payton had only four losing seasons in 15 years as an NFL coach, double-digit winning seasons and playoff appearances in nine seasons, also three NFL Championship games and one Super Bowl title.

Russell Wilson publicly has expressed his admiration for Payton and Quinn, but doesn’t know Harbaugh well. He and Quinn were together in Seattle for three seasons, and Wilson has played for Payton in the Pro Bowl. The Broncos’ search committee of Penner, his wife Carrie Walton Penner, Paton and Condoleezza Rice, with input from Rob Walton, in all likelihood soon will reduce the candidates to three.

Harbaugh, Payton and Quinn.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)