The Broncos were connected to a number of head coaching candidates in the days leading up to their trade with the Saints, with some reports indicating that the organization was zeroing in on 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who ended up opting for the Texans job. However, owner Greg Penner made it clear today that the team had their sights on Sean Payton days before the deal was consummated.
“We locked in five to six days before got trade done, our focus was entirely on him and closing that deal,” Penner said during Payton’s introductory press conference today (via Troy Renck of Denver7 on Twitter).
On the day of the trade, it was reported that the Broncos had made a last-ditch offer to recruit Ryans to Denver. When he declined their overtures, the team pivoted to Payton, surrendering a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 second-round pick to acquire the head coach from New Orleans. The Broncos subsequently signed their new head coach to a five-year deal.
Payton, 59, was believed to be intrigued by both the new Broncos ownership contingent and the prospect of coaching Wilson. He acknowledged as much today, and he admitted that he was ready to return to television for another year if a suitable opportunity didn’t present itself (per Kyle Newman of the Denver Post on Twitter).
More notes out of Denver:
- Payton said he spoke with Russell Wilson before joining the Broncos, and he added that running back Latavius Murray helped recruit him to Denver (via Newman on Twitter). The veteran had a pair of productive seasons playing under Payton when the two were with the Saints, with Murray averaging 852 yards from scrimmage during his two years in New Orleans. Thanks to a number of RB injuries, Murray ended up starting seven of his 12 appearances for the Broncos last season, finishing with 827 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns.
- The head coach’s five-year contract was suggested to be in the range of $17MM to $21MM per season, but Peter King of Football Morning in America narrows down the number to “at least” $18MM. It sounds like Payton may have had to settle for that amount, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes that the coach was seeking a contract that would pay him around $23MM annually. However, “Denver wasn’t quite comfortable paying that” amount.
- As Dan Graziano points out in that same ESPN article, many assumed that Payton would want full control over player personnel like he had in New Orleans. This leads to natural questions about general manager George Paton‘s job security, and Fowler notes that there’s growing buzz that Payton wants to reunite with Saints vice president/assistant general manager Jeff Ireland. However, during his press conference today, Payton expressed optimism that he’ll mesh with his GM. “I feel like I’ve got good instincts, and I feel like there’s a demeanor with him that reminds me of Mickey (Loomis) in a good way,” he said (via Mike Klis of 9News on Twitter). “Very steady. I’ve always respected the teams that he’s been a part of…There’s this myth I’m this tyrant that has to come in and control everything. I’m like, ‘Where are you guys getting all this stuff from?’ I might be a tyrant once in a while but not a lot. Anyway, I really enjoy his company and it’s worked well so far.”
- King notes that Wilson was a proponent of adding Payton, and the quarterback is looking forward to being coached hard following a disappointing first season in Denver. King points out the height similarities between Wilson and Drew Brees, who had plenty of success under Payton when the two were in New Orleans. In fact, Wilson recently reached out to Brees “to get a preview of coming attractions.”
- In his FMIA article, King notes that Payton won’t be in a rush to find a coordinator and will look for a coach that’s a proper match. While there’s no clarity on additions, we’re getting word on who could be out in Denver. It sounds like tight ends coach Jake Moreland and assistant offensive line coach Ben Steele will not be back next season, per Klis (on Twitter).