Sean Payton

Matt Patricia Still In Play For Broncos; Sean Payton Discusses Vic Fangio Pursuit

The NFL’s coordinator carousel is slowing down, after nearly two months of spinning. The ride left Matt Patricia without a position, with the Patriots hiring Bill O’Brien after using the longtime defensive staffer in the strange role of de facto offensive coordinator.

Another Patricia path closed when the Broncos hired Vance Joseph as defensive coordinator, bringing back the veteran coach four years after firing him as head coach. Patricia, however, is still in play to work under Joseph. Sean Payton confirmed Tuesday he plans to meet with Patricia about a staff position.

He and I are gonna talk this week, and I wouldn’t rule that out, though. If that were to possibly come to fruition, it would be for a few things,” Payton said, via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers. “I’d certainly want to talk to Vance and our defensive coaches, but I know Matt well enough to know how smart he is and what he can contribute.”

Patricia, who also joined Rex Ryan and Sean Desai as candidates for the Broncos’ DC gig, has spent the past two-plus seasons back with the Patriots. Bill Belichick rehired him, following a rough go of it as Lions HC, and installed his longtime lieutenant at different positions. Patricia spent time in an executive role upon coming back to New England and was given significant responsibilities on offense last season, working as Belichick’s top assistant on that side of the ball. That unorthodox plan did not work out, and O’Brien’s arrival left Patricia in limbo. His Pats contract expired. Patricia’s Lions contract expiring also may have played a role in the veteran looking for a role outside of New England.

Payton and Patricia have not worked together; the latter spent 14 years with the Pats — six as DC — before landing the Lions’ top job. The Broncos are keeping two holdovers on defense — DBs coach Christian Parker and D-line coach Marcus Dixon — and have already added Greg Manusky and Michael Wilhoite to head up their inside and outside linebackers, respectively. Patricia, 48, would make sense as a senior defensive assistant, but Joseph will have to sign off on one of his competitors for the DC job joining the staff.

Although Payton made the rare move to bring a fired HC back to the same team that ousted him, he confirmed he wanted Joseph’s Broncos HC successor — Vic Fangio — to come back. Payton and Fangio were linked to joining forces back in December, but the latter received a host of opportunities and ended up signing a three-year deal with the Dolphins. Fangio is set to be the league’s highest-paid DC.

Do I think he would have been a great asset for us? Yes. We were planning, in this year/wave, if the right scenario came up we’d work together,” Payton said. “I think [the Denver fit] was just a little unique because it wasn’t too long ago he was here, but certainly I tried, talked to him, tried to twist his arm. I’m excited for his opportunity in Miami.”

Payton’s Patricia and Fangio comments made for an interesting morning for Joseph, who agreed to rejoin a team that sacked him four years ago. The initial report of Fangio agreeing to terms with the Dolphins surfaced Jan. 29; the Broncos hired Payton on Jan. 31. While Fangio’s Dolphins agreement did not become finalized for a stretch, it can be assumed Payton still attempted to pursue him for the Denver job. This all occurred before Joseph entered the picture. The Broncos’ Joseph interview request did not come out until Feb. 16. Payton confirmed Joseph’s time as Arizona’s defensive coordinator — a post the recent Cardinals HC candidate called “a tough job for a number of years” — did well to vault him past Denver’s other DC candidates.

Fangio, 64, coached the Broncos from 2019-21. Unlike Joseph, who was not with the team during GM George Paton‘s tenure, Fangio lost his job at the conclusion of Paton’s first season with the team. The Scranton, Pa., native worked with the Eagles as a consultant last season but planned on making a full-fledged DC return in 2023. The Dolphins paid him handsomely to do so.

Trade Cost Dissuaded Cardinals From Pursuing Sean Payton

Sean Payton was the top candidate on the head coaching market this year, and he drew considerable interest around the league while still being under contract with the Saints. The Cardinals interviewed him during their search, but he ultimately wound up in Denver.

Part of the reason for that was the trade compensation New Orleans was seeking for a hire to become possible. When speaking publicly on the topic, Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill revealed that trade talks quickly left Arizona out of the running to acquire Payton, in light of their rebuilding effort.

“We spent a lot of time,” with Payton, Bidwill said, via Pro Football Talk’s Josh Alper“The issues around coach Payton had nothing to do with the money, the compensation we would be paying him. It was all the compensation, the draft compensation to the Saints. We just weren’t willing to go with what the Saints wanted us to give up. It would have been too costly to the team for us to rebuild that roster. It was really a series of tradeoffs. I still felt like we got great coaches out there that can get this team turned around. I think we were right when you look at [Jonathan Gannon].

Denver sent New Orleans 2023 first- and 2024 second-round picks in exchange for Payton and a third-rounder in 2024. That came as little surprise, given reports early in the interviewing process that the two teams had the framework of an agreement in place. The Broncos’ willingness to part with a Day 1 selection is especially noteworthy considering the package they sent Seattle for Russell Wilson last offseason, and is obviously greater than what Bidwill deemed an appropriate price within his team’s circumstances.

The Cardinals turned their attention away from Payton towards a shortlist of finalists which included Gannon. The now-former Eagles defensive coordinator took the Arizona job not long after the Super Bowl, and has a pair of new coordinators on his staff to lead the franchise in a different direction after the Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim era came to an end after the regular season. The reputation the team took on during that span was one of the key reasons Payton ultimately headed to Denver.

“I think [Cardinals QB Kyler Murray] is extremely talented, and I think they have the same challenges there that we have in Denver,” Payton said after his Broncos hire became official. “They are very similar challenges. Culture in the building has to be better. It just does.”

Having passed on a Payton deal, the Cardinals now approach the new league year with roughly $14MM in cap space and four of the first 97 picks in the upcoming draft. How they use that capital in the coming months will go a long way in determining their success, and, to an extent, whether or not balking at the Saints’ trade demands was the right call.

Russell Wilson Wanted Sean Payton To Replace Pete Carroll With Seahawks?

More information emerged regarding Russell Wilson‘s odd 2022 Friday morning. A report from Kalyn Kahler, Mike Sando and Jayson Jenks of The Athletic indicates the veteran quarterback made a request that Seahawks ownership fire both Pete Carroll and John Schneider, citing the duo had inhibited his pursuit of Super Bowls and awards.

This alleged request came weeks before the Seahawks decided to trade Wilson to the Broncos. Wilson denied (via Twitter) he asked for the Seattle HC and GM’s firings, and a lawyer for the QB described that assertion as “entirely fabricated.”

Wilson-Carroll disagreements about the direction of the Seahawks took place ahead of the QB’s 2021 trade destination list surfacing, and after the 2022 trade, reports indicating the NFC West team viewed its former franchise passer as declining came out. A shockingly mediocre Wilson season commenced in Denver. His partnership with Nathaniel Hackett proved a poor fit, and Hackett became the third first-year HC since the 1970 merger to be fired before season’s end.

The Broncos have since traded for Sean Payton, nearly two years after Wilson’s trade list included the Saints. Wilson wanted the Seahawks to trade for Payton’s rights after his Saints exit last year, according to The Athletic. Payton announced he was leaving the Saints on Jan. 25, 2022; Schneider and Broncos GM George Paton began discussing a trade ahead of the Feb. 5 Senior Bowl. The trade took place March 8.

The previously referenced Latavius Murray text message to his former coach occurred just before the Broncos’ Christmas blowout loss to the Rams. Payton had said Murray texted him about he and a backfield teammate wanting him in Denver, with the veteran running back confirming Wilson was the teammate. Murray sent the text Dec. 23, per The Athletic. The Broncos fired Hackett on Dec. 26, following a 51-14 loss to the Rams. No accusation is made of Wilson wanting Hackett to go, but that relationship had long trended in that direction. During the Broncos’ coaching search, Wilson reached out to Payton.

Payton soon put the kibosh on Wilson’s team having full access to Denver’s facility, but Paton allowed Wilson’s personal coach (Jake Heaps), a physical therapist and a nutritionist such privileges last year. Heaps had partial access to the Seahawks’ facility, per The Athletic, and Wilson did not have an office there. Wilson agreed to stop using the office and to keep his support staff out of the building over the season’s final two weeks.

Wilson organized weekly meetings for Denver’s offense during the players’ Tuesday off day, and The Athletic notes Heaps was part of those summits, which were aimed around preparing for the next opponent. An anonymous coach also said he did not agree with the evaluations Wilson and Heaps made on scouting reports distributed on Tuesdays. With Hackett also being accused of being too deferential to players, the potentially incongruent scouting reports would provide a partial explanation for the Broncos’ myriad offensive issues. Those came to a head during an ugly Thursday loss to the Colts in October and persisted for much of the season.

The team ended the year with three play-callers. All three (Hackett, QBs coach Klint Kubiak, OC Justin Outten) are elsewhere now. Melvin Gordon, whom the Broncos waived in November after extensive fumbling problems, said Hackett attempting to blend Wilson’s Seattle offense and Hackett’s preferred Green Bay-style blueprint was “a bit much.” The organization fired Vic Fangio in large part due to his team’s struggles offensively, but the Broncos’ Pat ShurmurTeddy Bridgewater setup ranked 23rd in scoring. The Hackett-Wilson season produced a last-place ranking, and while numerous injuries contributed to this decline, the Broncos’ QB-HC partnership generated most of the attention. Payton, who signed a five-year contract, will be tasked with cleaning up this mess.

Payton will call the Broncos’ plays next season, accepting the team’s offer after DeMeco Ryans had generated some buzz. Ryans may not have been a serious candidate. While he preferred the Texans, The Athletic describes the former 49ers DC’s Broncos interview as “awkward.”

The Seahawks have begun negotiations with Geno Smith, whose surprising season earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors. It remains to be seen if the organization will make a true long-term commitment to Wilson’s former backup, but the team that had made some draft missteps late in Wilson’s tenure will be in position to land more starters via the 2023 first- and second-round picks obtained in the Wilson swap. Carroll is signed through the 2025 season; Schneider’s latest extension runs through 2027. Both decision-makers are going into their 14th seasons in Seattle.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-14-23 (1:30pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Broncos Interviewed Rex Ryan For DC Position

With Sean Payton in place in Denver, attention is turning to the assistants brought in to comprise his first Broncos staff. A notable name has been added to the list of candidates to lead the team’s defense.

Rex Ryan interviewed recently for Denver’s defensive coordinator position, per Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer (Twitter link). The news puts him on the radar for what would be his first coaching role in seven years. Ryan has most recently served as a broadcaster with ESPN.

The 60-year-old started his NFL coaching career in Baltimore, spending six seasons there before being promoted to defensive coordinator. He held that post for four years, establishing himself as one of the league’s top defensive minds and earning head coaching interest along the way. He was hired to lead the Jets in 2009, and had an encouraging start to his tenure in the Big Apple. The Jets made two straight AFC championship game appearances, and Ryan had a 28-20 record after the 2011 campaign. Things took a turn for the worse as time went on, though, and he was fired after the 2014 season.

Ryan immediately followed that up with a tenure as the Bill’s HC lasting less than two seasons. He was let go after Week 16 in 2016, and has not taken a coaching job at any level since. His name as popped up as a potential DC candidate a few times over the years, including Kansas City in 2019. Ryan and Payton have not worked together in their respective careers, though the latter has spent considerable time working with Rob Ryan in New Orleans.

Broncos brass made it clear they wanted Payton to keep DC Ejiro Evero, who impressed in his first season with the team last year. However, he was let out of his contract and allowed to head elsewhere, quickly landing in Carolina. The Denver position is one which is appealing, given the presence of several high-end players the unit boasts. Ryan is joined by Brian Flores – who took the DC job in Minnesota – and Sean Desai as known candidates for the position in Denver.

Troy Renck of Denver7 reports that Payton spent time yesterday interviewing candidates for the team’s special teams coordinator vacancy (Twitter link). As the coaching cycle winds down, the Broncos’ staff should become clearer in the near future.

Prospective Commanders Owners Approached Sean Payton

Sean Payton is in place as the new head coach of the Broncos, after he was routinely named as the top candidate in this year’s coaching cycle. His move away from broadcasting was highly anticipated, but also involved an interesting element which he revealed recently.

When speaking to Adam Schein of SiriusXM, Payton revealed that he drew head coach consideration from certain prospective Commanders owners. A sale in Washington is not guaranteed to take place, but the process is currently being considered with owner Dan Snyder facing increased pressure to separate himself from the league.

“Everyone’s waiting to see what happens in Washington,” Payton said (video link via The Athletic’s Ben Standig). “And there was some interest from some potential ownership groups that are gonna be bidding on, currently had bid on that team, that were getting ahead of the game saying, ‘Hey, if we get awarded this team, would you?’ And so there were a lot of different things at play.”

Prior to his Super-Bowl winning stint in New Orleans, Payton spent time with each of the other three franchises in the NFC East, so he has a high degree of familiarity with Washington. The list of potential new Commanders owners has not been fully established, but is expected to include Jeff Bezos and several runners-up to buy the Broncos last offseason.

The Rob Walton-led group purchased Payton’s new employer, which will pay him at least $18MM per season to lead them from the sidelines. That price was driven by a number of factors, including his acclaim as a coach, the considerable interest shown from other HC-needy teams and Payton’s stated willingness to remain as a FOX broadcaster for the 2023 season.

Of note regarding Payton’s remarks, of course, is the fact that Washington is not one of the teams which recently hired a new head coach or is currently looking for one. Ron Rivera remains in place as the team’s bench boss, having coached in the nation’s capital since 2020. He could be a hot seat candidate heading into 2023, given his 22-27-1 record over three years, but he is currently moving ahead with the support of the front office. This offseason includes a number of key questions for the Commanders, including decisions at the quarterback position and with respect to a number of key free agents.

The Payton pursuit is a moot point regardless of who – if anyone – purchases the Commanders in the near future, given his Broncos hire. His comments are nevertheless a further example of the interest he generated and the desire certain potential new owners would have to make significant changes to the coaching staff upon arrival.

Sean Payton Addresses Russell Wilson, Decision To Pass On Cardinals

Terry Bradshaw made a bit of noise during Super Bowl week, saying ex-FOX coworker Sean Payton was leery of working with either Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray.

Payton interviewed with two teams that roster returning quarterbacks — the Broncos and Cardinals — and two teams without settled starters (Panthers, Texans). He ended up choosing Denver, but Bradshaw said (via Newsday’s Tom Rock, on Twitter) he accepted the Broncos’ offer in spite of Wilson and did not want to work with Murray. Noting when Bradshaw is interviewed, “you hold your breath, because you don’t know what’s going to come out,” Payton addressed why he chose the Broncos — a job that will feature a Wilson cleanup task in 2023.

For me, the first thing was ownership and general manager. That triangle needed to be strong,” Payton told Kay Adams on her Up & Adams show Thursday. “… With Russell, we’ve got someone who’s won a lot of games, who’s been successful. And then it’s really looking at, ‘Hey, what are the things he does well?’ I think anytime you have a season where it’s 5-12 or whatever their record was, my experience from afar is, generally speaking, there are a lot of people with dirt on their hands — not just Russ. That falls on other players; that falls on the coaching staff. I think those things we can clean up and correct.

More importantly, [the decision centered on] going to the place where ownership is in place and supportive and has a clear vision and the general manager’s in place, those are the key, critical factors.”

Payton has spoken highly of both new Broncos CEO Greg Penner and third-year GM George Paton. Although Payton has been connected to bringing in former GM and longtime Saints staffer Jeff Ireland, Payton compared Denver’s GM to Mickey Loomis. For the time being, it looks like the Payton-Paton setup is not in jeopardy of splintering.

Paton’s headline 2022 acquisition encountered quick turbulence. Wilson struggled for most of the season acclimating to Nathaniel Hackett‘s offense and flashed concerning form in his age-34 campaign. But he angled for Payton, reaching out to the longtime Saints HC and Drew Brees about the fit. Payton will now be in charge of salvaging the Broncos’ big-ticket quarterback get.

We spoke briefly,” Payton said of a pre-hire conversation with Wilson. “Latavius Murray is one of my former players, and he’s played with a number of teams. He’s one of those guys you like being around. We had a great experience with him in New Orleans. I got a text right at the end of the season. He said, ‘Man, we have to find a way to get you here — me and backfield teammate.’ When I heard that, I thought of running back. Then I thought of who else is in his backfield? I texted and said, ‘Who is your backfield teammate?’ He sent the number three. It was Christmas time and I said, ‘Be careful what you’re asking Santa for.’ That was my response. We kind of went from there.”

The Broncos fired Hackett on Dec. 26, and Payton became the team’s top target soon after. He made the Broncos his first meeting and said that was not due simply to logistics. While Payton offered praise for Kyler Murray, he said his “instincts were pushing me in a direction with Denver.”

This promises to be an eventful period for a Broncos team that has followed up its Super Bowl 50 win with seven straight playoff absences. The team gave Wilson and his team considerable privileges upon acquiring the longtime Seahawk, allowing him input into the offense and permitting his camp access to the facility. This involved a private office for the quarterback and access for his personal coach, Jake Heaps. Payton will be making some changes on that front. While Payton said he was unfamiliar with the previous arrangement, he confirmed (video link via’s Albert Breer) Wilson would not be working with his personal coach while at the facility.

The Cardinals have yet to hire a head coach; it appears likely no decision is coming until after Super Bowl LVII. Shortly after the team’s Payton meeting, new candidates Lou Anarumo and Mike Kafka entered the mix. Those two may well be the Arizona finalists. Anarumo’s second interview is set for Friday.

I think [Murray] is extremely talented, and I think they have the same challenges there that we have in Denver,” Payton said, via Adams (Twitter link). “They are very similar challenges. Culture in the building has to be better. It just does.”

Latest On Broncos, Sean Payton Hiring

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).

Broncos Hire Sean Payton As Head Coach

FEBRUARY 3: The Broncos and Payton have sorted through the details and have agreed on his contract. Payton signed a five-year deal Friday, Schefter tweets. The reported salary is believed to be between $17-$21MM on average.

JANUARY 31: Although the Broncos’ head coaching search had experienced some turbulence, the franchise will come away with its initial frontrunner. The Broncos and Saints are finalizing terms on a trade for Sean Payton‘s rights, Adam Schefter of reports (on Twitter).

Payton is expected to become the Broncos’ next head coach. This will be the former Saints leader’s second opportunity as an NFL HC. While Payton had been connected to staying at FOX for another year and waiting for the 2024 hiring period, the Broncos have changed his mind.

This blockbuster transaction will lead to the Saints receiving compensation for their 16-year head coach, who stepped down after the 2021 season. The teams have finalized the compensation, Ian Rapoport of reports (via Twitter). The Broncos gave the Saints a choice of two trade packages, Schefter adds. The Saints could have received the Broncos’ 2024 first-round pick and a 2023 fourth or a package that sends Denver’s 2023 first-rounder and 2024 second to New Orleans. The latter deal, which the Saints preferred, will also see Denver acquire New Orleans’ 2024 third-round pick (Twitter link).

As far as compensation goes, this is a significant haul. The Broncos join the Jets, Patriots and Buccaneers in agreeing to send first-round picks for coaches over the past 30 years. Payton interviewed with four of the five HC-needy teams this year but made the Broncos his first meeting. The Broncos will have a depleted 2023 draft arsenal, thanks to the deals for Payton and Russell Wilson. But Payton will become by far the franchise’s highest-profile HC since Mike Shanahan.

This process included twists and turns, including another on Tuesday. Previously linked to having DeMeco Ryans as a frontrunner, the Broncos may or may not have circled back to him again hours ago. The Broncos attempted to hire Ryans, who just accepted the Texans’ HC offer, earlier today, Rapoport adds (via Twitter). When Ryans declined, the Broncos agreed to part with significant draft capital for Payton. Schefter, however, refutes this story and adds the Broncos did not contact Ryans — the Houston frontrunner for a few days now — this week (Twitter link). Regardless, the team produced one of the more eventful HC searches in recent years.

Broncos CEO Greg Penner flew to Ann Arbor to meet with Jim Harbaugh, who had previously turned the Broncos down to stay at Michigan. Dan Quinn, who interviewed with the team in each of the past two Januarys, also backed out of Denver’s search last week. Evidently not big on taking “no” for an answer, the new Broncos ownership group ended up landing the coach who was long believed to be the favorite. This certainly proved quite the journey.

Payton, 59, was believed to be intrigued by both the new Broncos ownership contingent and the prospect of coaching Wilson. The latter had included the Saints on his initial list of acceptable trade destinations back in 2021. While the Seahawks did not end up trading Wilson that year, Payton will attach his career to the potential Hall of Fame passer on the heels of his worst NFL season.

Wilson reached out to Payton during the process, and while the former Super Bowl-winning HC was connected to the Cowboys and Chargers’ jobs months ago, he will pass on those potentially opening up down the line to accept the Broncos’ offer. Said offer is likely to be massive, given the leverage Payton possessed. Payton was connected to seeking a deal worth more than $20MM per year. That would put the FOX analyst on par with the league’s highest-paid coaches.

Reports pegged Payton as both being onboard with Denver’s Rob Walton-fronted ownership contingent while also potentially fearing a power struggle with one of the struggling team’s new owners. Payton made a point to directly refute the latter stance, and it should be expected he will have final say when it comes to the Broncos’ roster. GM George Paton had held that control from 2021-22, and while a phonetically challenging Payton-Paton partnership could still be in the works, the team’s new head coach is believed to want to bring some personnel staffers with him. Penner said both Paton and the team’s next HC will report directly to him. Tuesday’s hire stands to further diminish Paton’s power, though the rumored Broncos big swing happening represents a major development for a team that has whiffed on a few HCs in recent years.

Denver won Super Bowl 50 in Gary Kubiak‘s first season and went 9-7 in 2016, narrowly missing the playoffs. Citing health reasons, Kubiak stepped down after the ’16 season. That began a wayward course for the Broncos, who saw first-time HCs Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Nathaniel Hackett combine for six straight losing seasons. Hackett’s tenure, in particular, led to ignominy. Despite trading for Wilson, the Broncos plummeted to last place offensively and saw their HC struggle with game management and play-calling — eventually giving up both those responsibilities — before becoming the third HC since the 1970 merger to be fired before his first season ended. That led to the Broncos’ push for an experienced coaching option. They will end up with one of this era’s top play-callers.

Despite taking over a team that went 3-13 during a Hurricane Katrina-affected 2005 season, Payton led the Saints to the 2006 NFC championship game and finished his New Orleans run without a 10-loss season. The Saints signed Drew Brees in 2006, but the future Hall of Fame passer — who had gone through an inconsistent Chargers tenure — made immense strides under Payton. Prior to the Brees-Payton partnership, the Saints had won one playoff game in 39 years. Payton and Brees ballooned that total to 10, churning out top-10 offenses annually. The Bountygate scandal dinged Payton’s reputation for a bit, but his return to the Saints produced another run of playoff berths and a would-be Super Bowl LIII trip — one a historically controversial pass interference no-call ultimately denied.

In seeing Payton follow Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden as modern coaches traded for packages fronted by first-round picks, the Saints will hold a 2023 first-rounder — months after sending their own to the Eagles in a deal that helped them move up for Chris Olave. Longtime Saints GM Mickey Loomis played his Payton card well, asking for two first-round picks and collecting first- and second-rounders.

The Saints will obtain the 49ers’ first-round pick (No. 29 overall), one the Broncos acquired from the Dolphins in the Bradley Chubb trade. This will officially close the book on the most successful tenure in Saints history. New Orleans is keeping ex-Payton lieutenant Dennis Allen around for a second season, but the second-chance HC still has plenty to prove after a 7-10 season in charge.

Over the past two years, the Broncos will have given up three first-round picks, three seconds and a fifth (while getting back third- and fourth-rounders) to bring Wilson and Payton to town. The Broncos now do not have a pick until this year’s third round. Draft-wise, this has been a historically costly period for the AFC West franchise. Denver held a second-round pick in last year’s draft, thanks to the 2021 Von Miller trade, but now will face a tougher road to adding talent around Wilson this year.

Considering the team’s 2022 disaster, making a big move to salvage Wilson trumped concerns about draft capital. The gap between Payton’s accomplishments and the non-Harbaugh wing of this year’s Broncos search will lead to the explosive transaction, and the former NFC South sideline mainstay chose a franchise that has biannual games against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert as the place for his second HC stay. For a second straight year, the Broncos will be one of the most-discussed teams leading up to the season.

Coaching Notes: Fangio, Kocurek, Broncos, Dolphins, Falcons, Gray, Lions, Bills, Bears

The 49ers showed interest in Vic Fangio, joining almost every other DC-seeking team. But Fangio’s former team did not have the chance to bring him back in for an interview; Fangio finally committed to the Dolphins on Thursday morning. The 49ers were interested in a Fangio reunion, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes, and 9News’ Mike Klis adds Fangio was also intrigued by coming back to San Francisco. The 49ers’ usage of a 4-3 scheme throughout Kyle Shanahan‘s tenure would not have been a major issue regarding a reunion with the 3-4 guru, Branch adds. That would make sense, as the 4-3/3-4 divide is not nearly as big an issue — thanks to sub-packages’ rise — as it was several years ago.

San Francisco remains on the hunt for a DeMeco Ryans replacement, placing Steve Wilks and Chris Harris (not the cornerback) on its interview list. The 49ers also are considering promoting defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, Josina Anderson of CBS Sports tweets. The well-regarded staffer has been Nick Bosa‘s position coach throughout the All-Pro’s career and has fostered development from others as well. Ryans, meanwhile, is interested in bringing Kocurek to Houston as his DC.

Here is the latest from the coaching ranks:

  • Some recently dismissed assistants may be on the Broncos‘ radar. Ex-Sean Payton staffers Joe Lombardi, Kris Richard and Dan Roushar are in the mix for Broncos gigs under their new coach, Klis notes. Lombardi worked on Payton’s Saints staff for 11 years, the final five as QBs coach, but lost his Chargers OC gig recently. The Saints parted ways with both Richard and Roushar recently. The ex-Seahawks DC was in New Orleans for just one season (2021) under Payton, while Roushar had been on the Saints’ staff for the past 10 years. Richard may be in the running for Denver’s DC post, though Klis adds the Ejiro Evero-Payton talks began Wednesday night. The parties continued discussions today. Evero, who is under contract, staying on staff and leaving for a head coaching job in 2024 would net the Broncos two third-round picks.
  • The Falcons brought in former DC Jerry Gray as an assistant head coach. Gray, 60, spent the past two years as the Packers’ secondary coach but worked with Arthur Smith in Tennessee. Smith and Gray were both Titans staffers in the early 2010s, when the latter was Tennessee’s DC. The Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen as their defensive boss last week, but Gray will be a key assistant. Green Bay let Gray’s contract expire, with ESPN’s Rob Demovsky noting (via Twitter) Gray and DC Joe Barry were not on the same page.
  • Once again, the Dolphins will look for a new offensive line coach. Miami fired Matt Applebaum after one season,’s Armando Salguero notes (Twitter link). Mike McDaniel‘s next hire will be the Dolphins’ eighth O-line coach in nine seasons. Applebaum, 39, joined McDaniel’s staff in 2022 after spending his previous coaching years in the college ranks.
  • The Lions added two fairly recent NFLers to their staff. They brought in Dre’ Bly and Steve Heiden to coach cornerbacks and tight ends, respectively. Bly, who played for the Lions from 2003-06 and made two Pro Bowls with the team, has not coached in the NFL previously. He spent the past four seasons coaching cornerbacks at North Carolina, his alma mater. Heiden will come over from the Cardinals, who employed the ex-NFL tight end as their tight ends coach throughout Kliff Kingsbury‘s tenure. The ex-Cardinal had been on Arizona’s staff for 10 years.
  • Acting quickly after making a change late last week, the Bills filled their safety coach role by hiring Joe Danna. Working under Lovie Smith with the Texans this season, Danna was in Jacksonville under Doug Marrone and Urban Meyer for the previous five yeras.
  • After the Falcons hired Nielsen, they fired Jon Hoke. But the veteran position coach will land in Chicago. The Bears hired Hoke as their cornerbacks coach and passing-game coordinator. This is a reunion for Hoke, who coached Bears DBs for six seasons (2009-14) previously. The team also promoted Omar Young from the quality control level to assistant QBs and wide receivers coach. Young is a 14-year coaching veteran who spent time with OC Luke Getsy in Green Bay.