By hiring Sean Payton, the Denver Broncos double

By hiring Sean Payton, the Denver Broncos double

The Denver Broncos’ long and haphazard search for a new head coach finally came to an end on Tuesday, as NFL insiders reported the team had reached an agreement with the New Orleans Saints on an agreement to acquire Sean Payton.

It’s been a complicated process, and it ends in a rare job for a coach. Let’s start with the simplest reality and go from there.

Payton is a great coach. He’s a Super Bowl winning coach. It’s often touted as a disappointment that Payton only won one Super Bowl in his time with the Saints, especially since he had a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees almost the entire time. . But it’s worth remembering that Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin and Bill Cowher and Pete Carroll and John Harbaugh and Mike Holmgren and Sean McVay and Tony Dungy only have one championship each (though that may soon change for Reid). It’s hard enough to get to the big game; it’s even more difficult to win it; it is twice as difficult to win it twice.

But Payton won the big game and for 15 years kept the Saints offense going even as Brees aged and personnel changed. (He even went there on the fourth try before it was cool). Payton is a great coach, and the many teams that have pursued him this season are testament to that. Denver won the contest and in doing so brought a great coach into the building.

This is the simplest reality. Anything from there? It gets a little more difficult.

Coaches like Payton don’t make it to the open market often, and Payton was only available for hire because he retired from the Saints last season. When he decided not to retire, the Saints still had Payton under contract, and the Broncos had to trade for him to get him out of his contract with the Saints. It didn’t come cheap:

Notably, the Broncos’ 2023 first-round pick isn’t actually their 2023 first-round pick. Their first pick (fifth overall) belongs to the Seahawks following the trade of Russell Wilson. The 2023 first round they have is 29th overall, which first belonged to the 49ers and then the Dolphins, who sent him to Denver as part of Bradley Chubb’s midseason trade.

So the Broncos paid a first-round pick and a future second-round pick for a future third-round pick and the right to have Payton as their head coach — and they still have to pay Payton, who expected to sign a deal. worth $20. -25 million dollars per year. Most of the time when teams hire coaches, they just have to pay a lot of money. Here the Broncos had to shell out a lot of money and send draft picks. Not just any choices either, very good choices. The Raiders traded a first and a second for Davante Adams last offseason; the Dolphins traded a first, a second and some substitutions for Tyreek Hill. This is a big commercial package.

The history of trading choices for coaches shows that this strategy is surprisingly effective. The Seahawks traded a second-round pick to the Packers for Mike Holmgren and went to the Super Bowl with him. The Buccaneers sent two firsts and two seconds to the Raiders for Jon Gruden and won a Super Bowl with him. The Patriots sent a first, fourth and seventh to the Jets for Bill Belichick (and some changes) and won a plot of the Super Bowl with him.

But we haven’t seen a lot of head coaching trades lately, and there’s a simple explanation for that: it’s better to have a good head coach without sending a pick than to have one. with sending choice. And the Broncos have studied those options. They spent a lot of time trying to bring Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh back to the NFL. They even visited him this week in Ann Arbor as part of a last-ditch effort to convince him to take the job after removing his name. They identified DeMeco Ryans as their desired candidate and even spent time Tuesday trying to get Ryans away from the Texans before accepting defeat and pivoting to Payton.

That’s where the risk comes in. The Broncos swapped their picks for a new head coach after being already short on picks due to picks they traded to acquire a new quarterback last offseason. And they traded those picks to hire a coach who appears to be somewhere between their second and third pick for the job. Payton is a great coach, and having a great coach on your team is definitely a win. But we got to see the Broncos making that sausage, and it wasn’t pretty.

The scrutiny of the decision-making process has resulted in conflicting reports. Minutes after NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted his summary of the Broncos going from one coaching candidate to another, ESPN’s Adam Schefter released a completely contradictory report: one that insisted the Broncos left Ryans last week and were completely focused on Payton.

Every time a knowledgeable reporter like Rap says “Wow, those guys screwed up a little bit” and then, moments later, there’s a separate report from a second knowledgeable reporter saying “Actually, those guys don’t haven’t messed up at all!” “It’s a good sign that these guys really messed up and they’re in control of the damage. It’s not hard to see that while the Broncos could have ended up with a good coach, their process was poor. Trading picks for a good head coach is just pointless, especially when that trade is unlikely to solve all of your team’s problems.

Throughout that hiring cycle, the Broncos seemed engrossed in taking a big step forward. With a new property running the show, a hypercompetitive division, a quarterback in need of a new life, and an extremely frustrated fanbase, it was an understandable urge. But that fanbase was frustrated for a reason. This is the second offseason the Broncos have looked to make a splash as they traded multiple future picks for Wilson in what quickly became one of the most spectacularly failed trades in league history. league. I’d call it a belly flop if not for the fact that belly flops still splash — specifically, the Broncos very publicly slipped off the ladder climbing up to the diving board.

Problems with this process create a long-term concern for the health of the Broncos organization. They don’t have a first- or second-round pick in this draft, and next year’s second round now also belongs to the Saints. They have a great coach now, yes, but that coach retired to New Orleans shortly after their longtime star quarterback. Payton will either be responsible for revitalizing Wilson, who played such poor football last year his teammates were visibly angry with him on the sidelines, or assembling a new quarterback when the team leaves. Wilson. This new quarterback project won’t be easy, both due to the aforementioned lack of draft capital and the dead blow that would come with Wilson’s release. The first semi-reasonable escape from Wilson’s contract is in 2024, when cutting it would result in a dead cap of $35.4 million in 2024 and a whopping dead cap of $49.6 million in 2025. That’s a gimmick debilitating for a team that has to try to keep everything. of their Championship-ready talent, with few choices available to shore up their roster with cheap, quality recruits.

Denver is in a hole. If the property believed that a perfect hire, a big splash, could catapult them out of the hole, they were on a wild goose chase. Payton is as good a bet as any to get them out of the hole, but I’m not sure he can do it. The challenge of fixing Wilson, with all the existing frustration among his teammates and his historic reluctance to execute the offense his coaches ask of him, is as difficult a coaching job as there is in the NFL. This harsh reality is likely part of the reason the Broncos have struggled to find coaches like Harbaugh and Ryans. These candidates would not hitch their wagons to this horse.

If Payton can turn Wilson’s game from debilitating to mediocre, the Broncos have a great roster around him that can see moderate short-term success. But that still doesn’t get the Broncos out of the hole — moderate success isn’t enough when you share a split with the Kansas City Chiefs. At this time last year, Denver saw themselves as a true contender – even now, having hired Payton, they are clearly nowhere near that mark.

That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news: Sean Payton is a great coach, and he’s now the head coach of the Denver Broncos. He may not have been their first pick, but hey, a lot of teams miss their first pick and are better off for it. The Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett when they did so the Jaguars wouldn’t rob him – a year later, and the Broncos fired Hackett, while the Jaguars’ consolation hire of Doug Pederson directly led to a playoff victory. Payton may have cost several draft picks, but hey, so have several good coaches in NFL history, and there aren’t many regretful buyers. It might cost $25 million, but hey, the Walmart family is footing the bill.

The context around the work of the Broncos was never going to be good. But by bringing Payton into the building, the Broncos made the hole a little smaller and the future a little brighter. Now they can begin the long and arduous process of going up and down.

Leave a Comment