The regular season hadn’t even finished yet, and the Denver Broncos were already discussing their future head-coaching intents to the media. On January 1st, Schefter reported that the Broncos were going to be “ultra-aggressive” in the search for a new coach, and the words came directly from ownership themselves. The Walton-Penner group (along with the rest of city) was left with a sour taste in their mouths from their first season as owners of the Denver Broncos. Penner himself wrote a letter to the fans of Denver about how they [the fans] “deserve much better” and that management will “make whatever changes are necessary to restore this franchise’s winning tradition”. Credit where credit is due because Penner was true to his word so far; as news broke this afternoon that the Denver Broncos and the New Orleans Saints are finalizing a deal to put Payton in the blue-and-orange.
The Broncos are sending a 2023 first round pick (30th overall from the 49ers) and a 2024 second round pick, in exchange for Sean Payton and a Saints 2024 third round pick. After a month of interviews with the likes of Jim Harbaugh, Demeco Ryan, Raheem Morris, and Dan Quinn, the Denver Broncos honed in on their guy, then went and got him. Does this immediately shoot my expectations right back to where they were pre-season of this year? Not quite, but its a great first step in the right direction.
Tell me if this reminds you of something… Sean Payton joining a franchise coming off a immensely disappointing year. The QB of the franchise has been written off by fans and media alike. The city is sick of consecutive losing seasons and demanding change. Sound familiar? It probably doesn’t because this is a west-coast blog, but I’m talking about the ’06-’07 New Orleans Saints!
After five straight seasons of missing the playoffs and a 3-13 record the year before, the New Orleans Saints hired Sean Payton to guide the franchise. While Payton was dealing with a team rebuild and a new QB on the field; off the field, the city had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina the year prior, and was beginning the process of rebuilding everything. From a franchise standpoint, it was as tough of a first-year situation that a coach could walk into. Hurricane Katrina caused severe damage to the Superdome, and forced the team to spend the 2005 season playing “home” games at alternate locations. Payton’s first year was synonymous with the re-opening of the Superdome, and the return of home games for the beloved Saints of New Orleans.
Payton had taken over a team that went through a drastic rebuild. At the center of it all was a QB by the name of Drew Brees (most commonly known for duping twitter with a fake lightning strike), who had yet to prove he belonged as a starter in the NFL. Critics of Payton and Brees were quickly silenced when the new duo helped lead the team to a 10-6 record, winning the NFC South their first year in New Orleans. I think we all know what happens next, but I’ll quickly recap:
- 3 years later, the Saints would go onto to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history and become a symbol of the cities rebuild
- Endless stories about how the Saints Super Bowl meant much more to the city than just a football game
- Drew Brees would go on to have a record-setting, 1st ballot, Hall Of Fame type career
- The Saints become one of the most consistently competitive franchises in the NFL for the next 10+ years
The current Denver situation is nowhere as severe as the post-Katrina Saints. Let’s get that clear as day. Off the field situations could not be more opposite. The point I’m trying to make is that Sean Payton is a vet in bringing back franchises from the cellar.
He took a failing QB in Drew Brees and helped unlock his game to turn him into one of the best to ever do it. He took a team that never made it past the divisional round and turned them into perennial Super Bowl contenders. He took a city that gave up on it’s team and put it right back on the front page. In my opinion, there’s no better fit for the Denver Broncos head coaching job than Sean Payton.
He’s walking into a Denver Broncos team that’s loaded with talent and primed to get right back in the playoff hunt. The defense was top 10 majority of last year, but tailed off due to some shotty late season performances (shoutout the worst Christmas game ever). The offense is stacked with threats like Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Javonte Williams, just to name a few. The major thing keeping it all from coming together? Reliable QB play.
Obviously, the number one thing Denver fans want to see is if Sean Payton can revitalize Russel Wilson. If you watched the Broncos last year (I’m sorry for bringing it up), you know that if they had any sort of functioning offense, they easily would of been .500+. Seven of their first nine losses came by one score or less, and in damn near everyone of those games, Russ and the Broncos offense had a chance for a game-winning/tying drive. The defense stood on their head game after game after game… And the offense came up short game after game after game.
Like any team searching for a new head-coach, the Broncos have some gaps to fill. The O-line finished last in the league in sacks allowed, and a considerable amount of them are set to be free agents (Calvin Anderson, Billy Turner, Tom Compton, Dalton Risner, and Cam Fleming). The defensive backs went from very competent in the first 13 games, to swiss-cheese in the last 4 games. Some of that can be attributed to injury or destroyed morale, but it’s still an area that needs to be addressed. The offense as a whole was despicable. Unwatchable at times. For the sake of me being able to sleep at night, I blame 90% of that on the big dummy coordinating the Jets offense next year. I refuse to mention he who must not be named.
In the two games following [name redacted]’s firing, the Broncos offense showed signs of life unlike anything seen all year. They finished the season with 24 points against the Chiefs (tied for third most all year), and a season-high 31 points against the Chargers. The offense took immediate steps forward after [name redacted] was fired, and that was being led by a interim coach who was already a mid-season hiring. It’s only safe to assume that Payton can take it to the next level. God help me if he doesn’t.
After the trade for Payton, the Broncos will be pretty depleted on picks this year and the next (largely in part to the Russell Wilson trade). They only have six picks this year, the highest being 68th overall, and seven picks next year. Not a lot of capital to work with, but do you know who else depleted draft capital to trade for a head coach? The 2000 Patriots and 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots traded for some crumb-bumb named Bill Belichick, and the Buccaneers traded for a different crumb-bumb named Jon Gruden. Both coaches would win the Super Bowl the following year.
Safe to say there’s lots to be solved, so I’m not going to get ahead of myself and toss out any dumb predictions. I will say that a veteran coach who’s proved himself before is exactly what the Broncos needed, and it’s exactly what they got. We’ll have to wait for the rest of the offseason to playout, but it’s a fantastic way to kick off the offseason for the Broncos. And like I said, I wont make any predictions, but if I was going to make a prediction for the 2023-24 Broncos; I’d say they have a bounce back year and finish 9-8, sneaking into the last spot of the wildcard. That’s all just hypothetical though because I just said I wasn’t making any dumb predictions (brain warper to end it off).
BRONCOS COUNTRY, let’s (pray to the football gods that this season is better than last, and get ready to enjoy the) ride!!
P.S.– Completely out of the blue, but I came across a wondeful football movie, about a great guy last night if anyone’s intrested. It’s not at all corny and Kevin James was the perfect guy for the role. Shoutout ‘The Home Team’ on Netflix, might be the best movie they’ve ever produced! Maybe the best produced movie by anyone ever! It feels like a James Cameron film.
P.S.S– BountyGate never happend. Roger Goodell and Bounty, the paper towel company, made it all up as a viral marketing stunt. Unfortunately, it was at the expense of Sean Payton’s reputation. Sad!