BRONCOS

Broncos trade for coach Sean Payton, task him with working his magic

Jan 31, 2023, 2:23 PM | Updated: 2:37 pm

The search is over, as the Denver Broncos will trade for Sean Payton to become the 20th head coach in franchise history, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The trade compensation includes a first-round pick in 2023 and next year’s second-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Broncos will receive a third-round pick in 2024 from New Orleans in the deal.

Payton, 59, has been working as a broadcaster for FOX the last year after a successful run leading the New Orleans Saints from 2006 until 2021. Payton took the Saints to Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, beating the Indianapolis Colts. He was named AP Coach of the Year in 2006 and pushed New Orleans to nine playoff appearances.

Payton was absent for the 2012 season, after being suspended by the NFL for his role in “Bountygate” — where the Saints were accused of putting bounties (paying) for injuring opposing players.

Payton cut his teeth as an offensive guru working in both the NFL and college prior to leading New Orleans. From 1997 until 2005 he bounced around the NFC East as an offensive assistant and coordinator. A former pro-football player himself, Payton was a member of the 1987 Chicago Bears as a backup QB after going undrafted out of Eastern Illinois.

Born in San Mateo, he headed back to California for his first coaching gig as an offensive assistant at San Diego State. Payton was raised in Naperville, a suburb of Chicago, and is famed for his high school and college career in the state. He’d return to work as a quarterbacks coach at the University of Illinois in 1990.

An offensive mastermind, Payton is now tasked with returning the Broncos to the playoffs for the first time since their Super Bowl 50 win. It’s been seven long years in Denver, including six losing seasons in a row. It’s an unprecedented time for a once proud franchise, with CEO Greg Penner now turning to Payton to get things back on track.

Penner fired Nathaniel Hackett, a coach he didn’t hire, after 15 disastrous games during the 2022 season. Now he puts all his eggs in the Payton basket, as one the first major moves of his tenure as owner, along with his father-in-law Robson Walton and wife Carrie Walton-Penner. Part-owner Condoleezza Rice was also on Denver’s search committee.

Payton was selected to be the guy after Jim Harbaugh went back to Michigan. Some other options the Broncos passed on were Jim Caldwell, David Shaw, Dan Quinn, Raheem Morris, DeMeco Ryans and Ejiro Evero. Payton’s first task will be assembling a staff that can help make the Broncos competitive again. His second will be attempting to “fix” QB Russell Wilson, who had his worst year as a pro in 2022.

In his NFL stint with the Saints, Payton worked wonders with Hall of Fame-bound quarterback Drew Brees, so the Broncos are hoping he can do the same with Wilson. That journey begins (in part) now, but will really crank up this spring with the arrival of OTAs and mini-camp.

The Broncos are expected to introduce Payton at a news conference in the next few days.

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