Greg Penner Welcomes Sean Payton to Wrexham, Broncos style

Feb 6, 2023, 7:14 AM
Sean Payton...
Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Sean Payton seems like a cool guy.

Sunday night, he was posing outside of Shanahan’s steakhouse in the typical dad-who-just-mowed-his-lawn-and-could-lose-about-20-pounds sort of way. His cool but casual style included; $100 dollar jeans, an untucked designer grey t-shirt covered by an open-button long sleeve dark blue solid flannel with white sneakers. The look reeked of a guy who knows he doesn’t need to try that hard to fit right in. He’s an absolute master of the universe about to dominate the sports landscape of Denver for however many years he chooses to do so.

I like him.

People I like who know him like him.

People who have great success in his industry like him.

Fans of the Saints really like him. They talk of him as if he is a football deity.

So, why did it take so long for the Broncos to hire him?

Why did the negotiations with the Saints, who held his rights, take so much hemming and hawing?

Why did the Broncos talk to Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh for a second time? Why did DeMeco Ryans, who apparently is really excited to work for a team he just got done suing, even come into the lexicon?

The only logical conclusion is the Broncos really liked Payton, they didn’t really love him. It looks like Payton fell in love with the Broncos much quicker.

He couldn’t wait to tweet at the Broncos less than an hour after spending all day with the Cardinals to clear up the fact that he wasn’t offended by any of the owners who interviewed him. He wore an orange tie during his TV job before he got the offer. He may have made a sign that had glitter saying, “I traveled from New Orleans for the Broncos job and to see Jamal Murray play for my birthday.”

I mean, what exactly happened to the hottest coaching candidate out there? The Panthers went with Frank Reich. The Texans had a homecoming with Ryans. The Cardinals still haven’t figured things out, but they let Payton walk out the door. The Colts may hire Jeff Saturday again for all we know. Owner Jim Irsay could be on his 10th-round of interviews when training camp starts.

For some reason, Payton got ice-cold for just a bit. But, the Broncos swooped in to save his day. His dining companion, Colin Cowherd, warned him not to take the Broncos job because of Russell Wilson. Could that have been a bit of a face-saving moment? Payton certainly didn’t give up on the Broncos. At the end of the day, he was down to one team or suffer the indignity of standing next to human pin cushion Terry Bradshaw on the FOX pregame show for another year.

Maybe the Saints drove a hard bargain and Payton convinced his old boss, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, to lighten up a bit on the deal. Payton would praise Broncos general manager George Paton for his diligence in getting things sorted out. It was odd that Payton was hiding in plain sight more than a Chinese spy balloon at the Broncos facility for two days before he was officially announced.

What was with all the cloak-and-dagger behavior? Was he allowed to be working in the building before things were official? Or did the Broncos truly just downplay things because Penner was away playing golf and the last thing the Broncos wanted to show is that George Paton is in charge? It was about as underwhelming an entrance as you could imagine for the highest-compensated and valued coach in Broncos history.

Well, whatever, Monday is upon us! Never mind the fact Sean Payton has been at work in the building for almost a week already; the trumpets will blare and doves will fly from dove valley as the super-cool-dude-savior Sean will raze the downtrodden reputation of this once-proud franchise and restore it’s glorious reputation as a football powerhouse yet again!

At least, that’s what I’m imagining the message will be.

I’m seeing fans in a delirious fashion flailing away with praise and optimism. I saw grizzled columnist Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post, unapologetically predict an 11-6 outcome with nary a shred of football justification other than its cool to have Payton and Nathanial Hackett was stinky. I have been pilloried and eviscerated for suggesting the owner of the Broncos be at work this week when clearly his minions could hash out the details. After all, Monday is gonna be way more convenient for all considered. Payton responded on Twitter to the dramatic Broncos announcement of his hiring by stating “Time to Work in Bronco Country #Details.”

I guess I’m a little cynical and burned out by meaningless catchphrases when it comes to this team. Vic Fangio apparently rolled out “Death by Inches” as he was munching on a hamburger in a steakhouse to get the head coaching job under John Elway. His attention to detail was so lax he didn’t own a suit and the equipment guys rushed to get some khaki pants and hemmed them up like a hobo at prom.

Hackett promised a new way to do things, which meant being late for just about everything. Wilson inspirationally gave us “Let’s Ride,” which turned into the most mocked phrase of the year. Even kickers were mocking the Broncos for that slogan, in addition to… well… everybody. Most recently, Penner took a buck stops here moment on the firing day of Hackett to firmly assert ownership would be first in line in terms of accountability and now we all are waiting on him to get back from golf at Pebble Beach.

So, what exactly are the #Details that actually matter? What catchphrase will be rolled out for the latest incarnation of this team that tends to break our stupid hearts year after year? What skill set does Payton have that made the Broncos sort of want him or perhaps better said eventually settle for him?

Right now, this simply feels like a Welcome to Wrexham moment. When Hollywood superstars Rob McEllhenny (Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool and every romantic comedy that needs a self-effacing funny, hot guy) got bored during COVID, they bought a fifth-division soccer club in Wrexham, Wales. The documentary on Hulu about their adventures is spectacular.

They decided to do a real-life Ted Lasso story. While it started kind of fun and cute, they quickly realized that they had to take this thing seriously. The team really meant something to the town. It wasn’t to be treated lightly despite the fact the previous owners had driven it into ruin. It was comical that the locals even could wage an opinion. If Ryan and Rob didn’t buy the team, it certainly would’ve folded. They were absolute lifesavers. But, that fact wasn’t enough to save the boys from close scrutiny. Why the hell do you guys want to buy our precious team in the first place?

Rob and Ryan struggled to answer that question. Why? Simple. The purchase was a vanity play. They knew nothing about soccer. They knew nothing about the town of Wrexham. It was a funny idea that quickly became a money pit. Rob and Ryan certainly weren’t gonna be around, so they put one of their writers who was Welsh in charge. The problem was he was a comedy writer and aside from his accent, there was no evidence he cared or knew about soccer either. As time went on, and the team and stadium crumbled, there was only one answer.


Cash is exactly what the boys had and they decided to spend it. They bought two specific players in Ollie Palmer and Paul Mullins who both were talented beyond this level of competition but were happy to punch down for money. They bought Phil Parkinson as the coach. He was bizarrely overqualified but somehow the finances got worked out and there he was. They made a serious investment in resodding the pitch and rebuilding the stadium. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar. They replaced all sorts of leftover folks from previous administrations and basically gave a classic yet wretched team a final chance.

Did it work?

Hell yeah, it worked! In English soccer, the key is promotion to a higher division. But, only two teams a year get promoted. Lousy teams in higher divisions get relegated. Wrexham barely missed promotion in Rob and Ryan’s first full year. Wrexham is currently in second place in their standings and are looking extremely favorable to advancing. Rob and Ryan occasionally go to games, where they are serenaded like Achilles conquering Troy. It must be a blast. They are losing money quicker than air from a Chinese spy balloon (second reference), but goodness, what a blast.

The key is they actually have spent time amongst the locals. They likely, now, feel a true passion for the club. But, let’s not over-romanticize how they did it. They knew nothing and others just told them where to back up the Brinks truck. Good thing things are Always Sunny in Philadelphia and at the ATM.

Greg Penner is officially having his Welcome to Wrexham moment. He has never shown any passion for the NFL or the Broncos. It seemed to be a cool deal to be in the most-exclusive club in America, the NFL owners crew. It was really fun strutting around training camp with celebrities who had no idea who you were two days previous clapping you on the back like you were an old friend at the Catalina Wine Mixer. What happened to those halcyon days?

The GM screwed up massively. He drafted the wrong guys, hired the wrong coach and tied his wagon, expensively, to the wrong quarterback. But for some unknown reason, Penner decided to give his flailing executive one more shot. Penner liked the nuance of Ryans, but something weird happened. The Broncos couldn’t buy Ryans. Harbaugh turned out to be too weird and as tee time was approaching, a deal was finally hashed out for Mr. Hollywood Payton. I can’t imagine the relief Penner must have felt as he fled for the long weekend to the windy confines of the Monterey Bay peninsula. What a pain in the butt this whole thing has been. It certainly drained Rob and Ryan.

Should I point out to Penner the quarterback may be unfixable? Should I note the offensive line is a mess? Should I whisper that Payton is way behind the eight ball in hiring a staff? Ejiro Evero, the Broncos best coach, just left to take a parallel position with the Carolina Panthers rather than hang around this mess for another year. Also, you don’t have a first or second-round draft pick this year.

You know what—I’m gonna keep my mouth shut. Certainly, the team can’t be worse than last year. everybody insists this Payton guy is great. They did a movie about him. Ok, ok the movie was about him being an out of touch dad who only connected with his son because he was suspended for a year from the NFL for overseeing a reprehensible rewards program for intentionally hurting other players. Whatever. Hey, Adam Sandler’s real wife played his ex-wife!

But like I said, I like Payton.

As Elway once said, “Welcome to Bronco Land.”

As keen observers will snidely whisper under their hopeful but cynical breaths, “Welcome to Wrexham.”

The Sean Payton era is here. After all… it’s finally Monday.



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Greg Penner Welcomes Sean Payton to Wrexham, Broncos style