Details, toning down social media and hating your rivals: Sean Payton said exactly what Broncos Country needed to hear

Feb 6, 2023, 1:25 PM
Sean Payton...
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

It’s almost as if Sean Payton knew he needed to be the complete opposite of the full-time head coach he replaced.

At his first press conference as Denver Broncos head coach, Payton talked about attention to detail, citing examples such as the size of rally towels given out to fans in the Superdome for a playoff game. It’s a million miles beyond an operation that opened last season struggling just to get plays off without fans counting down the seconds on the clock.

And Payton doesn’t want his division rivals to have anything. Which is why when he closes out his work for Fox Sports this weekend at Super Bowl LVII, there’s no chance he’s picking the team that has made the Broncos’ existence misery for the last seven post-Peyton Manning years.

“I’m picking the Eagles. We never want anyone in our division to win anything.”

Yes, Payton already gets it in a way that Nathaniel Hackett didn’t.

Payton isn’t going to say that it’s “too much energy” to hate the Las Vegas Raiders, quickly describing it as “another game.” And he’s not going to dismiss the now 15-game losing streak to the Kansas City Chiefs as “the past.”

At the end of his press conferenc

Payton said that at the end of his press conference. And he may not have realized it, but that was exactly what Broncos Country wanted to hear.

And it was 180 degrees from his predecessor.


There is a long history of NFL teams looking for a successor who is different after firing a head coach. And you need look no further than the Broncos of the last 13 months for examples.

Hackett was that last year compared to the deposed Vic Fangio. Where Fangio was brusque and dour, Hackett was vibrant and happy. Fangio was a defensive mind; Hackett’s coaching experience is on the offensive side of the ball. Fangio was 60 when he assumed the Broncos’ reins — an unusually high age for a first-time head coach. Hackett was 42, the second-youngest head coach hired by the Broncos in 40 years.

Hackett’s hire didn’t raise eyebrows because it seemed to fit within that pattern.

And 13 months later, the Broncos have the opposite again.

Not in the same ways. It’s not like Denver pivoted back to another Fangio — although Payton, at 59, is the second-oldest head-coaching hire made by the Broncos in their history.

But they wanted a coach with proven offensive prowess, attention to detail and a no-nonsense approach.

And the details do matter. For too many stretches last season, the Broncos were a slipshod operation. They were on pace for a team-record penalty total and until Jerry Rosburg arrived to clean up the pre-snap and procedural issues that plagued the Broncos in the first two games. The daily schedule was often just a general guideline rather than something reliable.

Hackett failed at sharpening the details.

Payton searches nooks and crannies for them.

During the press conference, Broncos CEO Greg Penner told a story about how he heard from a former player that Payton demanded larger towels for players in the locker room.

As it turned out, that was just the beginning of the story. And it extended beyond the locker room.

“It was one of our playoff games, and I liked it when every towel is in a seat, 70,000 [people], and it’s distracting. We have a hard place to play [the Louisiana Superdome], just like it’s hard to play here And the towels we handed out, they were kind of like the napkins you get after you have seafood.

“So, I asked [GM] Mickey [Loomis], ‘Wave this towel!’ And he tried to. But you have to drop it in water to wave the towel correctly.”

Nothing escaped Payton’s eye.

After a year of seeing so many little things go askew, that was the biggest thing.

“There’s a lot of things. If we’re maniacal with the details on the field, then we have to be that way in every other element. The training room. The weight room. How we approach ticket sales,” Payton said.

“Everything matters. You can’t just say, ‘It’s only this that’s important,’ right? Everything matters. How we traveled. How we celebrated in the locker room. We bought a $30,000 stereo system — ‘Club Dub’ — and we felt it was important, especially on the road, that everyone that could possibly hear our locker room celebrating [could hear it].

“And that is creating culture. With the right people. With the details.”

It struck Penner.

“That level of attention to detail is what makes for winning organizations,” Penner said, “and he’s going to bring that energy and passion to every part of our building.”

And “Team Russ” having the run of UCHealth Training Center? That’s over, too.

“That’s foreign to me. That’s not going to take place here,” Payton said. “I’m unfamiliar with it, but our staff will be here, our players will be here and that’ll be it.”

And don’t expect to see as much on social media, either.

“Just know that we’re working, but a little bit less visibility on social media and all those other things,” Payton said. “We’re gonna get to work and ultimately, it’s how we do in the fall.”


The little things matter to Payton, because they’re leading indicators of something bigger. Which is why when he wore an orange tie on Fox Sports for championship Sunday … it meant something.

“Some of you caught it. And that’s the type of thing I’m thinking of,” he said.

And then he noted his pocket square. Like the tie he wore Monday, it was orange. But he had it folded in a specific manner to make a point.

“This pocket tissue I’m wearing right now has an angle going upwards,” he said. “So, this morning, when I put it on, that’s kind of symbolic about the direction we’re heading right now.”

Upward. Forward. And built on a basis of getting the little things right.

Or, to put it in a way further showing how things will be different …

“I don’t anticipate having the crowd count down a play clock.”



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Details, toning down social media and hating your rivals: Sean Payton said exactly what Broncos Country needed to hear