By booting out Wilson’s QB coach, Payton makes it clear he’s the captain now

Feb 7, 2023, 6:00 AM
Sean Payton...
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

“Look at me. Look at me. I’m the captain now!”

The iconic line from the movie Captain Phillips is often quoted in society. The acting by Barkhad Abdi in which he tells Tom Hanks he’s in charge of the massive boat is brilliant. The message gets across loud and clear.

And while the situation with the Denver Broncos is nowhere near as serious as pirates taking over a ship, we can draw some parallels from what happened on Monday to Abdi’s acting.

After speaking for nearly an hour at his introductory press conference, new head coach Sean Payton met on the side with the media for even a little longer. That’s when the big news was made.

104.3 The Fan’s DMac asked Payton about Russell Wilson’s personal QB coach, Jake Heaps. Heaps was spotted at the Broncos facility multiple times last year, even for practices during the regular season that weren’t open to the public. He was yet another coach for Wilson, but not on Denver’s staff. Some folks didn’t like that, as it made Wilson different from the rest of the team and not one of the guys.

By all accounts, Heaps is a great person. But man, he had a bad Monday. Payton essentially fired Heaps from the UCHealth Training Center on Day 1.

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

Payton went on to tell 104.3 The Fan and 9NEWS Broncos insider Mike Klis something similar.

“Certainly we’re not going to have private individuals out there coaching. If they’re on our staff they’ll be out there,” Payton told Klis.

Wow. That is a big statement and decision from Payton on his very first day as the new boss. The quarterback with a quarter-billion dollar contract just got stripped of some of his power. No longer will Wilson’s people, including Heaps, have free reign of the UCHealth Training Center. His social media team and all the other folks? We’ll have to see, but it’s not looking good for them either.

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

You don’t think that’s a shot at Wilson? The Broncos QB spent last summer traveling the world and occasionally practicing football and we were blasted with social media overkill. Wilson would even post his outfits hours before games. Maybe it was his media team pushing the send button, or maybe it was him, but it was clear he wanted the attention.

To be fair to Wilson, the social media blitz has calmed down since the season ended. It’s hard to go 5-12 and still operate like everything’s totally fine, so at least Wilson has the self-awareness to chill on that front. But just like his personal QB coach is no longer welcome, Payton sent Wilson a message with that statement.

And this is all great for the Broncos. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Former head coach Nathaniel Hackett wanted to be everyone’s best friend and that could not have been more of a disaster. From embarrassingly light training camp practices to hugs for everyone, the Hackett method was doomed from the start.

That’s where Payton’s new voice and new attitude is welcomed in a big way. The Broncos need a kick in the butt, and Payton is just the guy to do it. He set the tone on the first day that he’s not afraid to stand up to Wilson, something Hackett never had the guts to do.

It’s a new era at Dove Valley. And it’s Payton’s way or the highway. He’s the captain now, and a couple of big flexes on Monday delivered that message with little room for interpretation.



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By booting out Wilson’s QB coach, Payton makes it clear he’s the captain now