With Sean Payton in charge, everything is set to change for Broncos

Feb 7, 2023, 6:57 AM
Sean Payton...
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos introduced Sean Payton as their new head coach on Monday. It felt different at UC Health Training Center, and I haven’t felt this much positivity in the building since the days of Peyton Manning.
Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner said a lot when introducing Payton to Broncos Country.

“Last month, I said that we were looking for a strong leader who could build a winning culture. One with accountability, discipline and also build a really strong identity on offense. I could not be prouder of where we came out and we have the perfect coach in Sean Payton. We had a chance to visit with people around the league, including a number of Sean’s former players, as a part of this process. They could not have been more positive about what Sean brings as a head coach. He coaches with intensity, while demanding a high level of accountability and preparation. Sean pours his heart and soul into winning, and players respond to his enthusiasm, creativity and genuine love of the game. In just a few days here in our building last week, he is already bringing that energy and passion into our building and organization. Let me also say to Broncos Country, thank you for your patience. We realize this was a long process. We wanted to take our time and we wanted to get it right and we did. Thank you,” Penner said.

Here are my three biggest takeaways from Payton’s introduction.


Payton’s Place

The Broncos are going to be run by Payton. He’s their head coach, but I think he’s so much more than that. I believe we got some clues as to how big his role will actually be at Monday’s press conference. Payton will be the coach, but he’s going to be more involved in picking the players than some think.

The Broncos have general manager George Paton, and he needs a good draft to keep his job. Yes, even without a first- or second-round pick, I think Paton may be drafting for his future. I’m not going to fall all over myself for Paton picking CB Patrick Surtain. Everyone in the scouting community considered Surtain a “can’t-miss” prospect who was arguably the safest pick in the draft that year. Surtain has been everything and more, but that’s on him – it’s not like Paton unearthed some gem.

Where Paton could have been doing better work – day three of the draft – he’s failed in that department at least last season. People get sick of me bringing it up, but it really bothers me that a superstar player like CB Tariq Woolen was available in the fifth round and Paton didn’t draft him. It really chaps my hide that instead of taking RB Isiah Pacheco – who has been starting most of the season for the Chiefs – he decided to pass on him for an FCS return man. These misses are unforgivable, especially for a team who doesn’t have all their picks. Imagine Woolen starting opposite of Surtain, or Pacheco as a change-of-pace back behind Javonte Williams – those thoughts will give you chills. It didn’t happen because Paton didn’t make the picks.

I’m not sure how long Paton is going to be employed by the Broncos. I also don’t think Payton wants a “yes man” to just agree with him on everything. Payton has won a Super Bowl as a head coach, and he worked well with Saints GM Mickey Loomis. The problem is, Paton is not proven in his role as GM in the same way Loomis (who is one of the best in the league) is. I hope Paton does a better job of drafting, and that means listening to Payton while also having strong opinions he can back up himself.


View From the Top

Payton has been to the top of the mountain in the NFL. He coached the New Orleans Saints for 16 years, finishing his time there with a record of 161-97. Taking over for one of the league’s worst franchises in 2006, Payton had the Saints in the Super Bowl just a few years later. It was their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history, and Payton’s Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV by a score of 31-17 (and the Colts were favored by 5 points entering that contest).

No Super Bowl-winning coach has changed franchises and won another title with his new team. Some of the best to ever do it, like Don Shula (Colts, Dolphins), Jimmy Johnson (Cowboys, Dolphins), or Mike Shanahan (Broncos, Washington) won it all but never did it again with another franchise.

Will Payton be the first to make history in that department? I think he could, just like Peyton Manning became the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises (Colts, Broncos). Or, not that long ago, no team had won a Super Bowl in their home stadium – and the last two Super Bowl champions (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams) have done that. Records are made to be broken, and Payton is here to make history with the Broncos.

The Broncos play in arguably the league’s toughest division. Payton acknowledged this fact during a media scrum after his press conference as many have brought it up to him in various capacities. “I spent more time looking inward at the team than outward at the opponents,” Payton said.


Culture Club

I wrote in this week’s Mile High Monday, that I was excited for the culture shift that was going to happen with the Broncos under Payton. On Monday, he went into further detail about how a team’s culture is crafted.

“I look forward to making you proud. I look forward to working with everyone in here and building that winning culture. It’s something that is not easy. It’s something that is daily and monthly, and it’s something that can slide or slip quickly,” Payton said.

There were a few times when the word “culture” was brought up by Payton or Penner. The first step to correcting a problem is acknowledging you have one. For too long, the Broncos’ organization had hubris about their standing in the league. However, after six miserable years they know something has to change – that’s why Penner hired Payton.

It’s exciting to consider the Broncos’ future now that Payton has been hired. It’s his attention to detail that help craft his culture. He’s only going to coach this Broncos team one way; his way, and that means passion, dedication, and creating culture through daily habits. Hopefully, the Broncos are able to return to championship form under Payton’s watch.



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