Why new Broncos coach Sean Payton is a ‘little evil genius’ in the right place

Feb 7, 2023, 7:54 PM

Sean Payton...

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

PHOENIX — One vignette from Sean Payton’s press conference Monday illuminated Payton’s maniacal attention to detail: the rally towel story.

As Payton told it, he felt the rally towels given to fans attending a New Orleans Saints playoff game at the Superdome were too small. It’s the sort of thing that most coaches would let slide. Not Payton.

“Who thinks of that?” said Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer. “He’s like a little evil genius. He thinks of stuff.”

And Glazer — who has known Payton since his 1999-2002 stint on the New York Giants staff, including three years as Big Blue’s offensive coordinator — has seen first-hand how Payton’s mind works.

“I’m sitting in his office before a playoff game one time, and he said, ‘Hey, check this out,’ and he says, ‘I’m going to use this play this weekend; I’m going to get Michael Thomas isolated over here, and the Vikings used this four years ago with Kyle Rudolph.’ And I’m like, ‘Four years ago with Kyle Rudolph?'” Glazer said.

“But he literally remembered this from four years ago with Kyle Rudolph that he was now going to use with Michael Thomas, who’s a different position. But that’s how his brain works. He takes in so much. It’s incredible.”

The ability to take in so much is why Payton has an opinion and belief on virtually every aspect of a football club’s operation and how to do it better.

Just what will the Broncos get in Payton?

“Man, a guy who eats a lot and talks a lot,” Glazer said, laughing.

Then he continued.

“Sean’s a culture changer. I talk about this a lot of what makes a winning franchise, is somebody who changes their culture. You see the teams that win every single year: It’s because of their culture. You also see teams that lose every single year: It’s because of their culture.”

Given what Justin Simmons said regarding “culture” after the Nov. 20 overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, the ears perk up at hearing this.

Glazer went on.

“Sean Payton went down there to the Saints, [and] fans were wearing bags on their heads. He went in there and completely changed everything,” he said. “And you almost have to teach the owner how to be an owner in a winning way.”

One part of that lesson is in getting ownership to commit resources to help organizations grow and evolve.

“At our gym, Unbreakable, we were the first gym to have a cryochamber. [Payton] came out, saw it, and they were the first team in the NFL with a cryochamber,” Glazer said. “He bought two for the Saints — bam! — right there, right?”

“… Their meeting rooms are like IPIC movie theaters,” Glazer continued, referring to the upscale theatre chain. “It’s unbelievable. Fridays, he gets the best restaurant in town to come down and cater for everybody, so everybody just stays around there.

“He’s just different. He’s a little evil genius.”

And in the Walton-Penner ownership group, Glazer feels that Payton found what he wanted. It’s ownership that will make the investments Payton deems necessary, no questions asked.

“I thought it would be Denver because of the ownership. I said, ‘That’s a perfect match,'” Glazer said.

“… It’s perfect, because they want to win. [Greg] Penner wants to win. That whole group — I mean, what a rockstar ownership group.”

Which is something that puts the Broncos on better footing than the Saints were in 2006, when Payton took over.

“He had to kind of teach the Saints how to be that level — which they did. He doesn’t have to do that with this group. This group just wants to win,” Glazer said.

“I think that’s where he’s going to be ahead of the curve.”

And as for working with Russell Wilson …

“He is going to take whatever Russ’ strengths are and amplify it more than Russ had any idea about,” Glazer said.

“But also, Russ isn’t going to have control over this. It’s going to be Sean having control over this. Which is exactly what Russ needs at this point of his career.”



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