Sean Payton is just the Broncos latest super-expensive mistake

Oct 13, 2023, 4:00 AM | Updated: 11:55 am

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Greg Penner paid more than $1 million for Thursday night’s offensive game plan. At his roughly $18 million per year salary, that’s what Sean Payton, the Broncos head coach and play caller, earns per outing during a 17-game season.

It’s safe to say Denver’s owner didn’t get a lot of return on his investment. But that’s nothing new.

The Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group paid $4.65 billion for the Broncos. The team is 6-17 during their tenure.

They inked Russell Wilson to a $245 million contract before he ever played a game in orange and blue. The biggest portions haven’t even kicked in yet, but the team would love to move on from the quarterback.

And they forked over more than $235 million in free-agent deals this past offseason. The additions haven’t made the team any better.

All that said, the money given to Payton might be the worst investment of all. The head coach appears woefully out of touch, as his team circles the drain.

On a night when the Broncos defense finally showed up, holding the vaunted Chiefs to 19 points, the team’s offense was nowhere to be found. And the blame falls squarely on Payton.

This is the kind of performance he was brought in to erase. This is the kind of outing that he himself pinned on former head coach Nathaniel Hackett.

As bad as the Broncos were last season, they were never as bad as they looked against the Chiefs. As poorly as Russell Wilson played during his first year in Denver, it was never as ugly as Thursday night’s debacle.

On the night, the Broncos were nearly blanked. It took a borderline roughing-the-passer penalty and a circus catch to avoid just the team’s second shutout since 1988.

They recorded just 197 total yards. That included 115 on the ground and 82 in the air.

Anemic. Ineffective. Pitiful.

There were no words at times. The Broncos offense looked like a poorly coached sixth-grade team throughout the night.

Granted, Payton doesn’t have a lot to work with. Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy aren’t premier wide receivers. Adam Trautman and Greg Dulcich are mediocre-at-best tight ends. And Jaleel McLaughlin and Javonte Williams aren’t game breakers in the backfield.

But that’s not why the Broncos are awful on offense. Instead, it’s all on the head coach.

For the most part on Thursday night, the Chiefs weren’t great against the run. Denver averaged 5.0 yards per carry on the ground. Yet, Payton wouldn’t stick with the run game. It was inexplicable, especially against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

He also drew up some plays that simply had no chance of success. On multiple occasions against K.C, the “Thursday Night Football” crew showed a replay that featured no open receivers, with no real reason why they would be uncovered.

In the day and age of Star Wars offenses, the Broncos look like something out of a Charlie Chaplin movie. They’re dated, stagnant and the vestige of a bygone era.

It’s easy to blame the players. They certainly are part of the problem.

But this same group wasn’t this bad last year. That’s on Payton.

He brought in Mike McGlinchey and Ben Powers. They’re ineffective in the trenches.

He thinks anyone who had a cup of coffee with the Saints during his tenure is a good addition. None have been productive.

The end result is an ugly, awful, putrid brand of football. And that’s unacceptable.

Payton was brought in to solve these problems. He was supposed to be the tonic for Wilson. He was supposed to get the offense on the right track.

Instead, he’s only made the problems worse. The Broncos have rarely been as bad as they were on Thursday night against the Chiefs.

When Penner inked Payton to a five-year, $80-million deal, he didn’t expect that the “offensive genius” would take the Broncos in the wrong direction. He couldn’t have imagined that Payton would be worse than Hackett.

But that’s the case. At this point, Broncos Country is clamoring for their former head coach.

And it’s not just because of the team’s offense. The overall operation hasn’t improved either, something that few thought could get worse than the 2022 season.

But the end of the second half is a prime example of how bad Payton has been this season.

The Broncos defense had kept them in the game. With just 47 seconds left before intermission, Denver was down just 10-0. They had the ball in their hands, looking to mitigate the damage.

Somehow, the Broncos gave the ball back to the Chiefs with enough time to score before halftime. They burned just 25 seconds before punting, inexplicably calling two timeouts in the process.

“That’s a boneheaded mistake by me,” Payton admitted. “I was off a down.”

What? Really?

Can anyone imagine the outrage if Hackett had admitted such an egregious error? This is unacceptable from the veteran, high-priced head coach who was brought in to right the hsip.

Following a 29-yard punt, Kansas City was able to move into field-goal range. Harrison Butker kicked a 60-yarder as time expired, giving the Chiefs a 13-0 lead.

Anything short of ineptitude would’ve allowed the Broncos to run out the clock before halftime. Payton and company managed to bungle it.

If anyone is looking for a prime example of what ails Denver this season, that’s the moment. That summarizes what is wrong with the Broncos.

And it’s on the head coach. It’s on the guy who is quick to tell everyone that he’s the smartest guy in the room.

His team is terrible. They aren’t motivated. They aren’t smart. They aren’t prepared.

That’s hardly worth $1 million per game. But that’s what Greg Penner has signed up for over the next five seasons.

Sean Payton is an expensive mistake. And the Broncos will pay the price for years to come.


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