Finding the right quarterback is personal for Sean Payton

Feb 27, 2024, 1:47 PM

The Denver Broncos are likely to move on from veteran quarterback Russell Wilson within the next two weeks. On Tuesday, at the NFL Scouting Combine, Payton gave a timeline for when a decision on Wilson’s fate would be made.

“Next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll be in meeting with ownership,” Payton explained. “I expect that we’re going to know fairly quickly. Somewhere in the neighborhood of the next two weeks.”

It’s a good bet the Broncos are going to be adding a quarterback in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft. What is Payton looking for? Let’s take a look.


He’s Got Personality

This week, the Broncos will get to meet with all the quarterbacks they want to. The on-field workouts are made-for-TV, and fans love to see quarterbacks throw to receivers with no defenders against them. However, teams are looking for something else.

The physical evaluations have been done, so at the Combine it’s about getting to know players. This happens during the interview process. Well, I should say it’s likely to happen as executives spend time with these prospects. You have time to talk to players, so teams must make the most of that time.

The Broncos need to find a quarterback who fits with Payton. They need this duo to mesh, and they need to find someone who can take the tough coaching (tough love) that Payton is going to put them under. Personality means a lot. They need a confident player, but they need a comfortable player who meshes

“The first thing is to put a name with the face. It’s the first personal visit where you’re like, ‘Hi, nice to meet you!’ You’ll spend time with questions that will be football-related. There will be follow-up meetings, pro day visits, private workout visits. So, these are all pieces of the equation that I think are necessary,” Payton said.


Rooster Cogburn-like Grit

Payton loves to talk about grit when discussing the evaluation of players. This league is not easy. Only the strong survive in the NFL, so teams are looking for quarterbacks who do not fold when the pressure is high.

There is no stress when it comes to on-field drills. Quarterbacks are throwing without duress. Thus, they can be on-point when it comes to accuracy and arm strength. Again, that’s physical skill that is easy to see. Teams need to put passers under stress during the interview process.

They’ll give quarterbacks plays to discuss, and then at the end of the meeting they’ll go back to what they discussed. They want to see if a player can remember what is being thrown at them. In addition to personal interviews, I’m sure scouts are reaching out to anyone around these college programs with information about these players and how they handle adversity.

“We’re looking for goal-driven players that are unselfish. We use that term ‘grit’ a lot, but the ability to get up time-and-time again. The ability to overcome adversity. Those are important traits when we’re visiting with young athletes,” Payton said.


Processor Speed

I want smart and accurate quarterbacks. There are physical skills that are easy to see like athleticism or arm strength. Playing quarterback is so much more than the physical qualities that are observable on film.

NFL teams want to find players who can thrive under chaotic conditions. This means getting a quarterback at the white board so he can break down plays. Coaches are looking for a guy who can decipher what he sees quickly and understands what to do before the ball is snapped.

It’s called staying ahead of the play. It’s not about snapping the ball and reacting. The best quarterbacks anticipate what is going to happen based on pre-snap adjustments by the defensive players he’s facing.

“Oftentimes, the systems they’re in can be difficult to evaluate. One thing that’s hard to measure (with quarterbacks) is their ability to multitask and process and make decisions. You can visit with someone, and they can be intelligent, but how quickly can they deliver the information? How quickly can they get through the progression? There are some fundamental things that we have to see that are present,” Payton said.


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Finding the right quarterback is personal for Sean Payton