By: CHAD JENSEN
The Denver Broncos will have a shot at wooing Sean Payton back into the NFL coaching ranks.
Ask anybody in the know and you’ll hear that Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett is likely to be dismissed after his first season. Anyone with a brain and two eyes can see that Hackett is not good at his job, and despite his players’ coach reputation in the Broncos’ locker room, his results on the field have been historically bad.
Enter Sean Payton — he of the New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl XLIV, and ‘Bounty-gate’ fame.
Payton retired (more like stepped down) from coaching the Saints at the end of the 2021 season. He gave it a go for one year following Drew Brees’ retirement, and opted to take a break. Since then, Payton has worked as a FOX Sports NFL analyst.
Earlier this week, Payton threw his hat back into the NFL head-coaching ring with a declaration on Tom Brady’s Let’s Go podcast that he wants to return if he can find the right situation. It likely served as a massive tentpole moment for the Broncos’ new ownership group — the Walton/Penners, who have reportedly been “embarrassed” by how Hackett has steered the ship.
“I think sooner than later,” Payton said. “I really enjoy the current job I have. . . . But I think relative to coaching, though, I know that I want to coach again and it’s not really been a secret. But I wanna find the right spot. And as Tom alluded to, you know, it’s still about the people. Because when it’s all done and it’s quiet, I don’t think it’s the money or the crowd cheers or the trophies or any of that other stuff. I think it’s about the journey with the people that you really enjoy. . . . So we’ll kind of see what happens. But sooner than later, though, in fairness to that question. I think that, you know, if not this year, hopefully next year.”
Payton is hoping for a return to the NFL in this coming head-coach hiring cycle. And although he says “it’s not the money,” nothing rings the bell like the almighty dollar.
And the Walton/Penner group has many billions of those very bucks. Rob Walton is, hands down, and it’s not even close, the richest owner in the NFL.
If he wants Payton, Walton and his son Greg Penner can lay out a compensation package that the former Saints head coach couldn’t refuse. The question of whether Payton would want to assume control over a dilapidated Broncos franchise fronted by a slumping Russell Wilson is open to debate.
But considering the historically outlying nature of Wilson’s regression this year, methinks Payton would perk up at the opportunity to resurrect the nine-time Pro-Bowler, especially if it meant he’d be the NFL’s highest-paid coach. Denver would have to compensate New Orleans, possibly to the tune of a first-round draft pick, as the Saints still own Payton’s rights.
Before the Broncos can maneuver toward Payton, though, there is the matter of what remains in this dismal season and the status of Hackett.