Sean Payton Linked to Denver Broncos’ Head-Coaching Vacancy as Troy Aikman Pounds Table
The Denver Broncos search for a new coach is now just a few days. Nathaniel Hackett was fired on Monday after presiding over a humiliating loss on Christmas Day and delivering to ownership the organization’s 11th loss of the season. In last year’s hiring cycle the Broncos’ head coaching search was led by GM George Paton with input from several top execs. this time, the search for a head coach will be led by Greg Penner , with some input from Paton (for now).
With the Broncos now boasting the richest owner in the NFL in Rob Walton (the 19th-richest man on planet Earth, per Forbes), there’s a feeling in league circles that the club could swing for the fences on its next head coach hire. Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is widely considered to be the best candidate.
ESPN insider Josina Anderson reported that Payton is indeed on the Walton/Penner group’s short-list of candidates. The topic of Payton was brought up by Troy Aikman, a Hall-of-Fame quarterback who is also a Monday Night Football color commentator. He asked the Broncos to make Payton an offer that they can’t refuse.
“The Broncos can’t take a chance on anybody,” Aikman said via Cowboys Country. “Sean Payton is in the driver’s seat.”
Aikman’s first point is a salient one. The Broncos have gambled on their three previous head-coaching hires and now they are focusing their hopes on a first-timer.
Hackett, Vic Fangio (2019-21), and Vance Joseph (2017-18) were each given their first head-coaching jobs by the Broncos. The hirings caused a lot of problems for the team and had a negative effect on their prospects.
Payton’s win/loss record as a head coach is 152-89 (.631). He’s 9-8 (. 529) in the playoffs, and won Super Bowl XLIV. In 16 years as New Orleans’ head coach, he led the Saints to nine postseason berths. Keep in mind that Payton was suspended for one season due to the NFL’s discipline for “Bountygate.” He served his season-long suspension in 2012 and the Saints finished 7-9, missing the playoffs.
It’s true that Payton is in the “driver’s seat”. No duh. He’ll be the most popular, and NFL teams won’t hesitate to try to win him over. Denver has the resources to hire a better hiring partner than any of these other potential rivals.
The Broncos have the financial might to win Payton over, but it would likely require that he hires a different defensive coordinator than Fangio, who, rumor has it, he plans to bring with him to his next NFL home. Plus, the Broncos would have to compensate the Saints for Payton, as New Orleans still owns his rights since he wasn’t fired at the end of the 2021 season. After giving it one year after Drew Brees, he retired.
There are other options that the Broncos might consider. While Payton is the most likely candidate for the Walton/Penner team, it would be a costly endeavor to get him to Denver.
Anderson’s reporting indicates that there are other head-coaching candidates to watch, including Dan Quinn and Darrell Bevell, Eric Bienemy and Demeco Ryans. Shane Steichen is also included. Quinn is the only person on this list who has head-coaching experience.
Other potential retread candidates are Frank Reich, Steve Wilks and Leslie Frazier. Keep checking back.
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The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.