Nearly an hour after the worst season of his professional career officially ended on January 9, Bronco quarterback Russell Wilson He stood in front of the podium and sent a clear and unequivocal message about who he thinks can help solve the problems holding back the midfielder and his new team alike.
Asked about the upcoming search for a head coach, an op-ed first-year head Nathaniel Hackett fired 15 games into the disastrous 2022 season, Wilson made brief remarks about such well-known candidates at the time as Dan Quinn, Jim Harbaugh and Ijero Eveiro.
The notes about his clear favorite candidate, Sean Payton? That was more mysterious.
“He’s clearly one of the best players in the world,” Wilson said of Payton, “he coached a (future) Hall of Famer in Drew Brees.” “He’s as competitive as he can be, he’s a winner and he’s obviously won a Super Bowl, at the highest level. I’ve been able to be around him in the Pro Bowl and just the magic you’ll have on the field has been amazing. Just being around him and just being around him was amazing.” Alvin CamaraI Michael Thomas. Those guys, we were just talking about the ball and how (Payton) saw the game.”
Wilson, 34 and facing a career crossroads after his first season in Denver derailed from the start, has the new mentor he wants. The Broncos agreed on Tuesday To trade two draft options saints – He earned a first-place finish this year and a second-round pick in 2024 – and regained a 2024 third-round pick and the rights to appoint Payton as their next head coach, a league source familiar with the deal confirmed.
“Amazing fan base. Great tradition. The ownership group is great, and I love the way they competed last year,” Payton said Longtime New Orleans reporter Jeff Duncan did a phone interview shortly after the trade was announced. “It’s a great soccer city as we were in New Orleans.”
The Broncos now have a head coach who has won 152 matches in England NFL And like Wilson, a former Super Bowl champion. While guiding the Saints to seven NFC South titles between 2006 and 2021, Payton and Brees created one of the most explosive offenses in modern NFL history. New Orleans scored more touchdowns than any team in that 16-season period, and only that Patriots Score more points overall.
Payton did just that with the Bryce quarterback who had just arrived in New Orleans in 2006, after fresh surgery to repair a torn cleft in his shoulder, and was surrounded by doubts about whether he could be an elite-level quarterback. All he did from there became one of the most prolific passers in league history.
Wilson is a nine-time professional quarterback who, like Payton, has won countless big matches in his career, but he also faces doubts. As he enters his 12th NFL season, with his mobility seemingly in decline and his reputation as an elite signal caller battered after a season in which he posted low marks in completion percentage, touchdown passes, and passer rating, Wilson needs a major rebound. He thinks he now has a coach who can help him do that.
“He knows how to push men to the limit,” said Wilson.
The Broncos are all very aware of where the helpless offense is in the division Patrick Mahomes And Justin Herbert Leaves you – at the bottom staring. After years of patchwork fixes at the two most important points of the series — Denver had a dozen quarterbacks and four different coaches from 2016 to 2021 — the Broncos are betting they have the mix in place to create a more explosive and enduring offense.
lo and behold he Big bet. The Broncos have lost three first-round picks and three second-round picks combined across three consecutive draft picks — plus three players — to get the chops to create something functional on offense.
Big swings? This attempts to launch the ball into the new stratosphere. To fix the offense that last finished in scoring in 2022 and has been no better than 22nd place since 2014, there is probably no heavy price to pay.
“We need an identity on offense,” Broncos CEO Greg Benner, who led the search that led to one of the league’s winning active coaches, said when the process began.
Simply put, Wilson, who signed a five-year, $245 million extension with the Broncos last September, has to make the 2023 season a success. Everything he would theoretically need to get back on track is in place. He has his favorite coach, the one who helped the quarterback he admires so much create a Hall of Fame path. He should take advantage of a key offensive cut return at wide receiver Tim Patrickrunning back Javonte Williams And tackle the left Garrett Pauls. He will operate behind what will almost certainly be a modified offensive line. He has the benefit of chemistry with players like Jerry Goody And Courtland Sutton Which seemed to be getting stronger as the season-extending tour approached.
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Broncos general manager George Button explained Wilson’s trade engineer 11 months ago, when the Broncos began looking for Hackett’s replacement, that the search for a new head coach wasn’t just about finding someone who could “turn Ross around.”
“It’s about the whole organization,” Patton said. “It’s about the whole football team. It’s not just one player.”
This was part of the appeal with Payton. His continued success in New Orleans—10 or more wins in nine seasons—was more than Brees excelled. In the NFL it always has to be about more than one player, even the player in the most important position in the game. The Saints continued to win amid personnel and personnel changes. Their missteps in the Bountygate scandal led to Payton being suspended for the 2012 season. Central defenses constantly exploring ways to thwart an offense led to copycat attempts around the league during Payton’s tenure.
Payton won a Super Bowl with New Orleans in 2009, but he also helped the Saints compose the best record in the NFL (49-15) from 2017 to 2020. The Broncos believe that the foundation that created it all is something Payton still has the passion and energy to build again. other in Denver. His experience makes him a stark departure from the three previous coaches hired by the Broncos—Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, and Hackett—none of whom held the job elsewhere prior to his arrival in Denver.
Although the Broncos had productive face-to-face conversations with all eight candidates they met in person, by Sunday, they had their eyes set on Payton, according to a league source. It was a complex process involving two parallel tracks. Paton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis began participating in talks about potential compensation in the days following Payton’s initial meeting with the team on January 17. And all the while, members of the organization were continuing to engage in productive dialogue with Payton while continuing to work through the interview process with the other candidates.
In the end, the opportunity to hire a coach with a proven track record of success was worth the price of two draft options. The Broncos see this as a long-term solution after a series of coaching staff turnovers that defined this losing era for a franchise with championship prospects. They hope that the employee will immediately revive their insult.
It will require a smooth transition between Wilson and the coach he has long admired. It would take Wilson and Payton coming together in the second act of their careers to create the kind of “magic” that has been produced elsewhere for so long.
“I’m looking forward to winning here,” Wilson said after Denver finished the season 5-12. “This is what we came here to do and this is what we will do.”
With Wilson’s help now, there’s no excuse for doing anything less.
(Top photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)