The Denver Broncos have officially secured their next head coach from the New Orleans Saints, according to reports by NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, as confirmed by their sources.
The New Orleans Saints will receive a 2023 first-round pick (No. 29 overall) and a 2024 second-round pick from the Denver Broncos in exchange for Sean Payton, who stepped down from his position with the Saints after the 2021 season. The deal also includes a future third-round pick, according to Ian Rapoport. Payton was still under contract with the Saints, which required a complex trade between the two teams. There were reportedly other interested teams.
Sean Payton, who spent the 2021 season as a studio analyst for Fox Sports, interviewed with four of the five teams with head coaching vacancies: the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, and Houston Texans.
The Denver Broncos also considered several candidates before deciding to hire Sean Payton as their next head coach. The search for a replacement for Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired after just 15 games into his first season with the team, took over a month.
Under the new leadership of owner and CEO Greg Penner, the Broncos interviewed eight candidates for their head coaching position, including college coaches (Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw), coordinators (Ejiro Evero, Raheem Morris, Dan Quinn, and DeMeco Ryans), and veteran head coaches (Jim Caldwell and Sean Payton). However, some of the targets dropped out along the way: Harbaugh announced that he would remain at Michigan, and Quinn returned to the Dallas Cowboys.
According to Ian Rapoport, the Broncos initially targeted DeMeco Ryans, who had led the 49ers defense to top-three finishes in his two years as coordinator, after their first round of interviews. However, the Texans quickly secured him. The Broncos then tried to persuade Jim Harbaugh, who had a successful stint as head coach of the 49ers in the 2010s, but failed. Denver then began negotiating with Sean Payton and made a last-ditch effort to hire Ryans, but the coordinator, whose season ended with the NFC title game loss on Sunday, was set on joining the Texans.
Finally, Denver reached an agreement with Sean Payton, according to Rapoport. Payton, 59, spent 15 seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Saints and revitalized the franchise alongside quarterback Drew Brees. He led the team to a 152-89 record, nine postseason appearances, seven division titles, and the team’s only Super Bowl victory in the 2009 season. After a 9-8 season in 2021, his first without Brees, Payton stepped down and New Orleans moved on to Dennis Allen, his former defensive coordinator. Despite leaving football, it was widely believed that Payton would return to coaching at some point. The question was simply when and where.
The answer to where and when Payton would return to coaching was finally answered on Tuesday afternoon, with Denver being the destination. In Colorado, Payton will take over a Broncos team that underperformed in 2022 despite the addition of Nathaniel Hackett, nine-time Pro Bowler Russell Wilson, and players such as Randy Gregory. The Broncos had one of the worst offenses in the league, ranking last in points scored (16.9), third down conversion rate (29.1), and 21st in total offense. Despite Wilson’s talent, the offense struggled with poor clock management, a lack of big plays, and turnovers. The defense, which was talented, was left exposed despite ranking 14th in points allowed and 7th in total yards allowed.
Despite finishing the season with a 5-12 record, the Broncos do not have a top-5 pick in this year’s draft, as it was traded to the Seattle Seahawks as part of the Russell Wilson deal. Now, they also do not have their second first-round pick in the 2023 draft, as the No. 29 pick they received in the Bradley Chubb trade has been traded to New Orleans. Payton is back in the game in Denver, and his new challenge is to reignite the career of a quarterback and transform the fate of the franchise.