Broncos Rumors: Sean Payton Expected to Be Considered for HC Despite Chargers Buzz

Adam WellsDecember 28, 2022

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 09: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

After parting ways with Nathaniel Hackett this week, the Denver Broncos are setting their sights high on finding a new head coach.

Per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, people around the NFL are expecting the Broncos to "at least check" on Sean Payton's interest in the job and "possibly make a major run at him."

While more head coaching jobs will certainly become available after the regular season, the Broncos may have caught a big break Monday night when the Los Angeles Chargers clinched a playoff berth.

Payton has been linked to the Chargers throughout the season, with CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reporting this week he has a "high affinity" for Los Angeles and the Dallas Cowboys.

There were rumblings about Brandon Staley's future when the Chargers were struggling in the middle of the season, but they have rebounded with three consecutive wins to clinch their first playoff appearance since 2018.

If the Cowboys flame out early in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, owner Jerry Jones could move on from Mike McCarthy if he can bring in Payton.

Anderson did note the Arizona Cardinals could be in consideration. She also said she expects Payton would listen if the Broncos call, "though he historically prefers strong link" to the general manager.

Broncos co-owner Greg Penner did express confidence in George Paton as general manager after Hackett's dismissal, but he also made it clear the new head coach will report directly to him.

"The new coach will report to me, which is a more typical structure in the NFL," Penner said. "Obviously, the relationship between the general manager and head coach is a critical one, and George is going to be intimately involved in this process of looking for a new head coach and we'll make sure there's a good fit there."

If the Broncos need to bring in a general manager Payton trusts, or if he wants roster control to take the job, Paton may not have much job security.

One key difference between the Broncos and the three other teams mentioned is a level of stability at quarterback. Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert are among the best players at the position in the NFL.

Kyler Murray had some struggles this season before tearing his ACL against the New England Patriots in Week 14, but he's only 25 and was considered an MVP candidate midway through the 2021 season.

The Broncos are a mess in large part because Russell Wilson's performance has dramatically declined and his five-year, $242.6 million contract extension doesn't even kick in until 2024. They could try to move on from him this offseason, but they would take on $107 million in dead cap charges over the next two years combined, per Over the Cap.

Another potential problem for the Broncos is trade compensation for the New Orleans Saints. Since Payton retired from the Saints after last season, he remains under contract with the organization.

Denver did recoup a 2023 first-round draft pick by trading Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins, but it is also sending a first-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks as part of the Wilson trade. That pick is projected to be No. 3 overall.

Payton will almost certainly be the most sought-after head coaching candidate available this offseason because of his track record of success in 15 seasons with the Saints from 2006 to '21.

The Broncos could be the most desperate team in need of a new head coach because they have a new ownership group that presumably wants to make a good first impression and all of the talent and draft capital they gave up with the belief Wilson was the missing piece to get them back to the postseason.