There is reportedly doubt within the NFL about former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton wanting to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, some in the league are "skeptical" about Payton wanting to hitch his wagon to veteran quarterback Russell Wilson, who struggled mightily in his first year in Denver in 2022.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero (h/t NFL.com) reported Saturday that the Saints granted the Broncos permission to interview Payton.
Payton was the Saints' head coach for 15 seasons from 2006 to 2021, and he enjoyed a great deal of success during that time.
Under Payton, the Saints went 152-89, reached the playoffs nine times and won Super Bowl XLIV in 2009.
Payton stepped down following the 2021 season and signed on with Fox to be a television analyst, but it was widely assumed that he would return to coaching eventually after taking a break.
While Payton is perhaps the best coaching candidate available, one thing that could give the Broncos and other teams pause is the fact that they would have to send the Saints compensation in order to hire Payton.
It is unclear what kind of compensation it would take, but Rapoport reported that the Saints may ask for a first-round pick and more.
While that would be a steep price to pay, it may be worth it for the Broncos after watching Wilson become a shell of his former self under Nathaniel Hackett this season.
The Denver offense was so bad that Hackett didn't make it through one full season as head coach of the Broncos, and it seems likely that the Broncos would prefer to bring in an offensive-minded head coach to fix the mess left behind by Hackett.
After putting together a Hall of Fame resume that included nine Pro Bowl selections and one Super Bowl win during his 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson was traded to the Broncos this past offseason for a huge package of draft picks and players, including two first-round picks and two second-round picks.
Wilson was expected to get the Broncos back to the playoffs and perhaps even back in Super Bowl contention, but instead he posted a 4-11 record as a starter and put up the worst numbers of his career.
In 15 games, Wilson completed a career-low 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,524 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
That type of play could conceivably scare Payton off, but considering how much he was able to get out of future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees in the latter years of his career with the Saints, he may be the perfect person to turn Wilson around.
Denver also boasts some talented weapons on the offensive side of the ball in wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, tight end Greg Dulcich and running back Javonte Williams, and that may be enough to convince Payton that he can turn things around.
Fowler noted that the Broncos offering Payton a six-year contract and the ability to draft a new quarterback down the line if things don't work out with Wilson could be attractive enough to land him, and given how 2022 went, the Broncos may be willing to do that.