Can Sean Payton Save the Broncos?

Photo Credit: David Zalubowski, AP

Sean Payton has been in the news recently because of his comments about Nathaniel Hackett and the 2022 Broncos’ season. The truth is Sean Payton is taking over a nightmare situation with a team with incredible talent who underperformed at almost every turn last season. The good news for Payton is there’s only one direction, and that’s up.

The Comments

In an interview with USA Today, Sean Payton was on record saying that his predecessor had “one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL.” In normal circumstances, you’d anticipate this from a TV analyst, a podcast host, or even a website like the one you’re reading this on. This isn’t something you’d anticipate an NFL head coach saying. Well, it now seems like Sean Payton agrees with that assessment.

“Listen, I had one of those moments where I still had my Fox [network television] hat on and not my coaching hat on. I said this to the team: We’ve had a great offseason relative to that, I’ve been preaching that message, and here I am the veteran stepping in it. It was a learning experience for me, a mistake obviously. I need a little bit more filter.”

Sean Payton on his comments about Nathaniel Hackett

Yes, Sean, a bit more of a filter is an understatement. In his interview, he explains that in the right moment, for example, when they take on the Jets (the team Hackett is now an assistant on), he’ll have to re-hash this moment, but for now, he’s moving on.

The Bronco’s 2022 Season

Have you heard the term “dumpster fire”? Because that might be underselling the Broncos’ 2022 season. Going into the 2022 season, with Russell Wilson in tow, the Broncos were billed as potentially a Super Bowl-caliber team. In fact, Sports Illustrated predicted that Russell Wilson would finish top-3 in QB play and Bradley Chubb would hit double-digit sacks. Not only did neither of those things come true, the Super Bowl wasn’t in the cards because the team went 5-12 and missed the playoffs entirely.

Looking Forward to 2023

Let’s start with the obvious. The most significant move the Broncos made this off-season was hiring Sean Payton. Payton comes to the Broncos with a 152-89 head coaching record, including three Super Bowl appearances and a win with former NFL super start Drew Brees. Hiring Payton, though, is precisely why the Broncos can’t have a repeat of last season. So what can Sean Payton do to avoid that?

Russel Wilson will have to be the key Payton can turn if he wants to unlock the true power of this team. Wilson was put into a situation where he was expected to carry the offense last season. That included carrying the load for his offensive line that let him down on a repeated basis. During free agency, the Broncos did their best to address that problem by bringing in Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey. These two players could entirely change the play of that offensive line.

If the Broncos can get their run game going with the return of Javonte Williams, then this bolsters the Wilson situation even further. By having a ground game, the Broncos will set Wilson up with an offense he’s much more comfortable in.

Ultimately, Payton’s job will be to get the team working together and communicating on both sides of the ball. The talent is there for the Broncos, and it’s up to Payton to put those pieces together.

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