ENGLEWOOD | Sean Payton is bringing an old-school style sown by his mentor Bill Parcells and steeped in discipline and accountability as he takes over as the Denver Broncos’ new head coach.
One thing that means is that Russell Wilson will no longer have his own entourage at the team’s headquarters as he did this past season.
Payton was introduced as the franchise’s 20th head coach Monday and he was asked in an informal gathering with reporters afterward about Wilson’s personal QB coach being on the premises in 2022, when Wilson suffered through the worst statistical season of his career.
“Yeah, that’s foreign to me,” Payton said. “That’s not going to take place here. I mean, I’m unfamiliar with it. But our staff will be here, our players will be here and that’ll be that.”
Members of Wilson’s support team having access to the building was one of many perks allowed the quarterback last season by general manager George Payton and rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired Dec. 26.
Given Payton’s stance on that matter, Wilson might also have to surrender his extra parking spaces and private upstairs office.
We also could see less of his globetrotting jaunts on social media and maybe his teammates will have to make do without the air hockey and gaming chairs that were part of Hackett’s conversion of the reporters’ workroom into a splashy players arcade a year ago.
The new head coach is all business, concerned not with creature comforts but about changing a losing culture that has permeated the franchise.
The Broncos surrendered their first-round pick, No. 29 overall, in the upcoming draft to the New Orleans Saints in order to sign Payton to a five-year deal worth around $18 million a year.
Payton has some unfinished business at his old job in broadcasting before diving into the task of turning around a franchise that has floundered under first-time head coaches Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio and Hackett during a seven-year playoff drought.
Payton said he’ll work the Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs in his final week as an analyst on Fox NFL Kickoff.
“I’m picking the Eagles,” Payton said. “We never want anyone in our division to win anything, right?”
Payton made a point of not piling on the former regime, but he did have this to say when asked about his game management skills: “I don’t anticipate the crowd having to count down the 30-second clock” as it did in Hackett’s home debut.
Fans mocking counting down the seconds led Paton to lure longtime assistant Jerry Rosburg out of retirement to handle those duties for Hackett, who also gave up play-calling duties later in the season.
Rosburg coached the final two games after Hackett’s dismissal when Wilson finally played like the nine-time Pro Bowler he is, something Payton mentioned Monday when asked about helping Wilson bounce back in 2023.
“I think the No. 1 job for us as coaches in evaluating our players is what are the things that they do really well and then let’s try to put them in those positions. At least that’s a starting point, and I think it’s important to highlight their strengths and minimize any weaknesses,” Payton said.
“None of us want to be at a karaoke bar with a song we don’t know the words to,” Payton said. “So, how do we get them comfortable and highlight their strengths? And that’s the process that’s going to begin right now as I’m learning about every one of these players, not just Russell.”
Payton invoked Parcells’ “law and order” mantra when talking about his coaching philosophies.
“You come in with your standards but you’re not coming in indicting anyone else’s,” Payton said. “… You really knock the rearview mirror off the automobile. We’re just looking forward.”
Payton went 161-97, including playoffs, in 15 seasons in New Orleans before stepping down last year when Drew Brees retired. He took over a moribund Saints team that had gone 3-13 in 2005 and led them to a 10-6 record and an appearance in the NFC championship game in his first season with the Saints.
As to whether a similar turnaround can be expected in Denver, Payton said, “I think it’s realistic for our fanbase to expect a completely different type of culture. And I think it’s realistic for them to expect us to win.”
To what degree, who knows?
“I know this: the work has started,” Payton said. “I kind of use this term, you know, a little bit more anonymous donors this season. Just know that we’re working. But a little bit less visibility on social media and all those other things. We’re going to get to work. And ultimately, it’s how we do in the fall.”
CEO and co-owner Greg Penner, who led the Broncos’ head coaching search that included eight candidates, said when he asked around the league about Payton, attention to detail was one attribute that kept coming up.
To that end, Payton, who also interviewed for the openings with the Texans, Panthers and Cardinals, acknowledged that his wearing an orange tie on television recently was by design.
“Like this pocket tissue I’m wearing right now has an angle going upwards if you can see it,” Payton said. “And so this morning when I put it on, that’s kind of symbolic about the direction we’re heading.”