3 ways the Denver Broncos won the 2023 NFL offseason
3. Making the best coaching hire of the cycle
I'm glad the Denver Broncos didn't make a hire like DeMeco Ryans, Shane Steichen, or Jonathan Gannon. They seemed to focus their head coaching search on two candidates: Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton. And, obviously, those were the two best names of the cycle.
Frank Reich was also someone I wouldn't have minded the team hiring, but he's not close to Harbaugh or Payton. I was worried that Denver would get sucked into another first-time head coach, and it seems like Ryans had their interest as well. I know it might be silly to say that the team should not have hired another first-time head coach after what they went through, but I'm glad they didn't.
Their biggest successes as a franchise came with head coaches who had already been head coaches before at the NFL level. I don't think that's a coincidence. When the search seemed lost, they struck a deal with the New Orleans Saints and kept Sean Payton from returning to FOX for another year, likely when there'd be more attractive openings.
CEO Greg Penner seemed to take this search very seriously and I'm glad that he pursued enough at Sean Payton to get a deal done. Payton brings his own successes, but he also built a strong staff filled with younger and older coaches, former players turned coaches, and everything in between. Payton knows how to run a football program, and the risk with another first-time head coach is them experiencing everything that comes with being a HC in the NFL for the first time.
We saw the struggles of Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, and Nathaniel Hackett. The fanbase doesn't need to be lectured on why a first-time head coach typically fails. Sean Payton brought none of those questions with him. Sure, he turns 60 this year and may not be a head coach for more than another seven years, but he gives the Denver Broncos the best chance to win among the candidates in this past cycle.
He was already a Hall of Fame head coach before taking a one-year break in 2022. Now, he'll get to add the finishing touches to a first-ballot HOF resume.