As the Denver Broncos are still riding the high of their win over the Kansas City Chiefs, their first victory over Kansas City in eight years, one thing has become crystal clear in Denver: Sean Payton was the right call for the team's head coach. Payton has installed his system and style in Denver, and the team is starting to show results. Before their Week 8 victory, the Broncos also knocked off the Packers at home.
Denver now heads into the bye, but one major story is dominating the football news cycle. Fresh off a suspension to start the year, Jim Harbaugh is now facing cheating allegations from multiple schools regarding a Michigan staffer stealing signs from multiple teams over the last few years. As this story remains atop ESPN's news headlines, the Walton-Penner family should feel more and more confident that they made the right call, hiring Sean Payton and not Jim Harbaugh, and here are two major reasons why:
1) Harbaugh's Consistent Snowball
While the Broncos are coming off a major win against the Chiefs, the team has still struggled to win overall and has a not-great roster. Simply put, the Broncos are probably still bad. In that same light, if there is one thing a bad football team does not want, it is bad PR. Jim Harbaugh has had nothing but bad PR this year.
Harbaugh started the year with a school-imposed suspension, resulting from violations dating back to the COVID-19 period. Once his three-game suspension was up, Harbaugh returned to Michigan for a few weeks of fairly quiet football. When things got loud, they got deafening. Michigan is currently at the center of one of the greatest NCAA cheating scandals of all time: staffer Connor Stalions is alleged of having traveled to games of 12 other Big Ten teams and numerous other CFP contenders to steal signs, to have written a 550-page "Michigan Manifesto" on sign stealing and his vision for Michigan football, and even gone as far as to have attended Central Michigan's game in disguise to remain on the sidelines and steal signs.
In the aftermath of everything that has happened at Michigan, Harbaugh, who was reportedly open to an NFL move, had his contract extension offer from Michigan revoked. Harbaugh balked at moving to the NFL due to an achieved understanding that Michigan would make him the highest-paid coach in NCAA football, turning down the Broncos and their endless pockets. As the Broncos are riding their best win in years and are seemingly turning the franchise around, Harbaugh's football future remains in question, considering he would be at fault in any investigation from the NCAA. When it rains, it pours, and Jim Harbaugh's bad PR is pouring down in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
2) Paytons' turnaround
Sean Payton's first year got off to a brutal start. The Broncos lost two very winnable games at home: one to the now-fired Josh McDaniels, and one that included a 3-possession blown lead to the 3-5 Commanders, and then an all-time loss in which the Broncos defense gave up 70 points. Since starting 0-3, the Broncos have gone 3-2, including a road win on the east coast, and two straight home wins against the Packers and the Chiefs.
Change takes time, and it oftentimes needs to get worse before it gets better (which it did), but the upswing is usually not far behind. The Broncos gave up 70 points to the Dolphins in Miami in week three. In their two games against Patrick Mahomes, both after the week three debacle, the Broncos have limited Kansas City to just 28 points. The Broncos also knocked off the Packers at home and then held the Chiefs to just three field goals in a 24-9 victory that sealed their first win over KC in eight years.
Under Payton, things did get worse for Denver before they started to get better. A 70-point loss is hard to stomach as it is, let alone when the coach is in his third game of a 5-year deal that made him one of the richest coaches in North American sporting history. Payton, making roughly $18 million a year, has turned the ship around drastically since. The Broncos are 3-2 in their last five since starting 0-3, and enter their week nine bye with eyes on the Buffalo Bills the following week. If the Broncos can knock off the Bills, things will be changing in Denver, and for the first time in almost a decade, for the better.