The Denver Broncos clearly wanted to aim big with their head coaching search that eventually landed on Sean Payton. And based on what we've seen from first-year head coaches, they were right to do this. Coming into the 2023 NFL Season, five teams filled head coaching vacancies, including the Denver Broncos.
The Arizona Cardinals hired Jonathan Gannon. The Carolina Panthers hired Frank Reich. The Broncos hired Sean Payton. The Houston Texans hired DeMeco Ryans. The Indianapolis Colts hired Shane Steichen. And on Monday, the Panthers fired Reich after a 1-10 start to the season. Right now, all of Payton, Ryans, and Steichen look like homerun hires for the respective teams, but the Broncos were right to be hyper-aggressive in their own coaching search.
Instead of risking hiring a first-time head coach, the Broncos ownership and George Paton likely thought that they didn't want to risk another first-time head coach imploding. And I get it. All of Vance Joseph, Vic Fangio, and Nathaniel Hackett were first-time head coaches, and they lasted two, three, and one year, respectively.
It made a ton of sense if the front office went into this coaching search thinking that they wanted to hire a more veteran mind. And they could have hired Reich. They could have made a big push for Dan Quinn. They also could have looked at someone like Jim Caldwell or Leslie Frazier, who both have been head coaches before.
There were a plethora of coaches who had previously held head coaching gigs that the Broncos could have hired, but none of them had the resume of Sean Payton. Payton brought over 150 wins as a head coach to Denver, which includes a winning record in the playoffs and a Super Bowl title. Objectively speaking, no one was more qualified that was available for hire last offseason.
And the Denver Broncos went for it. They clearly were tired of hyping up the latest first-time head coach and knew that they had to make it right with Russell Wilson and the offense. Sure, Payton cost a good bit, including a first and second-round draft pick, but ask yourself this; what first-round pick could the Broncos have taken this year that would have had a bigger impact than Sean Payton has had?
Well, the answer is no one. No one the Broncos could have used that first-round pick on (which belonged to the San Francisco 49ers) would have made this big of a difference. And Broncos Country should feel extra thankful that the team went for Payton, as the Carolina Panthers fired Frank Reich on Monday, who was in his first year as their head coach.