The year is 2006, and Sean Payton has just been named the head coach of the New Orleans Saints. He was enlisted to turn around a struggling franchise that had long been one of the worst in the league.
From 2000-05, the Saints were coached by Jim Haslett. In his first season with the team, he went 10-6 and earned a Wild Card berth. The Saints won that Wild Card game against the St. Louis Rams before being toppled in the divisional round by the Minnesota Vikings.
After that season, Haslett could not get the Saints beyond mediocrity and in 2005, the team slipped to 3-13, the second-worst record in the league. That cost Haslett his job and in came Payton, hired away from the Dallas Cowboys where he was the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
The Broncos are in a similar spot. After winning Super Bowl 50, the team has missed the playoffs in seven straight seasons. Last year, they were just 5-12 and had one of the worst records in the league, costing Nathaniel Hackett his job before the season even ended.
The quarterback situations are also similar.
In New Orleans, the Saints had just signed Drew Brees as a free agent, but they only got him because another team, the Miami Dolphins, weren't sold on him. Brees had his 2005 season ended due to a horrible shoulder injury. It was so bad that the Miami Dolphins weren't convinced that he could ever get back to where he was and chose to sign Daunte Culpepper instead.
The Saints ended up with Brees.
In 2006, Payton and Brees' first year together, they went from 3-13 the year before all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Brees was one of the best quarterbacks in the entire league year in and year out and went on to have a career that will undoubtedly land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Broncos have Russell Wilson, a quarterback who is also worthy of Hall-of-Fame consideration. He was terrific for the Seattle Seahawks, but terrible in his lone season in Denver thus far, leading many to believe that he will never get back to the level he was on.
Brees and Wilson — mostly due to their similar height and stature — have often been compared to each other. So if anyone is going to get Wilson back on the right track, Payton might literally be the best option there is.
In New Orleans, Payton inherited a long-suffering franchise with a questionable starting quarterback. The situation he has taken over in Denver is eerily similar.
In New Orleans, Payton experienced instant success. He went to the postseason in nine of his 15 seasons there and won the Super Bowl. Now, the challenge will be for him to duplicate that with a new team, in a new conference and in a different era.