The Denver Broncos hiring Sean Payton is one of the most significant moves in recent NFL history. For the Denver Broncos, it's the most important move the team has made in over a decade. Landing Sean Payton is essentially a sequel to the Peyton Manning signing in 2012.
Back in 2012, the Broncos landed Peyton Manning in free agency after a grueling process of Manning taking visits to other teams and people constantly refreshing Twitter on their Blackberry devices. When Manning finally made the decision to come to Denver, there was a mixture of rejoicing and skepticism. The Broncos had just surprisingly won a playoff game in John Fox's first year with the team. The defense was ascending. There were young playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
But Manning was coming off of five neck procedures. There were (later confirmed) rumors that he could not even grip the football, much less throw it. The Broncos seemingly took a massive risk in signing Manning at the time the move was made, but those with common sense understood that despite any risk involved, it was a risk worth taking.
It's Peyton freakin' Manning, right?
Manning is one of the best quarterbacks to ever do it. Although he wasn't a threat to run for 1,000 yards, Manning was dominant at the position due to the fact that he could manipulate defenses by always being 10 steps ahead of them. It constantly required a lot of luck to beat Peyton Manning.
And Sean Payton knows that to be true himself. The Saints had to overcome a 10-0 deficit in the Super Bowl against Manning and the Colts, then stave off a Manning comeback late in the game in order to win the first Super Bowl in Saints history.
Who could have thought back in February 2010 that those two men -- Manning and Payton -- would become such a huge part of the Denver Broncos' franchise?
Sean Payton doing more than renewing optimism for Denver Broncos
Here we are in 2023. Manning has established a legacy as one of the greatest players in Denver Broncos history. Can Sean Payton do the same? Many people seem to be of the opinion that if anyone can turn the Denver Broncos around, it's Sean Payton. If anyone can turn Russell Wilson around, it's Sean Payton.
But it almost feels like there's a level of skepticism rooted in Broncos Country itself that this particular move can work. Why?
Broncos fans have been consistently burned in recent years when they've chosen the path of optimism. Being optimistic about the team after Super Bowl 50 has ended in nothing but heartbreak. The Broncos have been one of the NFL's most consistent teams in the last six years. And by that, I mean they have been the most consistent losers.
Okay, the Jets have been slightly more consistent in that regard...
The point is, I think for once, the general NFL media world has a better beat on how things could go for the Denver Broncos in 2023 than the Broncos' own fan base. You can't really make blanket statements because everyone has a different level of optimism this time of year, but the pulse I'm getting from many within Broncos Country is one of cautious optimism at best. The pulse from national people? Those people are talking about Sean Payton as possible coach of the year.
It's tough to quantify the value of a head coach because there are so many intangibles there. With a quarterback, you can say, this guy generally throws for X amount of yards, X amount of touchdowns, and X amount of interceptions. If you plug that into this team's context, you might get this level of success.
And therefore, with the addition of someone like Manning, success felt a little bit easier to predict, even with his five neck procedures putting a "cap" on the optimism levels for some.
With Sean Payton, he's not the one throwing the ball or running the ball. He's not the one out there scoring points or preventing the other team from scoring the points. But he is the one pulling all the strings. He is the one teaching and coaching this team. He is the one creating a new "culture" after all of the turmoil in Denver in recent years.
Payton is the one who, in 18 years as an OC or head coach in the NFL, has an average offense ranking (yardage) of 4.7, meaning his offenses are generally top-five units. In 15 years as Saints head coach, Payton's offenses rank an average of 6.3 in points scored, meaning he was typically a top 6-7 unit in the league in points scored. He has averaged 11 wins per 17 games coached as an NFL head coach.
His winning percentage of 63.1 percent is tied for 23rd-best all-time with Curly Lambeau.
For reference, Peyton Manning won 69.9 percent of the games he started as an NFL quarterback. We're talking about rare air no matter what way you slice this.
The point is this -- the Broncos landing Sean Payton should be considered just as significant of a move for the franchise as the team signing Peyton Manning. Just like Manning, the arrival of Payton signifies a complete overhaul of the organization from the top down. Manning's presence dictated a certain level of attention to detail for everyone on the team, not just in his own role.
Remember how Peyton identified practice squad players like linebacker Brandon Marshall to become significant contributors to the team? Or how he was constantly considered a coach on the field? There were even rumors that Manning made life really hard on some young players who weren't performing up to par, like wide receiver Cody Latimer early on in his NFL career.
There is something to be said about the level of excellence these two NFL legends require, first and foremost from themselves but then from others as well. Payton's arrival in Denver is now a mark of the beginning of what will hopefully be something special in the Mile High City. Plenty of NFL legends have made their way through Denver and they have been revered thusly. It's time Sean Payton got his due credit as a living NFL legend joining this Broncos franchise as well.