Year one of the Sean Payton era in Denver is officially in the books. It has been quite the year for the Broncos who have had a roller coaster of a season. The team got off to a horrid 1-5 start, went on a five-game winning streak, and then went 2-4 in the final stretch and missed the playoffs. It was a difficult end to a season that had Broncos fans experiencing every emotion imaginable, but despite the disappointing end and some frustrating performances, there is reason for optimism in Broncos Country.
Before the season started, I wrote that 9-8 would be a satisfactory final record for the 2023 Broncos. The team fell one game short of that coveted winning season, but hovering right around a .500 record is exactly where many thought this team would be by season's end. Obviously, being a mediocre team is not where the Broncos want to be, but it was a necessary step for a team that, for all intents and purposes, was broken.
When Sean Payton arrived in Denver, the Broncos were a directionless league bottom-feeder. The 2022 Broncos were one of the worst teams in franchise history, and Payton was brought in to help fix it. With a lot of the same roster pieces in place, Payton helped to nearly double the Broncos win total from a season ago, and brought the team back to a respectable place. The team is obviously still not where it wants to be, and there are roster holes and talent deficiencies galore, but for the first time in a long time it feels like the team has a direction, and someone in charge who knows how to enact their vision.
Despite the positive direction the franchise seems to be heading, there are arguably more questions heading into this offseason than there were a year prior. The biggest question being: who will be the Broncos starting quarterback?
Russell Wilson's time in Denver is over. Even before he was benched in favor of Jarrett Stidham for the final two regular season games, it was clear he was not the ideal quarterback Payton wanted to be running his offense. Paired with a lucrative contract and on-field play that could not justify the contract, the writing was on the walls for Wilson and the Broncos to eventually part ways. As of now, Wilson is still a Bronco, but it should only be a matter of time before Denver moves off of him. So, what is the answer to the question posed earlier? Who will be the Broncos quarterback in 2024?
The answer is we will not know until we know. There have been plenty of names already thrown out there like Jimmy Garoppolo or any of the top five rookie prospects entering the 2024 draft, but all we can do right now is speculate and think wishfully. For some, it may feel like quarterback purgatory all over again, but to me, this feels different. The difference is that Sean Payton is in charge, and I trust that whoever he picks to be his team's quarterback next year will be the best option to help Denver win games.
If there is one thing Broncos fans should take away from this season, it should be that the team is in good hands with Sean Payton. The 2023 Broncos' roster was full of holes and in need of an upgrade at almost every position on the field. Payton and his staff had that under-powered roster making a serious push for the post season. Imagine what they can do when Payton gets his guys.
Broncos Country should not fret. Another losing season and another missed postseason does not feel good, but I have a feeling success is just around the corner. In Payton we trust.