A very brutally honest interview from Sean Payton in USA Today made national NFL headlines. Which people within the Broncos organization were impacted the most by his comments? Personally, I think anyone who was offended by his comments was and is currently part of the problem. What Payton said was 1000% true, and there was not a shred of lie spoken by the Super Bowl-winning head coach.
Jarrett Bell of USA Today did some stellar work with this interview and released it a few days ago. Payton is a very candid and blunt coach; he says what's on his mind, and I think that's wonderful. He has a ton of success in the NFL and has likely seen his success partly due to his strong personality. Below is some of what Payton said during this interview:
""I’m going to be pissed off if this is not a playoff team."- Sean Payton (via USA Today)
“It doesn’t happen often where an NFL team or organization gets embarrassed,” Payton said. “And that happened here. Part of it was their own fault, relative to spending so much (expletive) time trying to win the offseason – the PR, the pomp and circumstance, marching people around and all this stuff. “We’re not doing any of that. The Jets did that this year. You watch. 'Hard Knocks,' all of it. I can see it coming. Remember when (former Washington owner) Dan Snyder put that Dream Team together? I was at the Giants (in 2000). I was a young coach. I thought, ‘How are we going to compete with them? Deion’s (Sanders) there now.’ That team won eight games or whatever. So, listen…just put the work in.”
“Man, we ran that kid through the car wash a hundred times now,” Payton said of Wilson and questions of how this coach-quarterback dynamic will play out. “But that’s a storyline, though. How is this going to look? How’s it going to work? You know what? We’re fixing to find out. As Bill would say.”
“Oh, man,” Payton began. “There’s so much dirt around that. There’s 20 dirty hands, for what was allowed, tolerated in the fricking training rooms, the meeting rooms. The offense. I don’t know Hackett. A lot of people had dirt on their hands. It wasn’t just Russell. He didn’t just flip. He still has it. This B.S. that he hit a wall? Shoot, they couldn’t get a play in. They were 29th in the league in pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball.”
“That wasn’t his fault,” Payton said of Wilson. “That was the parents who allowed it. That’s not an incrimination on him, but an incrimination on the head coach, the GM (George Paton), the president (Damani Leech) and everybody else who watched it all happen."
“Now, a quarterback having an office and a place to watch film is normal. But all those things get magnified when you’re losing. And that other stuff, I’ve never heard of it. We’re not doing that.”"
Let's dive into some winners of losers of Payton's comments.
Winner: Russell Wilson
Sean Payton said in multiple quotes that last year was not Russell Wilson's fault and that he thinks Wilson still has gas left in the tank. Payton is one of the best offensive coaches of this generation, perhaps one of the best in NFL history. I mean, my goodness, who else would you need to hear these comments from that Wilson's isn't washed up?
Many in Broncos Country immediately called for Wilson to be cut or immediately assigned most of the blame to the veteran QB. However, someone who has won at the highest level in sports is essentially putting his foot down and saying no, that wasn't on Russell Wilson. I think this is huge for Wilson's confidence and for the chances that he bounces back. Payton could have taken a neutral stance on Wilson, but he didn't; he took it a step further and unequivocally defended his QB.
Loser: Nathaniel Hackett
Even though Nathaniel Hackett is no longer with the Denver Broncos, he honestly looks even worse after reading Payton's comments. I'm sure there is some level of mutual respect that NFL coaches have for each other to an extent. It does take endless hours of work to rise to the level of an NFL coach, but Payton painted Hackett almost as a JV coach. Without indirectly saying something like "Nathaniel Hackett was a disaster," he more so indirectly and strongly hinted as much.
Man, good luck to the New York Jets. Hackett seems to be more of a strong personality than an adequate coach in the NFL.
Winner: The current Broncos' roster
Payton's first small quote that I included above states, "I am going to be pissed off if this is not a playoff team." I don't know about you all, but hearing that makes me want to run through a brick wall. That kind of language is simply not common among head coaches when they speak out about their team. Some run-of-the-mill language like "We're putting it good work and are hopeful for the season" is typically what'd you hear in the offseason.
But not from Sean Payton. Payton again put his foot down and clearly established expectations for his football team in 2023. After seven straight years of not making the playoffs, Payton doesn't want to settle for anything less than a playoff appearance. And I think that bodes well for the roster. If the coach is this confident, then that speaks strongly of how good the players and other coaches are that they can turn this team into a playoff one.
Loser: George Paton
Sean Payton directly incriminated George Paton in this interview:
"“That was the parents who allowed it. That’s not an incrimination on him, but an incrimination on the head coach, the GM (George Paton), the president (Damani Leech) and everybody else who watched it all happen.""- Sean Payton
What could make this even worse for Paton, who is in his third year with the team, is that Payton has final roster say and isn't really connected to Paton in any way. It does seem plausible that Sean Payton would prefer to work with someone in the front office that he's worked with before, so I don't think it'll be a shock if the team parts with George Paton at some point.
Right now, their relationship appears to be strong, and I don't think Paton would at all disagree with what his head coach said, but I'm sure that doesn't really help their relationship much at all. Sean Payton is clearly bringing some much-needed change to this organization, and I think it'll yield great results.