Despite a 5-12 record last season and a seven-year playoff drought, a trend suggests that new Broncos head coach Sean Payton could quickly revitalize the downtrodden franchise.
Denver traded a 2023 first-rounder and a 2024 second-rounder to acquire Payton’s coaching rights. He is the fifth coach who was involved in a deal for a first-round pick since 1970 via NFL Research.
Per NFL Research, three of the four previous coaches who were dealt for a first-rounder led their clubs to a Super Bowl title within their first three seasons — Hall of Famer Don Shula, Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden. Gruden and Shula piloted their teams to the playoffs during their first season.
The coaching credentials of Payton — who has the sixth-most wins (152) among active HCs — indicate he could join this group, helping Denver become a contender. As Saints HC from 2006 to 2021, he guided them to their first Super Bowl victory, won seven division titles and made nine playoff appearances.
Additionally, wide receiver Courtland Sutton noted the team is starting to buy into Payton since he has a detail-oriented approach that improves players’ knowledge.
“Everything [to Payton] is very intricate,” Sutton recently said, per Nick Kosmider of The Athletic. “There’s a rhyme and reason to everything he’s doing. For us to be working on situational football as in-depth as we are during OTAs, it’s amazing. It shows us that he understands and knows what to do when we get in these games.”
The Broncos still face challenges, such as breaking a 15-game losing streak to division rival Kansas City, the defending Super Bowl champions. Also, they must reignite quarterback Russell Wilson, who logged career lows in passing TDs (16) and passer rating (84.4) in 15 games last season.
Nonetheless, Payton led the Saints to the NFC title game during his first season as an HC. Perhaps he will generate similar results in Denver, ending its postseason drought.