With the 2022 Denver Broncos season all but done, sitting on a paltry 3-9 record, it’s likely safe to assume the majority of Broncos Country is looking past this snore of a team and instead looking towards next season.
A season that began with a level of hope and optimism not experienced since one Peyton Manning signed with the team, it soon became clear that all the hype and excitement being sold was a brutal mirage directed at a fan base dying of thirst.
Now, with the product on the field being as reliable as a drunk on a ladder hanging Christmas lights, all attention has turned to what needs to change. The move to be made that seems near unanimous is that rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett will undoubtedly have to be let go. He’s been a disaster since week 1, or perhaps even sooner if one counts the decision to not play starters in the preseason.
But what about the man who picked Hackett over names like Dan Quinn, who once again has the Dallas Cowboys defense humming, and Kevin O’Connell, who has the Minnesota Vikings at 10-2? Instead, general manager opted to go with Hackett, likely in hopes that he would be the key to bringing in Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers, of course, returned to the Green Bay Packers, while Paton traded a pair of first round and second round picks for Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. He then, in a move comprised of significant risk, almost immediately extended his new QB with a $245 million contract before he ever saw him take a snap.
Well, the world has seen him take the snaps now, and that, along with Hackett’s game management, may have Paton in hot water, per the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora.
Denver Broncos General Manager George Paton’s job security remains a topic of speculation as well. The Russell Wilson trade (and signing) has been a total flop, the hiring of rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett seemed doomed from the onset — and all of that was done before a new ownership group came in. The Waltons have unlimited resources, so eating the contracts for a coach and GM might not seem all that cost-prohibitive to them. There is a mounting consensus that Hackett will not return — “They can’t sell that to their fans in 2023,” one general manager said — and three executives I spoke to believe front-office changes are more probable than not in Denver.
Paton has given the Broncos some notable roster upgrades in names like Pat Surtain II, Quinn Meinerz, Greg Dulcich, and others, but he also passed on QB Justin Fields, who is looking like a rising star at the position. He couldn’t package Hackett with Rodgers. And he made the decision to not only trade for Wilson, but handcuff the team to him financially for several years.
Unlike La Canfora, though, noted NFL insider Adam Schefter believes both Paton and Russell Wilson to be safe and a part of the franchise next season. While that may potentially be a wet blanket for the fan base, he followed it up with a topic of discussion that may as well be a wet...never mind.
Schefter was on with Schlereth and Evans on Thursday discussing the future of the Broncos, and while he maintained that Paton’s job security was intact, another name, a similar name with a Y as the third letter, came up.
Former New Orleans Saint and Super Bowl winning coach Sean Payton’s name was brought up as a fit for the Broncos should the team move on from Hackett, and Schefter didn’t exactly shoot the notion down.
“I don’t think that Denver will be the only option for him. And that’s where it gets interesting because whoever goes and gets Sean Payton is going to have to compensate the Saints with a pick or two. And compensate Sean Payton at a very high number, whatever that is,” Schefter said. “Now, I don’t think the Broncos ownership really cares about the compensation for Sean Payton. I don’t think that’s much of an issue here. That’s where Broncos fans are going to be very happy because I think this group is dedicated to doing whatever it has to do to get the best people, cost be damned.”
Now, before anyone gets too married to this idea, remember that the Saints still have control of Payton, and there are other elements at play.
There’s no doubt the Walton-Penner ownership group will open their checkbook as wide as possible for a guy like Payton, but the Saints would definitely want more in return. Is the Broncos’ late first-round pick sufficient enough? Would it take another #1 pick? And would Payton, after what has gone on this season, really want to tie himself to Russell Wilson?
Money talks, as they say, but Payton is going to have options, and money won’t be much of an issue. He’ll want to go where he can win. Can the Broncos really offer that if they are tied to Wilson?
Either way, if any portion of either reports are true, it sounds like there is bound to be some significant movement in the offseason. Yet, as the fan base has seen this past offseason, it’s best not to get too excited about anything until it takes the field week 1.
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