There is a strong culture shift happening with the Denver Broncos and they haven’t even begun working out together yet. New head coach Sean Payton has taken a firm grip of the reins and is shaping the roster to fit his vision of what a successful football team should look like. And its a far cry from the failed vision Nathaniel Hackett attempted to implement last season.
During free agency, Payton put a focus on picking up former New Orleans Saints players that he evaluated and signed during his final seasons there. However that wasn’t his main focus and he made sure to point that out last week when asked about those former Saints the team signed.
“Let’s talk about the former Saints players,” Payton said. “Those are guys that I have a vision for. They’re easy reads and guys that were available. If you want to pay closer attention to the culture, you’re looking at [Samaje] Perine or you are looking at Zach [Allen] or you are looking at [Mike] McGlinchey or [Ben] Powers. They are smart, tough guys that we feel like are good football players. We will continue to fill out the roster, right now. We’re in our early 70s (number of players on the roster). We don’t have enough draft picks. We’re going to sign, obviously, players after the draft like every team does and we’ll get to 90. The key is to get to the best 90 right now for us. When we’re talking about a player, do we have the right vision for what we see this player being?”
That culture is clearly on high character guys, but more importantly, the signings pointed towards a strong shift away from the passing game and towards a strong rushing attack. That alone will completely change what we see from this offense and considering what we saw last season, that should be a good thing.
None of this would be possible without a strong ownership. I think we can all agree that if Joe Ellis were still around signing the checks there would be no Sean Payton and no hope for a brighter future. The Walton-Penner ownership group has made all the difference in 2023 and Payton made sure to point that out too.
“I think it was important,” Payton said of ownership support. “I said this throughout the process of finding the right job. You’re looking closely at the obstacles within each organization. I felt like Greg [Penner], Carrie [Walton Penner] and the Walton-Penner ownership group—this was unique. I met with them first. I would say it was really productive. The one thing we couldn’t control, obviously, was the compensation relative to the trade. Ultimately, the most important thing for me was finding an ownership group that is committed to winning and having a first-class organization. I know I found it.”
Each of those comments speaks volumes to the massive shift happening in Denver on the “team culture” side of the equation.
Having covered this franchise for 15 years, you can kind of see that - whether people or players admit it - there has developed an expectation of losing once the losing begins. That has to shift towards a mentality of bouncing back and/or an expectation to win those games.
I do this every year, but I’m becoming excited to see this play out in 2023. I was excited about Nathaniel Hackett and Vic Fangio before him. My track record of offseason excitement is as predictable as the outcome of Broncos’ games the last half decade: early hope, followed by disappointment.
Here’s this season being different!