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Can Payton follow the footsteps of Kubiak and Fox by making the playoffs in first year as head coach?

In 17 straight NFL seasons, a first year, newly hired head coach has made the postseason.

Denver Broncos Introduce Sean Payton as Head Coach Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Over the last 17 seasons in the NFL, there has been at least one newly hired head coach to make playoffs in their first season. Can Sean Payton make it 18 years in a row?

This offseason there has been five head coaching changes around the league. The Panthers moved on from Matt Rhule and hired Frank Reich, the Texans hired former player DeMeco Ryans to take the place of Lovie Smith, both Eagles coordinators got new gigs as head coaches in Arizona and Indianapolis, and finally the Denver Broncos upgraded from Nathaniel Hackett to Sean Payton.

It seems out of this bunch of new head coaches, Sean Payton is in the best position to keep this trend going. Reich and Ryans are both coaching teams in a rebuild and have rookie quarterbacks, Jacksonville seem to have a stronghold on the AFC South division for years to come after their impressive 2022 season making it difficult for the Colts to make it into the postseason, and the Cardinals simply don’t have the talent to compete with the likes of the 49ers, Rams, and Seahawks in the NFC West.

Although Payton is in a tougher AFC conference and in the same division with the defending champions, I still give Payton the best shot out of all the new hires to make the postseason. Of the last 17 coaches to accomplish this feat, two of which have been coaches for the Broncos. John Fox in 2011-12 finished first in the AFC West with an 8-8 record and was the coach during the memorable Wild Card win against the Steelers in overtime. Fox was fired a few seasons after and in 2015 the Broncos hired Gary Kubiak as the new head coach and we all know how that ended. Let’s see if Payton can keep the streak alive and be the third Broncos coach in the last 18 seasons to make the playoffs as a newly hired head coach.

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