Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton spoke to USA Today’s Jarrett Bell in an incredibly candid interview. The two discussed everything that went on with the team last season, Russell Wilson, and everything they are doing differently than last year.
It is an incredibly candid interview where Payton does not hold back and honestly, speaks the truth and everything us fans have been upset about since last season.
Sean Payton said Russ still has it & destroyed Hackett for what happened in Denver:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) July 27, 2023
"Shoot, they couldn’t get a play in. They were 29th in the league in pre-snap penalties on both sides of the ball."
Denver fans helping by counting down the play clock was flat out embarrassing pic.twitter.com/qOD6PYPulp
Payton started the interview by saying something many of us feel. He said, “I’m going to be pissed off if this is not a playoff team,”. The Denver Broncos have not been in the postseason since their unexpected 2015 postseason and Super Bowl run. Last year was supposed to be the year that all changed, but we just got another disappointment.
Despite being in a division with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert while also competing in the stacked AFC, Payton believes and expects his team to believe in making the playoffs.
“Hey, we are going to be on time,” he said. “We’re going to learn how rewarding it is to play for each other, compete for each other, rather than for ourselves. And I expect us to think playoffs.”
He then set his sights on the Broncos organization and former head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who is now the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets. He told Bell that the Broncos basically embarrassed themselves and put part of the blame on the team, the coaches, and the front office. He says they focused on “winning the offseason” and the pomp and circumstance around it.
“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.
He did not stop there and singled out Hackett’s new team, the New York Jets, as a team that will face the same demise as the Broncos last season. Payton said they are not doing any of that, as we have seen all offseason, and are focusing on “just putting the work in”.
“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.”
Then the interview shifted toward embattled quarterback Russell Wilson. He has been scrutinized by the media, former players, and by many on social media. Payton told Bell: “Man, we ran that kid through the car wash a hundred times now,”. Wilson has been the target of criticism and hate for a few years now. Sometimes, it was warranted a little bit, but most of the time, it was just people piling on a guy for the attention that comes their way when they do it. When asked about how Payton’s marriage to Wilson is going to look like, he echoed his mentor Bill Parcells and said “We’re fixing to find out.”
Then Bell asked Payton the question we have all been asking since last year. He asked, “What happened to Wilson?” and Payton gave yet again, another very candid answer. He did not remove all the blame from Wilson, but fully put it on everyone running that team last year.
“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.”
There is a lot to unpack here. The “20 dirty hands” comment is fairly accurate because it was just not one person at fault here. It all started at the top and trickled on down from there. Payton saying Wilson “Still has it” is wonderful to hear and hopefully true.
The Broncos were a poorly coached team last season and it became evident in week one. As Payton said, they could not get a play in, the crowd was counting down the play clock, 29th in pre-snap penalties, needing to hire a game management coach to assist Hackett, and just many more small things that became more and more evident as the season progressed.
Payton did not stop there in defending his quarterback. Wilson faced criticism when his personal quarterback’s coach Jake Heaps was allowed in the building. That is something you do not see happen much at all and Payton placed the blame on the “parents who allowed it to happen”.
“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, the president and everybody else who watched it all happen.
Payton downplayed Wilson having his own office to watch film and called that normal but said everything else that went on last year, is not happening this year.
“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.”
Not doing what the previous staff did last season will be a gigantic step forward for this team and organization. This is also a big reason why the team hired Sean Payton. They needed an adult in the room who knew how to run a team while also fixing their quarterback, the offense, and the culture inside that locker room. They hired Payton to do that and he plans on doing that. He told Bell: “Everything I heard about last season, we’re doing the opposite”.
To help the team move on, Payton put together a video package to tell the team that last season is done and over with. Bell described the video that included a 2022 Ford Bronco riding off into the sunset, and eventually off a cliff.
During the spring, Payton had a video made that hammered home the point that the 2022 season was over and done with. The video included the image of some team equipment staff members riding off in the orange, 2022 Ford Bronco (with the rearview and side mirrors removed) that had been positioned near the practice field. Also, a scene was edited in from the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” where John Candy’s character drove the wrong way on a freeway. And the video included a shot of a truck driving off a cliff.
Payton told Bell the message behind that video was to tell the team that everybody “has some stink on their hands”. It was not all on quarterback Russell Wilson and the offensive line and probably the most damning quote he said in the entire piece, the coaching staff. Payton said the 2022 Broncos “might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL”.
“That was a message,” Payton said. “They can only beat the (expletive) out of you so much. But everybody’s got a little stink on their hands. It’s not just Russell. It was a (poor) offensive line. It might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL. That’s how bad it was.”
I loved how candid and honest Payton was here while also taking blame off Wilson’s shoulders. He did not remove it completely, but he supported his quarterback, accurately placed blame on everything else, and was just completely honest about how bad the previous regime ran this team.
General Manager George Paton was thrown under the bus a few times here and his status with the team has been up in the air since the team hired Sean Payton. Just yesterday, prior to the start of training camp, the Broncos top leaders of the franchise met with the media. The owner, the team president, and the head coach, but we did not see General Manager George Paton.
At the end of the day, Payton is proving to be the right hire for this team and hopefully, can get this team back on track this upcoming season. His comments also add some intrigue to the Broncos' week five matchup against the New York Jets. We can safely circle that one on the calendar as a game to watch this season