Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts after a no-call between Tommylee Lewis #11 of the New Orleans Saints and Nickell Robey-Coleman #23 of the Los Angeles Rams
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The Denver Broncos Go All In on Sean Payton, And It Might Be Their Worst Move Yet

The Denver Broncos have officially agreed to terms with the New Orleans Saints for the "rights" to Sean Payton, which basically means the Saints traded Sean Payton to the Broncos. A coach who hasn't coached in over a year, he certainly didn't cost an arm and a leg, right? WRONG. The "Sean Payton Denver Broncos" are already up against it, and there's no signs of things getting easier anytime soon. 

What Does Sean Payton Bring to Denver? A Winning Record

Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints celebrates after defeating the Indianapolis Colts during Super Bowl XLIV

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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Now, Payton is more than "a coach." He's a former Super Bowl-winning coach, as well as the 2006 AP Coach of the Year. That said, the Denver Broncos might be making a massive mistake in bringing him in to be their next head coach. And it's not because of who Payton is or because of his coaching. It's because they sent just about every resource they had left into getting Payton, when they're probably not a head coach away from being an elite team in the AFC.

While the stats overall don't show it, the AFC is arguably a more dominant conference than the NFC. If you were to exclude the NFC East from the NFC, there wouldn't have been a division with a winning record: 

  • NFC East: 37-30
  • NFC West: 31-37
  • NFC North: 33-35
  • NFC South: 29-39

Now, looking at the AFC, there was only one division with a losing record: 

  • AFC East: 37-30
  • AFC West: 35-33
  • AFC North: 38-29;
  • AFC South: 23-43

There's not much reason to believe Payton took this job for reasons other than money because, looking at it, the Broncos are in a really tough spot. 

They're in the same division as Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and potentially Aaron Rodgers/Lamar Jackson/a rookie quarterback. The Raiders still have some things to figure out. But at the end of the day, it's one of the best divisions in football, let alone the AFC. 

Between Payton and quarterback Russell Wilson, the Broncos have allocated a lot of resources. Whether it be money or draft picks, neither was cheap. And because of that, it could go down as a monumental mistake for the Broncos. 

Sure, it could work out, because Payton is a good coach. That said, is it worth emptying the already-empty tank for him?

It's clearly too early to tell, but if Wilson and the Broncos' offense have the same struggles they did last season, the Broncos will really wish they had their draft picks and millions of dollars back. Between the two, it's cost the Broncos three first-round picks and three second-round picks, plus additional assets. 

Paying a Ton for Sean Payton

Sean Payton looks on in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings at Mercedes Benz Superdome on January 05, 2020.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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On top of that, Wilson signed a five-year contract with the Broncos worth up to about $242 million. The contract includes a $50 million signing bonus, with $161 million guaranteed. That cracks out to an average annual salary of a little above $48 million. 

That's not all, folks. It's being reported that Payton is looking for a contract worth between $18 million and $21 million per season for five years. To put that in perspective, the Rams' Sean McVay was the highest paid coach last year, making between $15 million and $18 million. 

So, with the Broncos really selling their souls here for a quarterback who ranked 13th in passing yards and 19th in passing TDs along with a 5-12 record, losing even more picks for a coach who hasn't coached in over a season seems like an unnecessary risk. The rewards could be immaculate, but it's a move that seems irresponsible for a team that seems to need a bit more than what it has now to be a competitive in the league. 

Nathaniel Hackett wasn't a good coach by any means, and his coaching surely didn't help the Broncos win games, but his ineptitude wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back. Wilson didn't play well, Javonte Williams went down with an ACL tear, their receivers were in and out of injuries, they traded away their best pass rusher in Bradley Chubb, and — again — they're in one of the most talented divisions in football.

One of the biggest issues now is that they have to immediately be competitive — otherwise, their future looks incredibly bleak. 

The Broncos' 2023 draft picks are as follows: 

  • Round 3, Pick 68 (from Indianapolis)
  • Round 3, Pick 69
  • Round 4, Pick 108
  • Round 5, Pick 140
  • Round 6, Pick 194 (from Pittsburgh)
  • Round 7, Pick 247 (from Minnesota)

So, instead of having the 29th overall pick this draft — as well as the second-round pick they sent to New Orleans — they have a coach who needs to be paid a hefty chunk of change with a roster that could really use first-round talent. 

All in all, it comes across like a Hail Mary thrown at their own 10-yard line while down 21 points with 30 seconds remaining. It could spark a major comeback for the Denver Broncos, but the odds are incredibly unlikely.

MORE: The Failure of Nathaniel Hackett and the 2022 Denver Broncos