Report: Denver Broncos finalizing trade to hire Sean Payton as head coach

Jan 31, 2023, 2:22 PM | Updated: 2:35 pm
Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts during the first half against the Washingto...
Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints reacts during the first half against the Washington Football Team at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

The Arizona Cardinals are out of the Sean Payton sweepstakes.

After months of speculation, the Denver Broncos are acquiring the former New Orleans Saint as the team’s next head coach, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Schefter adds the Broncos are sending the Saints their 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-rounder in exchange for Payton and New Orleans’ 2024 third-round selection.

Payton returns to the sidelines after stepping down from his role in New Orleans in 2021. He had since been focusing on his broadcasting career as a FOX analyst.

The move didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning, and it picked up notable steam this past season.

With teams like the Cardinals, Broncos, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts in the market for a new leader, Payton’s name was already making the rounds.

For Payton, Arizona was the fourth stop during his head-coaching candidacy. He already interviewed in some capacity with the Texans, Broncos and Panthers before meeting with the Cardinals.

Per reports, Denver appeared to have a leg up on its competition for Payton for a good part of the search, though that didn’t stop Arizona from bringing in the head coach on Thursday.

His head-coaching experience spans more than a decade (2006-11, 2013-21) leading New Orleans. It should be noted that all of those seasons, with the exception of Payton’s final year in 2021, included future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees leading the team.

Taking over a Saints team in 2006 that had won just three games the year prior, Payton and his staff certainly had their work cut out for them in his first crack as an NFL head coach.

The addition of Payton and Brees provided an instant spark for the organization, which rattled off five wins over the first six games of the season to eventually finish 10-6.

On the Saints’ way to their first playoff appearance since 2000 before losing in the NFC Championship to the Chicago Bears, New Orleans led the league in total offense (391.5 yards per game) and passing (281.4).

Despite the quick start to his Saints’ tenure, Payton followed up 2006 with a 7-9 record in 2007 and an 8-8 finish in 2008, missing the playoffs in each of those seasons.

His fourth year in New Orleans was a different story.

With a 13-3 mark and first-round bye in hand, the Saints were a well-oiled machine, knocking off the Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs on their way to a Super Bowl XLIV victory over Peyton Manning and the Colts.

That would mark the height of Payton’s time in New Orleans, which despite posting double-digit win totals in seven of his 11 full seasons post-championship never returned to the Super Bowl. In his 15 seasons as Saints head coach, New Orleans made the playoffs nine times.

But along with the success came strife in the form of Payton’s 2012 suspension for his part in New Orleans’ bounty scandal. After an investigation conducted by the NFL found the team was awarding players for knocking opponents out of games, commissioner Roger Goodell handed down a full-season suspension to Payton. It marked the first time an NFL head coach had been suspended.

Saints general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant coach Joe Vitt (six) were also suspended, and the team was docked two second-round draft picks in addition to a $500,000 fine.

While away from the Saints, Payton helped coach his son’s Pop Warner team before his reinstatement in 2013.

Payton broke into the NFL coaching ranks in 1997 as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach. He stayed in that role for two seasons before taking over as the New York Giants QBs coach in 1999.

He held that position for a year before being promoted to Giants OC. After three seasons, he headed to NFC South-rival Dallas Cowboys as their assistant head coach and QBs coach from 2003-05.

Payton got his coaching start with San Diego State as an offensive assistant from 1988-89 before joining Indiana State and coaching its running backs and wide receivers from 1990-91. He headed back to SDSU as the team’s RBs coach from 1992-93 and was the Miami (Ohio) offensive coordinator the next two seasons.

He coached quarterbacks at Illinois in 1996 before joining the Eagles.

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