For the second time this century, a major culture change is underway within the Broncos' organization. Like Peyton Manning over a decade earlier, Sean Payton arrives in Denver with the hope of helping the Broncos return to their championship-winning ways.
The 20th head coach in Broncos history, Payton's goal is to become the third Denver coach to lead the franchise to a Super Bowl win. To do that, Payton intends to lay down a firmer, tougher culture that will undoubtedly weed out the players who won't fit into that culture.
"There is an element of discipline," Payton said, via ESPN's Jeff Legwold. "There is an element of toughness, and look, it's not for everyone."
Payton's resume suggests that he knows a thing or two about building a championship culture. In 2006, he took over a perennially bad Saints team and immediately took them to an NFC title game. Payton did so after convincing then-free agent quarterback Drew Brees to come to New Orleans instead of Miami, who was also courting him.
Payton and Brees made history by helping bring the first Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans at the end of the 2009 season. They became one of the most prolific and successful coach-quarterback duos league history during their decade and a half run with the Saints.
When asked about his new quarterback, veteran Russell Wilson, Payton was encouraged by how Wilson ended his first season in Denver. Payton said that Wilson's six touchdowns during the season's final two games is "a little more of what we were expecting, what we'd become accustomed to."
While Payton feels that there is still good football left in Wilson, he did allude to changes regarding Wilson's day-to-day operation within the team facility. Payton shut down the notion of Wilson -- or any player -- working with coaches and other coaches/trainers that are not affiliated with the team's staff.
"I'm not too familiar with that," Payton said. "That's foreign to me. That's not going to take place ... Our staff will be here, our players will be here and that will be it."
Wilson probably liked what Payton said regarding the future of the offense a little bit more. Instead of being married to a particular system, Payton wants Wilson to have the opportunity to try to do the things that helped make him a perennial Pro Bowl player during his run with Seattle. That likely means matching the personnel and offensive scheme to fit the strengths and weaknesses of the quarterback.
"None of us want to be at a karaoke bar with a song we don't know the words to," Payton said regarding Wilson and the offense.
While it may not have been intended to be a dig at Nathaniel Hackett, Payton's comments regarding in-game clock management has already begun making the rounds on social media as a perceived jab at the man Payton is replacing. Payton was specifically asked about what he has learned over the years regarding the handling of clock management, which was one area of the job that Hackett notoriously struggled with.
"I don't anticipate the crowd having to count down the 30-second clock," Payton said.
Payton, who signed a five-year deal with the Broncos, said that feelings of being burnt out, the COVID-19 pandemic and health were among the main reasons why he took a year off from coaching. Now that he's back in coaching, Payton said that he can see himself mimicking his old mentor Bill Parcells as someone who built a legacy with multiple franchises.
Speaking of legacy, Payton is aspiring to do something that Parcells came close to but was unable to achieve during his Hall of Fame career.
"No coach has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams," he said, via Mike Klis of 9News. "Here we are in 2023; it's never happened. A few coaches have gone to Super Bowls with two teams ... but no one has won a Super Bowl with two different teams. I like those kind of things."
If that happens, Payton will close the bridge between the Broncos' last championship era, an era that was led Manning, the first starting quarterback to lead multiple teams to Super Bowl glory.