The whole momentum in the search for the Denver Broncos head coach appears to have been abruptly halted when Sean Payton – the most desirable candidate on the market – sidelined the team amid interest from other contenders in the 11th hour.
The Arizona Cardinals are in against Payton. Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper is undeterred. And suddenly, after conflicting reports that Payton has scheduled a second interview with the Broncos, CEO Greg Penner doesn’t feel like the arrow is going in that direction anymore.
Penner might feel powerless in this situation, despite his many billions of dollars and co-ownership of one of the most famous franchises in NFL history, if what FOX Sports radio host Colin Cowherd reported Tuesday is true. During a segment on The Herd, Cowherd reported that the Broncos have already decided Payton is their man, and so has the $245 million quarterback at Mile High City.
“I’ve been told the Broncos have made a decision,” Cowherd said. “They want Sean Payton. Russell Wilson has told the Broncos owners he wants Sean Payton.”
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If the NFL’s wealthiest owners have reportedly already chosen Payton, why hasn’t a hiring been announced? Cowherd said Denver could offer Payton more than $25 million a year, which would reshape the head coaching market and make it the highest-paid ever.
According to Cowherd, Payton seems unsure about the Broncos. Payton, in particular, is hesitant about working with Wilson.
See the Cowherd clip above for more context, but the cliff notes version goes something like this: All of a sudden, Wilson may be washed up, as an anonymous NFL executive recently told The Athletic, and that possibility, combined with the need having to compete with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert twice a year in the division and a general lack of draft capital (particularly after a trade with the New Orleans Saints to acquire his rights) could see Payton pulling his feet.
However, it does not pass the smell test. It was Cowherd who, after speaking directly with Payton, reported how impressed the former Saints head coach was with the Broncos’ new ownership group, particularly majority owner Rob Walton. It was Cowherd who reported just last week that not only is Wilson not the responsibility anonymous executives say he is, but that Payton would love to coach the veteran quarterback.
Now, however, Cowherd sings a different tune. All of the pros Cowherd spoke of last week in connection with the Broncos and Payton vacancies have suddenly turned to the cons.
No lie, Cowherd spoke out last week that Denver would be the best possible choice for a coach of Payton’s caliber because of his twice-yearly high-profile matchups with Mahomes and Herbert and how similar it would be to taking a job in Carolina or anywhere else to do an NFL disappearance act. Suddenly, Cowherd’s entire game was reversed as if we were living upside down.
The only reason I could see that changing, considering both Cowherd and Payton get their paychecks from FOX Sports, is that the radio host suddenly heard that from the man himself. What does that mean?
Either Payton got really cold feet with the Broncos, or – and that’s a big, glaring probability – he’s using his media connections and platform to leverage the Walton/Bum group to ensure he gets that whopping $25 million gets per year.
As of this writing, the Broncos have yet to officially schedule a second interview with Payton or any of the candidates interviewed in the first round of these sessions. We’ll see how Penner handles being played by Payton in the media and how badly he wants to close this deal.
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