You know what they call an NFL general manager who trades away two first-round picks for an old Russell Wilson and then another two first-rounders for an old Sean Payton?
The Broncos need Payton. They need his resume. His gravitas. His offense. His culture. His high floor. His Super Bowl ceiling.
You know what they don’t need? Another fleecing by an NFC front office that smells desperation from 64 yards away.
They sure as heck don’t need the price tag reported early Wednesday evening by longtime Saints insider Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com.
In his latest column, Duncan refutes the ray of hope Payton shoveled at FOX Sports’ Colin Cowherd this past Monday, noting that New Orleans GM Mickey Loomis is after “compensation similar to what the Oakland Raiders received from Tampa Bay in exchange for Jon Gruden in ’02, with two first-round picks being the starting point.”
Dan Quinn, come on down!
Look, it’s all posturing, right? Payton wants the softest landing zone and another run at a ring. Loomis and the Saints, who probably cringe every time Payton talks about himself on camera, are out for leverage and blood. Not necessarily in that order.
With Jim Harbaugh — the next NFL team that gets a call from Captain Khakis should just let it go straight to voicemail — pulling another Harbaugh, most eyes in Broncos Country this week turned to Payton, who reportedly interviewed with Denver ownership on Tuesday in Los Angeles.
The timing of which became even more intriguing after the coach-turned-FOX analyst told Cowherd on MLK Day that the asking price for his coaching rights, which are owned by the Saints through 2024, was “a mid-to-late first-round pick.”
That’s it? Hey, the Broncos have one of those! A very late one for the 2023 draft in pick No. 29, all thanks to the Bradley Chubb trade.
A package to New Orleans that features the 29th pick in ’23; plus a Day 2 pick or multiple Day 3 picks in ’24 or ’25; along with a blank check in compensation? For new Broncos CEO Greg Penner, that’s a no-brainer.
If it’s the choice between a late first-rounder or an elite coach, there isn’t one. Yes, the Broncos (again) need a right tackle. Probably a left one, too, now that you mention it. Although neither one is automatically a sure thing with pick No. 29, where the last 10 selections in that slot have turned into a very mixed, very weird, sort of bag.
For every Cole Strange (No. 29 to New England in ’22) and Eric Stokes (No. 29 to Green Bay in ’21), there’s an Isaiah Wilson (No. 29 to Tennessee in ’20), a Georgia product who was supposed to solve right tackle in Nashville for a decade. Instead, the big guy got suspended, traded to Miami, cut by Miami, then put out a hip-hop EP under the stage name “GGBowser.”
Since 2013, the No. 29 pick in the draft’s averaged just 4.2 starts per season. If this was simply a binary choice at UCHealth Training Center between that pick or Payton, given where this franchise needs to be, and hasn’t been for a very, very long time, the coach seems like the safer bet.
Payton’s got more than his share of rough edges, granted. But he’s a lot more than Drew Brees’ coaching caddy.
From 2018-21, Payton posted a 5-1 regular-season mark with Teddy Bridgewater as his starting QB. He went 7-2 with Taysom Hill behind center. He was 5-2 with Jameis Winston.
Overall, he put up a 17-12 record with the Saints with someone other than Brees as his starter — a rate of 58.6%, or the equivalent of a 10-7 record. At some point, it’s the system, too.
Jim Caldwell would offer a similar upgrade over Nathaniel Hackett’s buffoonery, although that last one’s an awfully low bar to clear. Quinn’s got that kind of grown-up, Rosburgian vibe a dysfunctional, undisciplined locker room needs. But his presence also makes young star Ejiro Evero redundant, while much of his success would depend on his offensive coordinator — just as it was under Vic Fangio, who let Pencil Pat Shurmur happily grind Drew Lock to mush.
With Payton, that offense is spoken for, which is why he’s so hard to pass up. But to cough up two first-rounders after the trick Seattle just pulled in the Wilson deal would be sheer lunacy on Penner’s part.
And career suicide for Broncos GM George Paton, whose honeymoon with Broncos Country is already over after trading away Von Miller and Chubb while foisting the nightmare tag-team of Wilson and Hackett upon a fan base that’s suffered enough already.
If Payton wants a bite of the Broncos’ new NFL money, it’s on him to get the Saints to budge off that second first-rounder. Because the more Loomis talks, at this point, the richer Quinn gets.