Sean Payton might have a list of suitors a mile high.
The Broncos fired Nathaniel Hackett Monday morning, ending his disastrous first season as head coach prematurely, and speculation immediately turned to whether Payton would come out of retirement to coach in Denver.
The first step for Payton, or any head coach who takes the job in Denver, would be to bring quarterback Russell Wilson back to any semblance of himself. It wouldn’t be practical for the Broncos to part ways with Wilson in the next few years; he has $107 million in dead cap next season, $85 million in 2024, $49.6 million in 2025, and what would still be a bitter pill to swallow $31.2 million in 2026.
“I feel like the best chance the Broncos have of finding a quick fix is to give Sean Payton a blank check and hope he can make Russ look bad,” tweeted Barstool Sports’ Dan Katz. in the immediate aftermath of Hackett’s dismissal. “The Waltons could pay him unlimited money.”
The Waltons refer to Rob Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune, who bought the Broncos at a record valuation of $4.65 billion last summer.
Payton, 58, coached the Saints from 2006-21, and his tenure included a Super Bowl victory and 10 winning seasons.
Payton, who is spending the season working as a studio commentator for PKB Sports, seems inclined to return to the sidelines. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Payton has already rounded up a potential staff, including former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio, a noted defensive mind.
But luring Payton to Denver could be tough. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier this month that if Payton had his “druthers,” he would coach in Los Angeles. The Rams’ job would only open up if Sean McVay quit, and the Chargers would likely need a late-season slump for there to be a chance of Brandon Staley losing his job.
Payton will also be forever tied to the Cowboys, if Mike McCarthy doesn’t overcome the hurdle of winning a playoff game or two. The other open jobs, so far, are the Panthers and the Colts.
Any team hoping to sign Payton will have to find some compensation with the Saints, given that when the coach quit his job he was still under contract.