As the Denver Broncos continue their search for their next head coach, there seems to be a clear favorite in the clubhouse on who they’ll hire.
The Broncos’ hiring committee consisting of CEO and owner Greg Penner, general manager George Paton, and minority owner Condoleezza Rice have completed four interviews. The leading candidate seems to be former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
“The Broncos appear to be the front-runner for Sean Payton, at least in the early stages of the process. Payton likes the franchise’s stable ownership and would be happy to work with Russell Wilson,” said Maske.
There’s also been speculation that Payton could be waiting on the Dallas Cowboys’ head coaching position if it opens up, but head coach Mike McCarthy has Dallas in the playoffs and won 12 games this season.
“It will be interesting if the Cowboys end up moving on from Mike McCarthy and enter the bidding for Sean Payton. They clearly would be a contender. But even if that occurs, it’s possible that Payton would opt for the Broncos.”
Broncos Have Already Spoken to Sean Payton
The first head coaching candidate that Denver has spoken to was the former Saints head coach, but they were also the first team to reach out to him.
Payton confirmed the rumors on January 8, saying he’s already spoken to Broncos ownership.
“Denver’s the first team, and I was able to have a conversation with their owner and that’s kind of the protocol,” Payton said on FOX. “So, it’ll go team to Saints and then the interview process can’t officially begin until the 17th of this month, so that’s really where it’s at.”
The Broncos requested and were granted permission from the Saints to interview Payton and Denver will interview him on Tuesday, January 17th, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.
If Payton agrees that he wants to become the next head coach of the Broncos, Denver will then have to negotiate a trade with the Saints because they still own Payton’s rights.
“The two sides appear to be on the same page about potential trade compensation,” NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on January 7.
Rapoport also reported, “The Saints want a first-round pick and more. Denver knows this. And is still in the game.”
Denver’s Owners Will Be Aggressive in Coaching Search
After the Broncos fired head coach Nathaniel Hackett, Penner said, “I’ll lead a thorough process with input from our other owners and from George [Paton], who I have confidence in as our general manager. This will be a crucial offseason for us across our football operations; that’s coaching, personnel and support staff. We’ve got to get this right.”
Penner also mentioned that the Broncos need a leader for the organization.
“I’ve worked with a lot of great CEOs, and it starts with really strong leadership. I think that’s going to be the most critical factor here in a head coach. Obviously, the Xs and Os are important, but we need a strong leader for this organization that’s focused on winning. That starts with culture, it’s instilling a sense of accountability, discipline, and we need an identity on offense. At the starting point, it’s got to be about culture and leadership, and those characteristics are what we’ve focused on the most.”
On January 1, Schefter also reported that the Broncos’ ownership group is expected to be “Ultra-aggressive” in doing whatever they need to do to land the candidate that they want the most.
“The Walton-Penner group paid a record price of $4.65 billion for the Broncos last offseason and is expected to use that same energy and determination to land a new coach,” said Schefter.