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Sean Payton: Broncos, Russell Wilson expect scrutiny after losing season

New Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton began to put his plans for 2023 on the table over dinner with Russell Wilson.

“There was a group of people at our table, Joe Montana was at our table,” Payton said at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on Tuesday. “Russell was interested in where we’re going. I was looking forward to hearing from Joe Montana. Certainly for Russell’s standards and for Broncos standards, that wasn’t what was expected. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. When our offseason program begins, we’ll get a little bit more involved in how we see these roles developing for coaches, for players.”

Payton said his primary focus since returning to the NFL as a head coach has been on completing his coaching staff. He said Wilson has been in constant contact with former Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who played under Payton in New Orleans for 15 seasons, hoping to pick his brain about offensive philosophy and how to best focus his offseason training.

“Beyond people, every little detail matters. In an obsessive way,” Payton said of his plan to change the culture in Denver. “That has to exist in every other area of the building — equipment room, training room, cafeteria. Pretty soon then, the entire building moves in concert. And that’s pretty cool when that happens. It requires a little bit of unselfishness from all of us. If we’re all moving in one direction, chances are it’ll benefit all of us that are moving.”

Wilson, 34, was traded to the Broncos from the Seahawks after 10 seasons in Seattle. He signed a five-year, $245 million contract but had his worst statistical season.

The ramifications included Denver firing Nathaniel Hackett before the season ended and the Broncos paying a massive salary plus a first-round pick to the Saints to hire the 59-year-old Payton.

Revelations about Wilson having an office on the second floor of the team facility and using his own personal quarterbacks coach received a thumbs down from Payton upon his arrival. He said his comments have been overblown but also serve as a reminder that scrutiny follows losing.

The Broncos went 5-12 and Wilson was 4-11 as the starter with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

“That’s what happens when you lose. Everything gets looked at closely,” Payton said. “And we’ll have a way of doing things. It’ll be what I’m most familiar with and what’s best for the players.”

Payton also acknowledged that Vic Fangio was his first choice as defensive coordinator.

“Vic was supposed to be part of the plan but then you guys (Denver media) scared him away,” Payton said. “Do I think he would have been a great asset for us? Yes.”

Fangio was the head coach of the Broncos from 2019-21 and had a 19-30 record. He was hired as the defensive coordinator with the Miami Dolphins.

“I think this (Denver) was a little unique because it wasn’t too long ago he was here,” Payton went on. “But certainly I tried. I talked to him. Tried to twist his arm. And I’m excited for his opportunity in Miami.’

Payton ended up hiring another former Denver head coach, Vance Joseph, as the defensive coordinator. Joseph coached the Broncos in the two seasons preceding Fangio’s arrival and had an 11-21 record.

Most recently the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, Joseph beat out former NFL head coaches Rex Ryan and Matt Patricia for the job. Payton said Tuesday he “wouldn’t rule out” adding Patricia to the staff in some capacity, adding that he plans to talk to the longtime Patriots assistant this week in Indianapolis.

–Field Level Media

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines during Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Feb 12, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, US; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines during Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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