Sean Payton once seemed like the clear favorite for the Denver Broncos’ head coach opening. Now that’s starting to change.
Joe Person of The Athletic reported on Monday evening that there’s a “growing belief” in league circles that Payton is not Denver’s top choice (subscription required for link). Other reporters have shared similar sentiments over the last 24 hours.
There also seems to be a growing sentiment that Payton might ultimately decide to stay at Fox for another year.
Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune tweeted on Monday evening that, in his opinion, the longer the hiring process drags out, “the likelihood of Payton staying at Fox increases.”
Are both true? Are the Broncos ready to move on from Payton as a candidate, and is he content to continue working as a TV analyst for another year? Perhaps so. It’s also possible that both sides could be allowing these leaks to get out in an attempt to gain some kind of leverage in negotiations.
Colin Cowherd, one of Payton’s Fox colleagues, said on The Herd on Tuesday that Denver’s ownership and quarterback Russell Wilson want Payton. Cowherd then said that he personally would pass on the job, presumably to stay at Fox for another year. Is that just Cowherd’s opinion, or is he relaying a message he’s heard from Payton himself?
Complicating the matter even more, ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported Tuesday that there’s another team “waiting in the wings” for Payton (via Saints Wire). Depending on who that mystery team is (perhaps the Dallas Cowboys?), Payton might have a new preferred landing spot late in the interview process.
Because Broncos co-owner/CEO Greg Penner has not yet set up any second-round interviews, fans and pundits have been left to speculation. We don’t really know what’s going on with Payton right now. Whether it’s posturing from the two parties or true remains to be seen, but it sounds like Payton and Denver might be drifting away from each other.
We do know that fellow coach candidate DeMeco Ryans would have to wait until next week for a potential second-round interview because his San Francisco 49ers have advanced to the NFC title game.
We also know that Dan Quinn has set up a second-round interview with the Arizona Cardinals, but not with Denver (at the time of this writing).
Meanwhile, former college coach David Shaw, who shares a Stanford connection with the team’s ownership group, remains a darkhorse candidate.
In-house candidates Ejiro Evero and Jerry Rosburg seem to be longshot candidates, as do Raheem Morris and Jim Caldwell. It would be foolish to eliminate any candidate from consideration until the Broncos do, though, and we obviously won’t know who the finalists are until second-round interviews have been scheduled.
Denver does not appear to be in a rush. For now, we continue waiting.