ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As new Head Coach Sean Payton begins his Broncos tenure, the focus will be on restoring a historic franchise to its previous heights.
And as Payton looks to help the Broncos return to their winning ways, there is no detail too small to matter.
"If we're maniacal with the details on the field, then we have to be that way in every other element," Payton said Monday at his introductory press conference.
From the size of rally towels at a home playoff game to the way a winning team handles success, Payton demonstrated that his fascination with the details will be far reaching in Denver.
"The training room, the weight room, how we approach ticket sales — everything matters," Payton said. "You can't just say it's only this that's important, right? Everything matters. How we traveled. How we celebrated in the locker room. We bought a $30,000 stereo system [for] 'Club Dub.' And we felt it was important, especially on the road, that everyone that could possibly hear our locker room celebrating, like, 'What is going on in there?' That is creating culture, with the right people [and] with the right details."
Broncos Owner and CEO Greg Penner said Payton's attention to detail was a major component in the Broncos' decision to hire him as their 20th head coach in franchise history.
"That level of attention to detail is what makes for winning organizations," Penner said. "He's going to bring that energy and passion to every part of our building."
Even on Monday, months before the Broncos will play their first game under Payton, his small focus was on display. He confirmed that the orange tie he wore on FOX's Jan. 29 pregame show was a nod to the Broncos, and he noted that his pocket square and Broncos lapel pin were tilted upward on Monday to reflect his hopes for the Broncos' trajectory.
For a team seeking increased accountability and discipline, the increased focus on the details is surely a welcome addition — and it was just one of the several takeaways from Payton's introductory press conference.
MISSING THE GAME
Payton spent the 2022 season as a FOX NFL analyst, but while he spoke fondly of the experience, he also made it clear that he missed the highs that come with leading a football team.
"It's hard to replace that when you're removed from it," Payton said. "So for a year there working with FOX, I couldn't wait for Sundays. That was my football fix. That was the day I at least got to get a little bit of what I'd been missing. My clothes I'd lay out the night before. I'd be the first one in. I'd wear them out [with] questions."
Even a perfect day of game predictions, though, didn't compare to the joy of winning a game.
"You drive home and there's nothing that replaced the feeling of winning," Payton said. "It just didn't. And so off in the distance — I used this analogy — it was a little bit like that race track that you could smell the gasoline, you heard the cars running, you could see the lights. You knew you were there. and you know what there's like. It's hectic, it's loud, it's busy, it's noisy, it's not always fun. There's challenging times. There's losses, there's wins. But every day you'd look and you'd hear it, and you're thinking, 'Man, I can't wait to get back.'"
More than a decade after winning a Lombardi Trophy, Payton said he still feels the same urge to capture a world championship.
"Definitely," he said. "That addiction is powerful."
A DIVISION CHALLENGE
The Broncos' new coach undoubtedly endeared himself to the team's fan base when he predicted the Eagles would win a Super Bowl LVII matchup against the Chiefs.
"We never want anyone in our division to win anything, right?" Payton said. "A perfect weekend for a Bronco fan is we get a win and the other three lose."
Payton acknowledged the quality of the AFC West, but he also said his focus is turned toward the Broncos.
I spend more time looking inward toward the team rather than outward to the opponents," Payton said. "When I went to New Orleans, Tampa was the team we had to knock off because [Jon] Gruden was there. They had just won a Super Bowl two years prior. They had a great defense. Look, there's certainly a respect level for the opponents in our division."
In his first media availability, though, Payton made it clear he understands the significance of the division rivalries to the organization and fan base.
WORKING WITH WILSON
One of Payton's most-pressing tasks will be to help Russell Wilson return to the level of play that he's demonstrated for much of his career. Payton said he saw glimpses of that play during the final two weeks of the season — Wilson posted six total touchdowns and threw three touchdowns in a Week 18 win — but he noted that his approach for Wilson won't be all that different than it would be for another player.
"Look, there's a couple positions, quarterback's certainly one of them in our league, that gets scrutinized very well," Payton said. "Obviously it wasn't the type of season he had wanted to have. I do feel like the last couple weeks, we saw a little bit more of maybe what we were expecting or accustomed to — and I say we, you all — when you signed him. I think the number one job for us as coaches is in evaluating our players, what are the things that they do really well and then let's try to put them in those positions. At least that's the starting point, and I think that's important to highlight their strengths. Then minimize maybe any weaknesses. Here's what I know. I know he's a hard worker. I know he's an extremely hard worker. That's important. I think you take that, you understand the skill set. He's won a lot of games in Seattle. We played him quite a bit, just because we were both playoff teams in the NFC at that time. And then you go from there. I think that's the same case — although it's a much more visible position — it's the same case and the same goal for us with every player on this roster. What do they do well? It's easy to point out what players don't do well, and there's certain coaches that tend to look at it that way. I kind of was taught early on, 'Hey what is it they do well? And let's have them do those things.' I don't like singing, period, but none of us want to be at a karaoke bar with a song we don't know the words to. So how do we get them comfortable and highlight their strengths?"
Payton said that process will begin immediately — and it will be a deciding factor in how his first season in Denver plays out.