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'One of the best head coaches we've seen': NBC Sports' Chris Simms details what HC Sean Payton can bring to Broncos, Denver's biggest offseason need

NBC Sports' Chris Simms' playing days are over, but the former quarterback remains dialed in to the NFL. His quarterback rankings are a must-read each year, and he was on Radio Row in Indianapolis to discuss the latest happenings in the league. As Denver inches closer to the offseason program, caught up with Simms to get his insight on one of his former teams.

In the midst of the 2023 NFL Combine, Simms shared his thoughts on new Broncos Head Coach Sean Payton, what he expects from Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph, the team's biggest offseason need and more.

Aric DiLalla: What stands out about Sean Payton joining the Broncos?

Chris Simms: "Sean Payton, for my money, is of course one of the best head coaches we've seen in football in the last 20 years, let alone — without a doubt — one of the best offensive minds we've seen in football the last 20 years, maybe ever. He's up in that discussion as an all-time great mind. Let alone, it's not just stats and throwing the football. I think [people] sometimes see that and they just think, 'Oh, it's Drew Brees and they're going to throw it everywhere.' No way. They're one of the most physical football teams you could see the last decade in the New Orleans Saints. They've got big people stopping the run, that huge offensive line they had there. I'm really excited. I think it's a match made in heaven, and I really think he's the perfect guy for not only the Broncos, but Russell Wilson, too."

AD: For Russell, what can Sean Payton do to help him?

CS: "I think the big thing is — … and this gets lost in the shuffle with great athletes and players sometimes — is kind of rebuilding the confidence. You've got to start there. Superstar athletes are not different than [people] like you and me, where they can get down on themselves. Part of the reason a lot of them are very good [is] because they're very self-critical. So then you get piled on by everybody else and you start to doubt yourself a little. I think he's got to kind of rebuild the machine of him and show him some old highlights of himself. 'Look, you used to do this. Hey, you're Drew Brees in this offense. Look what he did. You can do that.' And he'll start to sell his plays and his system and his thought process and rebuild him that way, let alone [that] I think he'll find the right mix of what Russ does and build around that and also not put too much on his shoulders and realize it's a team game and there's a lot of other ways we can attack defenses. It doesn't always have to be, you, Russell, making a magical football play."

AD: How likely is it that Russell gets back to playing near what we've seen from him for a long time?

CS: "I would be shocked if we're sitting here next year going — you're coming here to talk to me — and we're going, 'Man, Russ had another rough year. What's wrong?' I really would be. One, knowing the character of Russell Wilson, the man — he doesn't back down from anything. He's going to attack it and work. I think that's the first thing, and then we've seen him be really great before. It's there. It's in him. He's getting up there in age a little bit, but not at a point where you're concerned or he goes, 'Oh, he's going to have to be a totally different football player.' With that group of receivers, the running back. I keep telling everybody, I would be shocked if the first big free agent signing [isn't] some big offensive lineman. Sean Payton, [who is] from the Bill Parcells school of coaching and New Orleans, I think he'll go there. I've got too much faith in Russell Wilson."

AD: What are your thoughts on the rest of the staff so far? Vance Joseph is back to lead the defense, and there's a lot of experience at other positions.

CS: "I'm a huge Vance Joseph fan. Vance Joseph, to me, is one of the better outside-the-box thinkers on the defensive side of the ball in all of football. He's game-plan specific. That's what I love about Vance Joseph. You can't go, 'Well, oh, we're going to get this and this all the time.' He's going to change things up, give little curveballs, give a team some looks that they weren't prepared for that he's come up with just for that specific team you play that week. Always been a big fan of him. It's ironic that he's back there in a place that fired him, but it's also cool. That's a pretty damn good combo there with Sean Payton and Vance Joseph."

AD: I believe you've spoken highly of Pat Surtain II over the past year. Can he get himself into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation?

CS: "Definitely. I liked him coming out of the draft a lot. He actually I think was my No. 2 corner that year, but still, amazing. And then you just go, the total package, yeah, he's got it. You talk about size, man-to-man on an island. He does tackle; this is not some pretty-boy corner who's afraid to mix it up or anything like that. Sky's the limit for that guy. You've got a piece there that isn't a lot different than what Sean had with a Marshon Lattimore in New Orleans. I think that's where Vance is going to really like him. You can do things with a guy like that and go, 'Hey, you cover him man to man and now we can play some crazy zone over here to the other three receivers.' It gives you great flexibility within your defense. I'm a big Pat Surtain fan."

AD: As you look ahead, what's the biggest need for Denver and the biggest thing to figure out over the coming months that's not quarterback related?

CS: "I think it's the O-line. I think that's probably the thing. We know that the defense is damn good. There's a lot of talent there. I think it is the O-line. I think that was maybe part of Russ' struggles last year of just going, 'Wait, am I protected? I don't know if I have enough time here.' Their run game was not a run game where you could just go steamroll people and it doesn't matter. I think that's probably the thing I would look at. I think the team and probably why it appealed to Sean Payton so much, is he probably looked at it and went, 'Man, there's some pieces here to play with, and I think we can get back on the right track in a hurry.'"

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