Over his career, Sean Payton became one of the league's most highly respected coaches in the NFL. The accolades — a 2006 AP Coach of the Year Award, a Super Bowl XLIV title and seven division titles — speak loudly on their own, but the words of his coaching colleagues and NFL players also speak volumes.
To learn more about why he's held in such esteem, here are comments from around the NFL world on the new Broncos Head Coach:
Broncos QB Russell Wilson: "I've been around Sean, obviously at the Pro Bowl. I've been around him across the league and I've played against them quite a bit. He's one of the world's best, obviously, a guy who has coached a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees, who was one of my closest friends and the guy that got to know across the league and so many other great players.
"He's competitive as can be, he's a winner and obviously won a Super Bowl, and then at the highest level, I was able to be around him at the Pro Bowl and just the wizardry that you would have on the field was just magnificent. It was just spectacular just being around him and just Alvin Kamara, myself, Michael Thomas, just these guys, we were just talking about ball and just how you saw the game. He's competitive as can be and he knows how to push guys at the ultimate level."
Former Saints QB Drew Brees: "When I think about Sean Payton, he was this blend of, like, the exact way that I would want a head coach to be. His influences from Bill Parcells and others certainly brought out some of that old school mentality and that old school toughness and the kind of thing that we needed when he was first building this program back in 2006. But also this blend of, open-door policy.
"At any time, any player could go talk to Sean Payton and he was accessible. And he would tell you the truth. It may not be what you wanted to hear, but he was going to be honest with you and he was also going to give you a road map for success. You may not be in the position that you would want to be at that moment, and yet, he would lay out exactly how you could get to where you wanted to be, and how that would help the team, and how that would help accomplish not only your own personal goals but the goals of the team."
Former Broncos and Saints WR Emmanuel Sanders: "He's one of the best coaches I've ever played for. I've enjoyed just being around him and being around his energy, being around his intellect. When you go into a game and know he's the coach, he's calling the plays, that he's setting it up, it makes you feel good as a player."
Former Saints CB Mike McKenzie: "Sean Payton did such a tremendous job of changing the culture. No one really knew what was going on with us. You hear about all of the stories of what people had to do to get back into their homes and just to get back to the city. Just to think about how much excitement and how much joy we brought and simply being able to play the game, before the game had been won, everybody was there to witness the return of this city to the world.
"We're back. The city is back. The game is back. We're in a new direction. We've got a new coach, a new quarterback. It brought about a newness through the rebuilding. This brought an understanding that it can be done. That whole hope, that belief, that faith, all of that was there."
Former Broncos QB Jake Plummer: "Sean Payton is a phenomenal coach. I love what he's done. I think his track record stands out — he's had success grooming young players, building a staff to coach these kids up.
"I think the organization could really get behind a strong leader, so whomever that candidate is, hopefully they come in with some of those leadership qualities. … I think he'd be a great fit for what they're trying to do here in Denver, and in taking a talent like Russell Wilson and molding the offense around him. It seems like that fits right with what he's always been doing (in New Orleans) for many years."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick: "It's really hard to predict what Sean is going to do. They have a huge playbook, and it's the reason why they have led the league in offense for the last 15 years. Sean is very good at creating situations that put the defense in conflict. They hit fast and you have to be ready for that tempo."
Cowboys owner, president and GM Jerry Jones: "Sean is easy and really pleasant to be around. He does things that really help ball teams, and help motivate players. He's got 'it.' [His] natural, instinctive leadership, or spontaneous type of approach to life, his approach to his team, his approach to his associates is a real asset to him."
Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells: "I just like him. He likes football. Football's important to him. He was a very dedicated guy, he worked very hard, he was trying to get better. He had high aspirations, and you try to help those kind of guys -- I always tried to, anyway. You know, really, there's only a few people that really know. And sometimes a head coach needs somebody to talk to that understands. I had a guy named Al Davis that I could call and talk to. And I had a couple other people as well. And that was very valuable, because I would have made more mistakes than I did make if it hadn't have been for those people."
Former NFL GM Ernie Accorsi: "He's right at the top for me as far as the best coaches, the best people. I loved working with Sean. And I cared about him so much and I knew he had such a future that I did it for him even though it hurt us. Now, when I did it, I wasn't exactly sure where he was going. But I thought his career and life were more important."
Former NFL executive Joe Banner: "A lot of people come in and they're just so afraid of making a mistake or losing their job or all the concerns that coaches naturally have just based on the nature of the business, but he didn't have any of that. He just had a clear, positive vision. You could tell he expected success from himself and he would demand it of others. And he had no fear. He thought he belonged.
"I've had my fair share of interviewing people that haven't worked in the NFL, and you can tell they're a little apprehensive of it being a big step and not really knowing things, but he just had a confidence about him that left you very unconcerned about the lack of prior experience."