ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — New Broncos Head Coach Sean Payton isn't big on predictions.
During his introductory press conference on Monday, he didn't promise Broncos Country that the team would make the playoffs in 2023 or be fighting for a Super Bowl bid the following season.
He didn't offer up a win total or project the Broncos' scoring average.
Payton, though, did offer Broncos fans some insight on how the team could look different in his first season as the team's head coach.
"I think it's realistic for our fan base to expect a completely different type of culture," Payton said. "It's realistic for them to expect us to win. Now, to what degree? I remember the '06 team [in New Orleans], and we finished the preseason — we had to play all of our preseason games on the road, I think, because the Superdome wasn't ready. And then we had to open on the road for two weeks. After the second or third preseason game, we'd gotten beaten pretty bad by Dallas. I came into the locker room and I sat down with [Saints GM] Mickey [Loomis] and I said, 'We're not going to win a game with this team.' And we ended up winning a lot of games.
"I know this: The work has started. I kind of use this term [of being] a little bit more anonymous donors this season. Just know that we're working, but [with] a little bit less visibility on social media and all those other things. We're going to get to work, and ultimately it's how we do in the fall. And we kind of go from there and then we kind of earn it with our fans. We've got fantastic fans that will appreciate that."
As the Broncos begin that process, Payton said he'll follow the advice of Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, whom Payton worked for in Dallas before accepting the Saints' head-coaching position.
"Those three years [in Dallas] were like law school … and he said, 'Look, you're going to New Orleans. You have to figure out what's kept them from winning for the last 30 years. You're going to have three, four years or else there's going to be another young coach with another navy blue shirt and coat and a suit on. Evaluate the people, and go by what you see. Don't predispose yourself to any belief or thought. Just pay attention to what you're seeing, in every area of the building. And so give it a fair run.' He said there are a lot of people where you're going that want to be a part of a championship program. They just happen to be caught up in dysfunction."
As the Broncos officially introduced Sean Payton as the team's new head coach, the franchise welcomed him with a reception and then held his first introductory press conference.
In his first season, Payton helped the Saints rebound from a 3-13 season to post a 10-6 record and reach the NFC Championship Game. During his 15-year tenure, he helped New Orleans to seven NFC South titles and nine playoff bids. Before he arrived, the Saints had just one playoff win in their nearly four decades of existence.
Payton emphasized that he doesn't see the same dysfunction in Denver, given the franchise's rich history and tradition. But Payton's strategy to evaluate players with an open mind will remain the same.
"[General Manager] George [Paton] and I have said that already — let's just go by what we see," Payton said. "There's a means to how everyone arrived here from a playing perspective. We have draft picks, we have free agents, we have undrafted free agents. And that's the method to procure the talent. Once they're here, none of that matters. Once they're here, we're going to go by what we see and who gives us the best chance to win. Yeah, there was turnover in that first couple seasons. There were a number of players that ended up playing on our Super Bowl team [in New Orleans] in '09 that were a part of that transition. It was difficult, it was uncomfortable. I think there are a lot of people that embrace and are comfortable with change, and then there are a few that aren't. I think just trying to have an open mind to the direction we're going, but a clear vision as to where. Open mind, clear [vision]. And then there's a little bit of old school mixed in with the new school. I'm not the 31-year-old coach who's got all these [new ideas]. There's something I have in the back of my mind relative to how I think we need to be successful that never changes, and those are things that I look forward to putting in place."
Those ideas, combined with Payton's history, helped make him a desirable candidate for the Broncos.
And while the team will search for a turnaround from a seven-year playoff drought, Owner and CEO Greg Penner said Payton's ability to sustain success stood out as much as his ability to create a quick fix.
"The turnaround experience was certainly helpful, but for us it was more around the fact that he put a winning football team on the field just about every year for 15 seasons," Penner said. "You don't do that without an incredible passion and intensity. As I called around and talked to others around the league, it kept coming up, it's the attention to detail. ... That level of attention to detail is what makes for winning organizations. He's going to bring that energy and passion to every part of our building."