It’s one thing for certain media personalities who no longer play in the NFL to go off on the current goings-on with current pro football events.
It’s another thing entirely for two players who played for the head coach in question during this particular season that makes the news about Sean Payton most noteworthy.
In addition to ESPN’s Ryan Clark and Dan Orlovsky putting the Denver Broncos head coach on blast for how he handled Russell Wilson’s benching, former 2023 Broncos Randy Gregory and Kareem Jackson piled on!
"Let's be honest: Sean Payton has behaved as a thug since he became the coach of the Denver Broncos. Immediately when he gets in the building, he starts to undercut Russell Wilson personally and professionally from his first press conference on." – Ryan Clark on "Get Up" this… pic.twitter.com/u3KxreAaIb
I posted about that video over a year ago and I’m still shook. It’s so creepy and unsettling. Literal zero interest in Russ as my franchise quarterback if I’m a team owner, general manager or head coach for his personality alone, never mind his declining physical skills on the field.
As outlined in a lengthy article from yesterday, to me, Wilson has limited options for his next team as far as another starting job is concerned. The 2024 NFL Draft is expected to be stack at the quarterback position. Not many viable destinations for Russ to be a QB1. So yeah, for all intents and purposes, his time as a franchise QB is likely over.
OK. That’s all laid out. It can be all those things and…Sean Payton and the Broncos can be a**holes for how they handled the whole situation. In particular, this report from The Athletic‘s Dianna Russini paints a rather Dorian Gray-looking portrait of how Russ was treated behind the scenes by the organization:
The Broncos reached out to Wilson's representatives in late October and explained that Wilson would lose the starting job and be made inactive for the rest of the season if he did not defer the injury guarantee trigger date that he has for 2025, per multiple league sources.
You can’t help but give Russ credit for persevering through that nonsense, stringing together five consecutive wins, showing improvement thanks in part to slimming down in the offseason, and committing as best as he could to a coach and franchise who didn’t want him beyond this season.
Clark, Orlovsky, Gregory and Jackson aren’t really out of pocket at all for saying what they said about Sean Payton. Will this have any impact on anything, or Payton’s job status at the moment? Not a chance. Gregory is now with the San Francisco 49ers, on his way to the playoffs. Good for him. Jackson is back with the team that drafted him, the Houston Texans, who’ve shocked the world this year and are in contention for the AFC South title. They’re both better off and are punching down. Clark and Orlovsky will move on to the next big story in a matter of days.
Now. If Payton can’t find a viable long-term successor to Wilson in short order, and Denver continues to struggle, then I think you’ll see the locker room quit on him, more players sounding off in the media, and his job security become threatened.
Considering the success Payton has had throughout his coaching career, and how opposed he was to Russ, I have to think he’s had a plan in the works for quite some time. Whether it pays off or not is among the most intriguing narratives in the entire NFL, because what a feather in Payton’s cap it’d be to rally the Broncos from the worst trade in NFL history to Super Bowl contention, or an actual Lombardi Trophy.