Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton had nothing but praise for the NFC North leading Detroit Lions following their 42-17 Week 15 blowout. The game reminded him of his time in the Canadian Football League, referring to the Lions as a good CFL team, praising their ability to convert on first and second down. Of course, the rules are slightly different for football north of the border. Team’s only get three downs before turnover opposed to four, meaning that they must convert within two down in most cases before kicking.
Payton spent a brief period of time as backup quarterback for the Ottawa Rough Riders after he was not selected in the 1987 NFL draft. Thanks to a player strike, his NFL dream was resurrected that same season, and he was called upon to play for the Chicago Bears for three games. The quarterback only completed 8 passes in 24 attempts during his time, throwing one interception and failing to record a touchdown.
His NFL playing career was short and sweet, as Payton took up coaching the following year, accepting a position as Offensive Assistant at San Diego State University. After eight seasons with numerous different coaching jobs in the NCAA, Payton made his return to the NFL as Quarterback Coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. It wasn’t until 2006 that he received his first Head Coaching gig, and he served as bench boss for the New Orleans Saints for 15 seasons.
Payton and 13-time Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees both joined the Saints following a 2005 season where the team finished 3-13, good for second last in the NFL. They turned things around immediately, leading New Orleans to their first playoff appearance in six years. In 2009, Payton not only led the team to their best regular season record in franchise history (13-3) he helped secured the team’s first Superbowl, defeating Payton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
Following the 2021 season, a year removed from Brees retirement, Payton announced he would be stepping down as well. He left New Orleans as the winningest coach in franchise history (161-97), leading the team to nine playoff appearances in 15 seasons, and earning coach of the year honors in his first season. The head coach was still pursued by the Miami Dolphins following his retirement, reportedly offering him a five year $100 million contract that would have made him the highest paid coach in NFL history.
Payton returned to the NFL this season to coach the Denver Broncos following a one-year hiatus. Still technically under contract with the Saints, the Broncos agreed to trade a 2023 first round pick and a 2024 second round pick in exchange for Payton and a 2024 third.
This season was shaping up to be the worst of Payton’s career after a 1-5 start, but the Broncos went on to win five consecutive games and resurrect their season. The current Super Bowl chances for Payton and the Broncos are slim, as the team sits 7-8 with only two games remaining. They need to win both remaining games and have the Colts, Texans, Steelers, Bengals, and Raiders each lose one of their remaining games in order for them to reach the postseason.
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