Sean Payton’s first year in Denver was full of twists, turns and controversy, yet somehow the Broncos managed to win eight games. Now comes the offseason and since they missed the playoffs for the eighth consecutive postseason, it’s time to get started on some of the tough decisions the Broncos will have to make in the coming months.
After benching quarterback Russell Wilson, it seems Payton may have lost at least part of the locker room, according to reports. Players were not happy (especially having an outside shot at the postseason) and did not support the coach’s decision to bench Wilson late in the season. Chemistry was a problem from the jump between Wilson and Payton. Once it seemed like Russ had finally gotten on the same page with teammates, suddenly there were all kinds of problems with Payton.
The two Super Bowl winners sounded like a great match until Payton stepped into the building. He immediately came in and exercised his power over Wilson, which was probably needed at the time. After Wilson’s first year in Denver, it was clear many things needed to change. However, by the end of this season, it was obvious Payton was over the whole Wilson experiment.
Seeing how year one went, Denver looks like a team headed for at least a mild rebuild. Payton seems to be done with Wilson, but if they unload him, it’ll be tough to find someone better in free agency. Wilson had a bad year based on his contract. His numbers are those of an average NFL starting QB, but for the money he’s making that isn’t nearly good enough.
There’s also the Jerry Jeudy issue for the Broncos to sort out and whether they bring him back. Jeudy has been at the center of trade rumors for some time, but ended the 2023 campaign in Denver. If Payton and the front office decide to go full-on rebuild then that probably means Jeudy is out right behind Wilson and others.
One thing is for sure, Payton will have his work cut out regaining the trust of his locker room after the way things went down in year one. Things started rocky, losing three in a row to begin his tenure, but they slowly pulled that orange and blue plane out of a nosedive. To put a positive spin on it, the Broncos did manage to go 8-6 after dropping their first three games. It didn’t produce a playoff berth, but it is something to build on.