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The Denver Post
The Denver Post
Parker Gabriel

Sean Payton officially hired as Broncos head coach after signing five-year contract

DENVER — The Denver Broncos officially have their new head coach.

Former New Orleans coach Sean Payton signed his contract with the franchise Friday, three days after the franchise finalized a trade with the Saints for the rights to his services, the Broncos announced. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, but a source told The Denver Post that Payton’s contract is for five years, meaning he is under contract through the 2027 season.

“I’m looking forward, certainly, to the challenge,” Payton said in an interview with an in-house reporter. “The tradition here is amazing. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, but our plan is to win.”

Payton was under contract with New Orleans into 2024, so the Broncos on Tuesday agreed to trade the Saints the No. 29 overall selection in April’s NFL draft plus a 2024 second-round draft pick for the rights to Payton and a 2024 third-round pick.

“Sean Payton is an outstanding leader and Super Bowl champion with a brilliant offensive mind,” Broncos CEO Greg Penner said in a statement. “He shares our commitment to winning championships for Broncos Country and we’re excited to welcome him as our new head coach. Sean knows how to build a championship culture with high expectations. He coaches with intensity and attention to detail while setting and maintaining high standards. Sean pours his heart and soul into winning with preparation, creativity and a genuine love of the game.”

There is much to do for Payton, who a source said arrived in Denver on Wednesday. The list includes putting together his first Broncos staff and deciding who, if anybody, to keep from Nathaniel Hackett’s staff last year.

“When you do this long enough and then all of a sudden you’re away for a year, it’s not like you jump back into it again. You actually start over from the very beginning,” Payton said. “On the grease board you’ve got coaches names up and you’re organizing interviews, it can feel overwhelming, but you certainly feel recharged and challenged again.”

On Dec. 27, one day after Hackett was fired, Penner promised a top-to-bottom evaluation of Denver’s football operation and said whoever he hired as the next head coach would play a part in that process.

“The new head coach will definitely be involved in that, but I tend to be impatient and so that’s (already) happening now,” he said then. “We will evaluate everything. (Paton) mentioned the injuries, and that’s been a real challenge. Carrie (Walton-Penner) and I started conversations with folks in the NFL office. A month ago, we visited with (NFL Chief Medical Officer Allan Sills) and others to just look at our program. We are not waiting for a head coach to start looking at what the changes that are needed here.

“The head coach, when we find that person, will be deeply involved in how we move forward from that point.”

Now Payton, armed with 15 years of head coaching experience and 24 years total coaching in the NFL, joins that process, too.

“I’m real thankful for (Broncos general manager) George Paton and (Saints GM) Mickey Loomis,” Payton said. “Those guys were on the phone for days working out the compensation that allowed this to happen. That made it uniquely different but that much more rewarding.”

Payton, 59, did not coach in 2022. He was the head man in New Orleans from 2006-21 — with a break for the 2012 season when he was suspended for his role in the “Bounty Gate” scandal — before deciding he needed time away from coaching.

A year later, he’s back in charge of a franchise and will make his return to the sideline in the fall.

“It is rare in any sport to hire a head coach with Sean’s credentials and we appreciate the first-class manner in which the Saints approached this process,” Penner said. “We also appreciated the opportunity to meet and learn from other highly qualified, outstanding coaches we interviewed.”

Payton has 152 regular-season wins, nine playoff victories and a Super Bowl championship on his resume, all with New Orleans.

“It’s a little bit bittersweet seeing him get back into the game,” said former Saints and Dallas linebacker Scott Shanle, who started 94 games for Payton in New Orleans and played in 128 overall with him. “I’m a little bit jealous of Denver Broncos fans because of everything that he brought to New Orleans. Sitting in that room for seven years, I know what he brings to the table.

“I think what Denver gave up for him, it will definitely be worth it.”

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