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Who’s to Blame: Why Sean Payton Can’t Fix the Denver Broncos

Sean Payton Broncos

After an 0-2 start, Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos seem to be flailing. All of Payton’s schemes and offensive genius haven’t paid off. Russell Wilson looked better than last year for about a half of football then fell back into his old ways against the Washington Commanders. Just like the seven seasons before this one, the Broncos will find a way to lose. Now all of Broncos Nation is doubting if Payton can still bring this team out of a seven-year playoff drought. The odds are stacked against the Broncos. Sean Payton cannot fix them himself.

Can Sean Payton Save the Denver Broncos

Pointing Fingers

The Denver Broncos and Sean Payton had another disappointing loss to the Washington Commanders at home and sadly, it seems that their season is over before it ever got off the ground. This isn’t the first time that the Broncos have lost in glorious fashion. The Broncos have actually set a new NFL record for having lost nine straight games in which they led at half time, all of those losses are by one possession. This stat begs the question…who’s to blame?

First, you look at the prime suspect, Russell Wilson. He was supposed to be Denver’s savior, the man who could turn the tide. That plan hasn’t panned out and it only gets more frustrating with each loss.

Sean Payton is the next prime suspect. After all, he was supposed to 85 million dollar fix, the quarterback whisperer who would get Wilson back to his more productive play style. Maybe he has helped Wilson, as he looked like a well-oiled machine during the first half of the Commanders. Broncos fans saw a glimmer of what the team used to be. Sadly that didn’t last, the Broncos fell back into their old ways. They became the rudderless offense that got the Broncos absolutely nowhere last year. The Broncos have shown that even under Payton they can make mediocre teams look like Super Bowl contenders.

However, neither Wilson nor Payton are the problem. The Broncos have been losing in the exact same fashion long before Sean Payton and Russell Wilson came to town. Since their last winning season, a long and dusty six seasons ago, the Broncos have lost 36 games by less than or equal to a full possession. No other team in the NFL has more than 34 similar outcomes. So, the problem is much deeper than the 2023 roster and its leader.

The Real Problem

Simply put, the Broncos have become accustomed to losing, and fans have become comfortable with heading to their car halfway through the fourth quarter.

The Broncos have some long-tenured players on their roster who simply do not have experience with consistent winning at this level. Courtland Sutton and Justin Simmons, who have never had a winning season, are great examples. Yet they are both team captains. Of course, it is not their fault and nobody is questioning their talent. They are merely an example of what has happened to the organization as a whole.

A losing culture has formed in the locker room since the glorious days of Peyton Manning. It’ll take the Broncos a lot more than a few games with Sean Payton to fix it. Sorry to say it Broncos fans, but there is no head coach potion or magic pill quarterback that is going to solve these deep-set problems in a puff of magic smoke.

The culture of the Broncos organization has been fractured time and time again. Denver has had five head coaches, twelve different quarterbacks, and a completely new ownership group since Peyton Manning retired. All of this change has resulted in a 44-72 record over the last seven seasons. In trying to find the answer through expensive new head coaches and quarterbacks, the Broncos have simply forgotten the most important element for any NFL team; creating a culture of winning — or perhaps remembering that losing should hurt.

Justin Simmons would seem to agree:

“It’s Year seven for me — there is so much turnover. Everyone wants to point the blame on certain people. I was just having a talk with a lot of the guys that have been here — the select few that have been here over the years — and we talk about culture. We have a tight-knit group, but something’s not going right, obviously. It’s our job — my job — a guy that has been here now for a while, to figure that out.”

Is There A Solution

Sean Payton has his work cut out for him. There is almost too much work to be done by one man. He’ll need to find a way to “fix” Russell Wilson while also clearing out seven years of skeletons that the Broncos organization has in their closet.  The first two games gave us no signs of life. This Denver Broncos team needs to figure out how to win again, can Sean Payton be the guy to teach them? Doubtful.

Main Photo: Isaiah Downing – USA Today Sports


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