Will he or won’t Sean Payton coach in the NFL this year?

The longer his interviewing process plays out, the less likely he coaches any NFL team this year, including the Denver Broncos.

That, according to Ian Rapoport this morning:

As Rapoport explained in the clip above, Payton has not scheduled any second interviews with any of the four teams chasing after his services. Those teams are: The Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals and Broncos. The Cards will interview Payton on Thursday for a first time, and the Broncos are yet to name any finalists, and according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Payton is expected to be on Denver’s finalist list.

Keep in mind Mike Klis tweeted yesterday about Payton, “Broncos…never finalized a 2nd interview.” The key word in the tweet is “never.” Klis also tweeted the Broncos and Jim Harbuagh “never got close to talking contract.”

So, we’ll all just have to wait and see if he ends up on the finalist list or not.

Payton a complicated hire

But, the thing about Payton is even if he is a finalist: It’s not as simple as hiring the man.

Any team desiring Payton to be their next head coach must trade for him with the New Orleans Saints because he’s still under contract there after leaving the team following the 2021 season. That will require at least a first-round draft pick.

Beyond that, Payton will command $20-25 million per year, and is seeking a 4-year deal per multiple reports. That part isn’t out of reach for the Broncos and their wealthiest owners in the NFL, the Walton-Penner group.

However, it’s not just that Payton wants to be the highest-paid coach in the NFL, he also wants more control of the roster, too. And his staff picks bring some question marks as well.

Then, there’s the FOX contract. Payton is under contract to earn $10M this year to be an analyst on the FOX NFL Kickoff show, and both Ben Allbright as well as Albert Breer are speculating he will return to TV and test the coaching waters again next year.

“The longer things drag out with Payton, I think the more likely it becomes that he stays with Fox instead of coaching in 2023,” Breer wrote. “Geography (meaning close to Los Angeles) and quarterback are most important to him, on top of the money, and I’m not sure there’s a place that sufficiently checks the box for him right now.”

If Sean Payton is now out, who’s in for Broncos next head coach?

Payton isn’t officially “out” yet, but he doesn’t seem like the clear top pick for the Broncos anymore, either.

If he decides to stick with the TV gig, or decides to coach the Cardinals, who is the next man up for the Broncos?

That’s not clear, but it seems the three men with the best chances of landing the job are: Dan Quinn, DeMeco Ryans and David Shaw. Though, Jim Caldwell has a shot, too.

Again, no second-round interviews are scheduled by the team, but Breer stated two days ago that Quinn is positioned nicely:

“Cowboys DC Dan Quinn is now fully available and, I’d think, that would probably mean he’ll go meet with the Broncos in person soon,” Breer wrote. “Quinn was on the coaching staff in Seattle with Russell Wilson, is tight with Denver GM George Paton and nearly was their hire last year. Since Jim Harbaugh is out, and Sean Payton might be, too, Quinn is positioned nicely.”

Today, Breer wrote to keep an eye on David Shaw too, stating, “Anthony, I think Sean Payton will go back to Fox (and that’s a guess), and would have Dan Quinn and David Shaw as names to watch for the Broncos job.”

Quinn was a finalist for the Broncos head coaching job last year, but George Paton went with the up-and-coming offensive guy in Nathaniel Hackett. This time around, Greg Penner is making the final decision, but it seems to help his cause that he’s tight with Paton since they will rely on one another to build the roster and then utilize the personnel well.

Quinn has head coaching experience and led his Atlanta Falcons to a Super Bowl loss in 2016 to the New England Patriots. His Dallas Cowboys defense was 7th in points allowed in 2021 and then 5th this year (20.1 PPG), while being No. 1 in takeaways (33) and 9th in red zone defense.

While Quinn has long been a top candidate in Denver, Shaw is the “dark horse” for the Broncos, if you will.

Shaw coached the Stanford Cardinal from 2011-2022 and the last time he had a winning record there was 2018. He’s never been a head coach in the NFL and last coached the wide receivers for the Baltimore Ravens in 2005. Without a doubt, Shaw seems like the longest shot of the candidates.

DeMeco Ryans, on the other hand, could actually be the man the Broncos are eyeing. While Quinn’s defense has been good, Ryans’ San Francisco 49ers defense has been elite the last two years.

Under Ryans, the Niners were 9th in scoring defense in 2021, and then No. 1 this year, allowing a mere 16.3 points per game. San Francisco was the No. 2 defense in takeaways (30), No. 2 in rushing defense and No. 2 in first downs allowed.

The downside to Ryans is he’s never been an NFL head coach and the Broncos seemingly want a guy with experience at the top position given how Hackett worked out last year in his first year in the role. Ryans postponed interviews with the Cardinals and Colts recently, and he seems to have narrowed his list to the Houston Texans and Broncos. Because his 49ers are in the NFC Championship Game, he cannot interview a second time until next week, regardless if San Francisco wins or loses.

Finally, there’s Jim Caldwell, who is a solid candidate with head coaching experience for both the Colts and Detroit Lions. Caldwell led the Colts to a Super Bowl in 2009, and Peyton Manning said he was responsible for improving his game. Could Caldwell help Russell Wilson regain his magic at QB?

Predicting the Top-4 for the Broncos next head coach

  1. DeMeco Ryans
  2. Dan Quinn
  3. Jim Caldwell
  4. David Shaw

Keep in mind, there is also Ejiro Evero and Raheem Morris as men the Broncos have interviewed. But most of the hype is surrounding Ryans, Quinn and Shaw right now.