The Denver Broncos offensive line room is looking for a significant boost in the coaching department this upcoming season. New head coach Sean Payton believes that Zach Strief is the right coach for the job, tasked with turning around play from that unit.

New Denver Broncos offensive line coach has Sean Payton’s full trust

When looking back at the Denver Broncos offensive line play last season, there was a lot to be desired considering the lack of identity on that side of the ball.

Sean Payton has pulled no punches when describing how hard it was to watch the film of Denver offensively last season — with all eyes focused on fielding a better product.

Aside from coaching and execution, other elements like injuries and constant changing lineups impacted Denver’s performance in the trenches. For Payton, he’s long believed that winning in the trenches is one of the more important designs to winning games.

In 2022, the Broncos didn’t win enough in the trenches and struggled to get the run game going consistently enough. Injuries to Javonte Williams and the fumbling history of Melvin Gordon made it even more challenging to invest in running the ball. Not to mention, in games where Denver trailed by two or more scores, they had to abandon the run game to avoid running the clock out.

As made evident by the offseason additions of Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey, the trenches are going to be the way for Denver to get back to winning games.

After abysmal coaching from former offensive line coach Butch Barry, Payton is bringing in Zach Strief to run things how he envisions for the Broncos offense.

Having played under Payton for the entirety of his career from 2006-2017, Strief brings leadership, discipline, and accountability to the table – which will help encompass the tone Denver is looking to set this season. So why did Payton hire him?

“[Offensive Line Coach] Zach [Strief] obviously played for us and then coached for me,” Payton said during the NFL’s Annual Meeting. He’s one of the few former players that moved from playing and went into the play-by-play booth, not the color [analyst] booth. All of us were [impressed], but none of us were surprised that pretty soon he did it pretty well. I was calling him about a coach when I was in New Orleans, and he told me what I wanted to hear. I was hiring a line coach, and then I was going to hire an assistant line coach. The next day he called me back and said, ‘Hey, I’d be interested in the assistant line job.’ I said, ‘I thought you were play-by-play guy?’ He said, ‘I want to be a line coach.’ I said, ‘Alright. Come in tomorrow.’ I hired him the next day. There are certain people you get to come across in your lifetime that you just know are achievers, and that you know whatever it is that they don’t know, they’ll figure out quickly and be successful. He’s one of those people. It just so happens that he had a long career of playing offensive line. I know he continued coaching that position last year, but to your question earlier, he was a target. Wherever I went, if I was able to, I [wanted] to hire him as the line coach. You guys will enjoy getting to know him. He’s a pretty special person.”

From having playing experience, brief media experience, to jumping into coaching — Strief is a jack of all trades. It’s not easy jumping into coaching after playing despite having the experience of being coached.

The former Saints draft pick hasn’t had the journey like most people who try to jump into coaching. After Payton retired in 2021, Strief continued coaching and finished out 2022 with New Orleans.

Once Payton got the itch to come back, Strief jumped at the opportunity to take a promotion and continue learning from a coach he spent his entire professional career with.

“I talk about bloodlines a lot,” Payton said. “His former head coach, the late Randy Walker, I coached under at Miami [University] of Ohio. [Offensive Line Coach] Zach [Strief] is from Cincinnati, and Randy had gone to Northwestern and recruited and signed Zach at Northwestern. My first year in New Orleans, I called Randy on a quarterback that he had. Now you have to know Randy Walker. He didn’t pass out many compliments. It was like they were hard earned. We finished with the quarterback, and he said, ‘What do you think of my right tackle?’ I didn’t know who his right tackle was, right? I said, ‘Who’s your right tackle?’ He yelled at me, like I should have known, and I probably should have. ‘Zach Strief.’ He goes, ‘This kid can play in your league. If Trai Essex can play in your league, Strief can play in your league. He’s a two-time captain.’ When I hung up the phone, and I knew that didn’t come from Randy that often, I walked into the draft room, and I saw he was on the back board of free agents. I grabbed his magnet, walked it over, and I put it in the sixth round. That year in the seventh round, we took Zach Strief with our first seventh-round pick, and [former WR] Marques Colston with our compensatory seventh. Those guys played like 25 years. That was a good phone conversation. But back to the pedigree—I just know how he’s been coached. Well, there’s not another person that I know more on our staff and team than Zach Strief. That’s an easy one.”

As the team prepares for its upcoming offseason program, hopefully, the Denver Broncos offensive line takes drastic steps forward this upcoming season with Strief as the main voice of the position room.