The Denver Broncos collective brain trust of head coach Sean Payton and general manager George Paton have maintained a great working relationship throughout the entire season. Despite Denver’s 8-9 record, both parties received high remarks from team CEO Greg Penner as the Broncos held their end of the year press conference in Dove Valley.

George Paton and Sean Payton on same page as the Denver Broncos move to 2024

When Sean Payton was hired as the Broncos’ head coach last February, there were outside rumblings and speculation that he wouldn’t want to work with general manager George Paton.

While Payton didn’t lead the search for the Broncos head coaching vacancy last year, the Walton-Penner Family Ownership group still advised him throughout the process. Further outside speculation came forth that Paton’s role would change, but the reality is that his role never changed as Payton took over.

Paton’s job as the GM is to collaborate with the head coach to acquire and build the roster and team together, with both parties reporting to Penner. Throughout the 2023 season, Paton and Payton would meet periodically, around two to four times a day, not including phone conversations.

Their working relationship in the eyes of what we see as media has always been good, but their behind-the-scenes relationship has never been better. Whether it’s collaborating on discussing a free agent player’s potential fit for the roster in-season or maneuvering the roster due to injuries, they were always on the same wavelength.

“It’s been a year now, and I thought it worked really well, especially the partnership between Sean and George,” CEO Greg Penner said. “That relationship between head coach and GM is critical. I was impressed with the way that they handled going from free agency to the draft. It was great to see a number of young players that George and his staff had drafted previously step up and play key roles. I thought there was improvement this year, and I think George can help us build a winning roster here.”

Both Payton and Paton are on the same page as the team marches into 2024.

Broncos acknowledge door is open for Russell Wilson to return potentially

While all signs point toward a split between Russell Wilson and the Broncos, both Payton and Paton acknowledged that the door is still open for him to potentially return in 2024.

What that looks like is questionable right now considering how the season ended, but the Broncos brass remained firm on the notion that they conducted talks with Wilson’s agent in a professional manner during the bye week.

“I appreciate the question,” Paton said. “I’ll address the ‘Russ’ (QB Russell Wilson) situation hopefully one time and as thoroughly as possible. During the bye week, I did reach out to Russ’ agent in good faith and in a creative attempt to adjust his contract. We couldn’t get a deal done, and we moved on with our season. It didn’t come up again. Fast forward to Week 17, and [Head Coach] Sean [Payton] makes a change at the quarterback position. This was a football decision made by Sean in what he thought was in the best interest of team. This was completely independent of any conversations I had with the agent. Again, it was a football decision made by Sean. [Regarding] negotiations, I’ll keep the specifics private out of respect for everyone involved. Negotiations are hard. You have difficult conversations and tough conversations. You can characterize a negotiation anyway you want. We always try to handle ourselves professionally and in the best interest of the Broncos. This was no different.”

Only both sides know the truth.

Paton said that he’s had conversations with Wilson and that the Broncos quarterback is open to returning this upcoming season. Some sort of remedy on the discussion and a restructuring of the contract would likely have to happen for this to realistically occur for both sides.

“I think [Head Coach] Sean [Payton] commented on that,” Paton said. “This meeting is a deep dive into the entire roster. The door remains open with ‘Russ’ (QB Russell Wilson). I’ve had good conversations with Russ, and Sean has had good conversations. The door is open. We’ll get through the process, and we’ll visit with the coaching staff and scouting staff. We’ll visit with Russ and his people, and we’ll go from there.”

When the coaches return to the facility next week, these extensive conversations will occur regarding the roster. Position coaches have been tasked with compiling their reports on every player they coach, and as a staff with the head coach and coordinators, the team will discuss every player on the roster and the vision that accompanies them, combined with a review from this past season.

Overall, there’s been a lot of speculation since the season ended about what is going to happen with the Broncos and what the personnel side of things will look like the moment the season concludes. We’ll gain more clarity on potential changes in the coming weeks, but one thing that we know will not change is the dynamic and relationship between Sean Payton and George Paton.

The brain trust is moving forward together in 2024, and they’ll have their work cut out for them to assemble the best roster possible to improve from their eight-win mark this season.