Sean Payton is not having a good first season with the Denver Broncos.
He’s 1-5. He blasted former Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett, then watched Hackett return to Denver as offensive coordinator of the New York Jets and beat the Broncos in Week 5. Then he made a mistake on Thursday night that a coach in his 16th season should never make.
At least he admitted it was a mistake afterward.
Here was the situation: Denver trailed 10-0 and had a third-and-five with 28 seconds left in the first half. Russell Wilson was sacked for a seven-yard loss on his own 37. At that point, Kansas City might have called timeout. They have Patrick Mahomes after all, and we all know he needs only a few seconds to put together a scoring drive.
But, incredibly, Denver called a timeout first.
It made no sense. There were 22 seconds left. The Broncos weren’t going for it on fourth-and-12 from their own territory. The Broncos punted after calling timeout. And Mahomes took the Chiefs downfield and got a 60-yard field goal as the half expired. The Chiefs went on to win a fairly close game, 19-8.
Payton called it a “boneheaded mistake by me,” via Andrew Mason of DenverSports.com. At least Payton owned up to it, adding “that was stupid.”
The mistake itself isn’t all that egregious, because as Payton pointed out, the Chiefs likely would have called a timeout there if Denver didn’t. But it is characteristic of the miserable 2023 Broncos, Payton’s struggles in his first Denver season and the fact that it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.
The Broncos offense has been better but it isn’t good, and Russell Wilson had fewer than 100 passing yards on Thursday night. The defense has been horrible most of the season, bottoming out when it gave up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins earlier this season. Nothing about the Broncos under Payton is good, other than the possibility that they might be bad enough to get a top-two draft pick and a new quarterback.
The Broncos invested big in Payton to end a clumsy coaching search. Denver sent a 2023 first-round pick and a 2024 second-round pick to New Orleans for Payton and a 2024 third-round pick. The Broncos reportedly gave Payton a contract worth about $18 million a year, making him one of the highest paid coaches in American sports. The return on investment has been pretty poor so far.
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