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Insiders Battle on Twitter Over Viral Sean Payton-to-Broncos Rumor

By Chad Jensen,


Did the Denver Broncos try to hire DeMeco Ryans first on Tuesday before 'settling' for Sean Payton?

On Tuesday, news broke that the Denver Broncos are finalizing a deal with the New Orleans Saints to acquire Sean Payton's coaching rights. Payton will become the 19th head coach in Broncos history.

As Broncos Country soars with elation over the Payton news, one NFL insider threw some cold water on the jubilation. Ian Rapoport claims that Payton wasn't Denver's first choice for head coach and that as late as Tuesday morning, was trying to hire DeMeco Ryans before the Houston Texans closed a deal.

"Unbelievable: The Broncos spent today trying to hire DeMeco Ryans AGAIN today before he recommitted to the Texans, sources say. When he agreed to terms with the Texans, they moved and finalized Sean Payton," Rapoport tweeted.

Rapoport also included a head-coaching timeline for the Broncos, which postures the Walton/Penner group as "secretly" trying to lure Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh before trying to "hire Ryans again."

In one of the more authoritative sub-tweets I've seen in many moons, ESPN insider Adam Schefter — who broke the Payton-to-Denver news — clapped back at Rapoport, refuting the report.

"Timing of today’s two hires was completely coincidental. Broncos were zeroed in on Sean Payton, and didn’t make any contact this week with DeMeco Ryans or his agent. Denver was focused on Payton, and Houston on Ryans," Schefter tweeted.

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So which insider should Broncos Country believe? That's for you to decide. Mile High Huddle only reports.

My own two cents: While the truth is probably somewhere in the middle, I'm inclined to err on the side of Schefter for two reasons. One, he's the reporter who broke the Payton-to-Denver news, which implies he has the straight-to-the-source connection. And two, Schefter remains deeply connected in Denver, as that's where he started his NFL media career back in the 1990s, long before ESPN hired him.

I don't doubt that the Broncos were interested in Ryans. But Payton isn't a coach any team settles for. And I'm not just talking about his caliber and resume.

The Broncos had to give up premium draft capital to get Payton out of New Orleans (a 2023 first and 2024 second-rounder). NFL teams aren't inclined to mortgage the short-term future for a fall-back head-coaching option.

Perhaps we'll learn more about this from additional insiders closer to Denver. For now, Broncos Country can celebrate the team landing a head coach with some major NFL skins on the wall.

Payton resurrected Drew Brees' career, helping to launch him on the Hall-of-Fame path. Together, the HC/QB duo brought New Orleans its only Super Bowl championship.

Payton now gets the chance to follow suit with Russell Wilson, also a former Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Stay tuned.


Closer to home, 9NEWS ' Mike Klis seemed to add veracity Schefter's report.

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