After ripping into his predecessor this offseason, Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton is off to a much worse start.
On Sunday, Denver fell 31-21 in a disconcerting loss to the New York Jets. Ironically, Payton blasted Jets offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in August, saying his one year as Broncos HC was “one of the worst coaching jobs in NFL history.” Yet Hackett (2-3) posted a better record than Payton (1-4) in his first five games with the club.
Following the loss, Payton said, “I’ve already addressed it,” when reporters asked him if he regretted his comments about Hackett, via Zac Stevens of DNVR Sports.
Regardless, the Denver HC should shoulder a large portion of the blame. Thus far, he’s failed to solve the problems that marred the team last season, specifically penalties. Entering Week 5, Denver was tied for third in the NFL in penalties (34). Against the Jets, the Broncos drew four flags for 31 yards.
The team still struggles to win close games as well. Last season, eight of Denver’s 12 losses were by one possession. This season, the Broncos have already lost two one-possession contests.
“I think we can play cleaner across the board,” Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson said in a postgame news conference. “We really should and could be 4-1. But could of should of would of is not good enough.”
It’s frustrating for Denver fans because Payton, a Super Bowl champion, was hired with much fanfare. Especially after the Broncos traded two draft picks to acquire Payton’s right from the New Orleans Saints.
Since the Broncos are spiraling, they probably will have to trade multiple players to acquire more draft capital to reload the roster. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that teams called about numerous players, including wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton.
Although Denver might acquire more draft picks, they can only develop with a winning foundation. Payton must build that. Otherwise, doubts about his ability to turn the franchise around will grow.