NFL Futures For Broncos, Texans: What To Make Of Sean Payton, DeMeco Ryans

NFL Futures For Broncos, Texans: What To Make Of Sean Payton, DeMeco Ryans article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Sean Payton and DeMeco Ryans

And just like that, the NFL offseason is already off and running.

In two tweets just nine minutes apart, Adam Schefter broke news on the two big coaching dominoes everyone had been waiting on. Sean Payton is headed to the Denver Broncos via trade and, a few minutes later, DeMeco Ryans is off to the Houston Texans.

Two of the biggest available coaching names are now off the board, and with Frank Reich already with the Carolina Panthers, only the Indianapolis Colts and ArizonaCardinals are still in search of a new head coach.

So what do we make of these new hires? Some initial thoughts below.

Sean Payton, Broncos

Denver paid a hefty price to get its man. The Broncos will send a first-round pick this year along with a second rounder in 2024 for Payton and a Saints third next year. Denver will send the 30th pick in this year's draft via the Bradley Chubb trade, and the Broncos will hope to improve enough that the drop from the low second to presumably high third next year is minimal.

The cost may seem prohibitive at first, but it's about in line with past coaching trades for the likes of Bill Belichick and Jon Gruden, and there's little question Payton is one of the NFL's finest coaches.

He's a Super Bowl winner with a career 152-89 record, a 10.7-win pace. The Saints never finished worse than 7-9 in 15 years under Payton, then immediately dropped to 7-10 this year without him. Payton is known as an offensive mind, leading an NFL offense to top-nine in yardage 15 consecutive seasons at the helm, over half of those top two in the league.

All he has to do now is fix Russell Wilson.

The Broncos paid heavily for Wilson last year and are now doubling down on their investment by going all-in for Payton. The team has effectively traded three consecutive years of first- and second-round picks for the duo.

The pairing makes a ton of sense. The one top-level quarterback most similar to Wilson has always been Drew Brees, Payton's longtime QB in New Orleans. Brees didn't always have top blocking or receivers but consistently threatened league-record accuracy and finished near the top of the league in passing yards moving the ball for the Saints.

Wilson's accuracy fell off this year along with everything else, but Denver's coaching staff was a mess under Nathaniel Hackett et al. Payton with Wilson is a match made in heaven. If there's still a high-level quarterback in there, you have to believe Payton will find a way to unlock it.

Remember, Payton had three Offensive Players of the Year in a 12-year stretch with the Saints, and he'll have very good weapons to work with in Denver with Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy catching passes and Javonte Williams returning as lead back.

Denver is all-in on Wilson and Payton. It's possible Wilson's health and confidence never return and that Payton was better off staying retired, but it's also possible this duo make the Broncos effectively New Orleans West and inject another top offense into the AFC mix.

It's an uphill battle in a division featuring Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert — not to mention whoever the Raiders chase — but the Broncos were an afterthought all season and should firmly have our attention again. They're an intriguing long shot now.

DeMeco Ryans, Texans

Ryans is less of a known commodity, but he's certainly a name most fans know by now after being at the helm of a fearsome defense that made the NFC Championship Game for San Francisco each of the past two years. Ryans will be Houston's fifth coach in four seasons, but after signing a six-year contract, the Texans will certainly hope to change that trend.

Ryans inherits a defense that vastly outperformed expectations under Lovie Smith, and that bodes well for what Ryans will be expected to bring. He's helped turn guys like Fred Warner and Talanoa Hufanga into bonafide stars on defense, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Texans sport a top-10 defense next year under Ryans.

How quickly Ryans finds success will depend a lot on the other side of the ball. Keep a close eye on who Ryans brings in to lead the offense, a unit severely lacking in talent and leadership.

It'll also be interesting to see how Ryans' hiring impacts Houston's No. 2 draft pick. Could the Texans forgo a quarterback for a stud like Will Anderson or Jalen Carter to anchor the defense?

The Texans are mostly a blank slate with a ton of draft picks and cap space. This is a long-term project, and Ryans will have time to mold the team in his image. While the Broncos will look to contend immediately under Payton, Houston's move is one that will probably take a few years to fully come to fruition. Even in the winnable AFC South, Houston will remain a longshot unless it finds big names at quarterback and/or offensive coordinator.


It's never too early to start thinking about next season, but the only market available right now is next year's Super Bowl champion.

It probably won't be the Texans, so you can save your money there, but circle back to check on long-shot division odds for a sleeper worst-to-first candidate there.

Could the Broncos turn things all the way around under Payton and get Wilson back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2015? It's not likely, but far more unlikely now than it was a week ago.

It's virtually unprecedented for a quarterback as good as Wilson — a surefire Hall of Fame Super Bowl winner — to completely fall off a cliff the way he did. Wilson has been good enough for so long to deserve the benefit of the doubt and a second chance after an injury-plagued, poorly-coached disaster of a season.

The Broncos have moved to ninth in 2024 Super Bowl odds at DraftKings at +2800. That's a bit much and there's no need to buy high right now especially when the Broncos are likely playing for a wild card with Mahomes and the Chiefs in the division, but Denver is now a team to monitor going forward, even if it has limited resources with so much draft capital gone. Wilson will be an intriguing look for OPOY and passing yards leader once those markets open, and the Broncos are relevant once again.

The must-have app for NFL bettors

The best NFL betting scoreboard

Free picks from proven pros

Live win probabilities for your bets

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.