Last season's Denver Broncos were arguably the NFL's most disappointing team. After trading a treasure trove of draft picks and assets for Russell Wilson to level-up their quarterback play, the Broncos were mostly a disaster for much of the season.
Rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett was in way over his head in both crafting an offense and in game management. Wilson struggled to recapture the form he had in Seattle. Running back Javonte Williams tore his ACL and the rest of the backs on the roster could not pick up the slack. The receivers were up and down all year long. The defense was great, but undermined by everything happening on the other side of the ball.
Hackett was fired late in the season, and this offseason, the Broncos splashed the pot to bring Sean Payton out of his short-lived retirement. One person who loved that move: legendary Broncos quarterback and former general manager John Elway.
"I am excited. He's a perfect fit for where we are right now, where the Broncos are right now," Elway said, per ABC 7 in Denver. "Obviously, he has a lot of skins on the wall. He won a Super Bowl before and won a ton of football games. I don't think there could have been a better fit. I think he will be great."
Payton is charged with getting Wilson and the rest of the offense back on track. He's had success with a short quarterback like Wilson before in Drew Brees, though the players have much different skill sets so it will be interesting to see how things are adjusted for Wilson compared with what the Saints ran with Brees under center.
"Sean has a great feel for the QB position," Elway said. "He's so knowledgeable on the offensive side. I think he knows what Russell will do to the best. Like every good football team, we have to try to run the football and run it successfully. And if we do that, it gives Russell a much better chance to be successful in the passing game. [Wilson] is such a positive guy. I think he's excited about it. With what was going on last year, a lot of different things, Sean brings in so much experience. I think Russell is looking forward to that coach to put him in the best position to be successful. ... It was a tough year for him last year. But he's positive and tough. He will bounce back, and I think he's going to have a much better year this year."
With Williams coming back from the ACL tear and some additions (Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey) on the offensive line and at running back (Samaje Perine), the running game should at least be better than it was a year ago. Wilson has been at his best when able to push the ball down the field off of play-action, and the marriage of those two areas should put him in better position to succeed than he was last year. Still, it has now been about a season and a half since Wilson played at a high level, and he is in his mid-30s now. It's entirely possible that he never again reaches his prior level of play. In that case, Payton is the person the team will be built around in the future. And there are certainly worse ways to build than around one of the league's best offensive coaches.