What the hell is wrong with Sean Payton?

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Earth to Sean Payton: Russell Wilson is still on the Denver Broncos’ roster. There is nothing the Denver coach can say to make that $85 million in dead salary go away. The NFL salary cap for the 2024 season will be $255.4 million. That dead money would account for a third of their cap space, and the best that they can do to ease the hit is to spread it out over two seasons.

Aaron Rodgers slams Sean Payton for recent comments

The Broncos are already nearly $11 million over the cap, so it would be best for the franchise if Payton would try to repair his fractured relationship with Wilson. Instead, on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, he spoke as if the Broncos had already moved on from their highly paid QB.

Payton told the media about a meme that he saw. It was a Broncos fan wearing a shirt with eight quarterback names that had a line through them — for the record they have started 13 different QBs since Peyton Manning retired. The fan was “drinking the quarterback Kool-Aid.”

“Our job is to make sure that this next one doesn’t have a line through it,” Payton said to the media.

When Payton took this job, Wilson was a part of it. The Broncos sent two first-round picks and two second-round picks to the Seattle Seahawks to get the QB, before signing him to that massive five-year, $240-plus million contract. The team invested heavily in both men. Payton was supposed to pull a Wilson-led offense out of the gutter, and he did. The Broncos had arguably the worst offensive in the NFL during the 2022 season. In 2023 they finished 19th in Offensive DVOA.

Maybe if Payton had taken a more cooperative approach with Wilson then Denver could have been even better. The wise move for this reputed coaching genius would be to work with Wilson during the offseason in hopes that the offense will continue to grow as they become more comfortable with each other.

Instead, he is at the NFL’s premiere scouting event speaking as if Wilson has been catapulted out of town. There is no reason for the Broncos to entertain moving on from their starting QB, except for the fact that Payton clearly does not want him. The coach berated him on the sideline and benched him at the end of the season.

Also, after beating the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time in nearly 10 years, the Broncos did not merely ask Wilson to adjust his injury guarantee, he informed the media that was threatened with a benching if he refused.

As much of a franchise setback as releasing Wilson will be, that seems to be the inevitable outcome. No team is going to offer the Broncos any comparable value for that contract — especially after they spent the 2023 season tanking Wilson’s value.

And with the guy not even yet off of the roster, Payton decided to take another public shot at him. He should own up to the fact that this nine-figure disaster is as much his fault as it is Wilson’s, if not more. Payton was hired to make the offense better, and get the best out of a nine-time Pro Bowler. He was not inked to a five-year contract that is worth an estimated $18 million per year to tear the team apart, along with its cap situation.

Neither Payton nor Wilson got the job done last season, but only one of them has been publicly rude and unprofessional. That was the guy in the visor who walked in the door talking trash about the previous coaching staff.

Whoever becomes the 14th Broncos starting quarterback since Manning’s retirement will walk into the facility knowing that his coach is capable of throwing him under the bus, backing over him, and then driving over him one more time before peeling off. It appears that Payton’s Kool-Aid is no better than what the franchise has been serving since 2015.

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