Broncos General Manager Payton in trouble

Payton is staking his legacy on his superior intelligence.


In the NFL, Sean Payton is the most knowledgeable person. Simply ask him.

Regarding assessing rookie quarterbacks, the Broncos head coach stated, “I think we’ll be really good at this,” in February at the NFL Scouting Combine. And we are, I believe, somewhat relieved that many others aren’t.

Denver selected the sixth quarterback available in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft at No. 12, which should not have come as a surprise. According to Payton, the other teams missed. And he was correct.


The Broncos supposedly acquired the player they desired. Don’t worry about J.J. McCarthy, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, Michael Penix Jr., or Caleb Williams. Denver has always had their sights set on Bo Nix.

Regarding the choice, general manager George Paton stated, “We just didn’t want to overthink it.” This man was ours. We are going to have our man taken.

Their guy was definitely not the most popular one. Many rated Nix as a second-round candidate. The “Weaknesses” listed on his draft profile scared them away.

• According to Pro Football Focus, he completed about thirty percent of his passes in 2023 behind the line of scrimmage.


• Has a tendency to throw short-arm when blitz is seeping through.
• When he prolongs the play, his ability to make decisions may suffer.
• Overthrows left open touchdowns on the field.
• The results of bucket throws will be somewhat flat.
• Has to be more effective at launching receivers past coverage.

But Payton was unfazed by all of that. He was astounded by Nix’s football acumen. He was really impressed with the quarterback’s game analysis.

After the first round, Payton informed Pat McAfee, “Nix is super intelligent.”

That evaluation was mostly based on the Broncos training session with Nix in March. The previous evening, they emailed the quarterback some play installation. The manner he processed the material astounded the head coach.


“Wow, that was really great,” Payton said to McAfee. “After we got in the car, I just remember looking around and saying, ‘Are you kidding me?'”

The coach always stated that he would assess quarterbacks based on their information processing skills.

Payton stated, “If we send him information at 5:00 p.m. the prior day, we send him more than we think they’re going to have a chance to study,” two weeks following the team’s discussion with Nix at the NFL Owners discussion in early April. What is their approach to that? Next day, where will the breaking point be? Exists one? Do they actually handle it well? Do they actually have difficulty? When did they arrive at the facility? Have they been getting ready? Do they


Nix was successful on every test. He is now the quarterback of the future for the Broncos as a result.

Sadly for Denver, there is no classroom setting for this game. There’s a limit to being a Wednesday Whiteboard Wizard. The quarterback will eventually need to make plays on the field.

Nix, who played a lot of dinking and dunking in college, can only take so much abuse. A quarterback needs to be able to make throws into small windows, off schedule, and without the defense speculating whether to run or pass on third downs and in the red zone.

That’s where Nix could struggle. That’s why he wasn’t higher on other team’s draft boards.

A lot of teams looked at him like they have the sixth-best quarterbacks in recent drafts. Over the last 10 years, QB6 hasn’t produced any players worthy of being taken at the No. 12 overall pick. There isn’t a franchise quarterback in the bunch.

2014 – Logan Thomas
2015 – Brett Hundley
2016 – Cody Kessler
2017 – C.J. Beathard
2018 – Mason Rudolph
2019 – Ryan Finley
2020 – Jacob Eason
2021 – Kyle Trask
2022 – Sam Howell
2023 – Stetson Bennett

But Payton knows better. He’s smarter than everyone else.

That’s why he and the Broncos believe they are going to defy history. That’s why they think they can buck convention and find a gem in the sixth quarterback off the board.

The head coach is staking his reputation on it. His legacy will be defined by how he develops Nix.

Turn the QB into a star and Payton will go down as one of the best offensive minds in NFL history. Spend the No. 12 pick on a player that is Sam Howell 2.0 and the coach will have a disastrous stint in Denver.

The Broncos can’t afford to miss on this pick. They’ve already missed the playoffs for eight-straight seasons. They’re currently riding a seven-year stretch of being under .500.

If Nix isn’t the answer at quarterback, those streaks will easily surpass a decade. It’ll be the worst stretch in the history of the franchise, with no end in sight.

Payton certainly doesn’t think that’ll happen. He sees great things for his new QB.

“A lot of comparisons to Drew (Brees),” the head coach said.

The future Hall of Fame quarterback was a second-round pick of the Chargers in 2001. He was also the second QB off the board, behind only Michael Vick.

There’s certainly a chance that Payton turns Nix into the next Brees. The head coach knows better than anyone else what he needs in order to run his offense at a high level.

But there’s also a chance that he’s a total bust. He could be Josh Rosen 2.0, a first-round quarterback who is so overmatched in the NFL that his team takes another QB in the first round of the next draft.

That’s what one “way-too-early” 2025 mock draft suggests. CBS Sports has the Broncos in the market for a quarterback again next season, projecting Georgia’s Carson Beck to Denver at No. 6 overall.

If that happens, Payton likely won’t be around to try again. The head coach will be coming off a disastrous season, saddled with another year of Russell Wilson dead cap and a young quarterback who can’t play. At that point, he could very well decide that living in Malibu and working one day per week on the FOX set is a pretty nice gig.


With the Nix pick, the stakes are that high. On the line are the team’s immediate future as well as the reputation of a head coach who has won a Super Bowl.

Payton believes he is the expert on everything. He had better be correct for the sake of both the head coach and Broncos Country.

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