Steve Foley eyes Broncos revival under Sean Payton’s leadership
Steve Foley excelled at every level of football as a player, celebreated as a member of the Tulane Hall of Fame (1983), Allstate Sugar Bowl Hall of Fame (1992) and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame (2002).
The New Orleans product from Jesuit played 11 seasons in the NFL, playing in a pair of Super Bowls and finishing his days as the all-time interceptions leader of the Denver Broncos with 44, a record which still stands.
Foley has maintained residency in the Mile High City since his playing days and has been closely monitoring his former employer. Sean Payton brought a Super Bowl title to his hometown before becoming Denver’s head coach this offseason.
“Every player wanted an established coach,” Steve explained about the Broncos’ current mindset. “Sean Payton has been there, done that. Everybody was so excited. It is not a first time coach who may not experience success. He knows how to win. He had high productivity. It’s a whole different mindset. One thing is you know what you get with Sean Payton.”
Much like the Who Dat nation, the Orange Crush fan doesn’t accept anything less than the best from their team. Three super Bowl titles will cause that reaction.
“There are high expectations,” Foley stated. “Even the fans know there is an adult in the room. You never knew that before.”
A once proud franchise has been to seven Super Bowls in all but the Broncos have recently fallen on hard times. Denver hasn’t posted more than seven wins in any one season since 2016 went they went a pedestrian 9-7. The most recent six campaigns have produced a 35-63 mark.
By comparison, seven wins marked the low for Sean Payton’s decade and a half as head coach of the Saints.
“New Orleans was always my favorite team other than the Broncos,” said Foley. “Not only did Payton win a Super Bowl, but he had great records. He could have been to another Super Bowl had he not been robbed on a couple of calls.”
New ownership in Denver has energized everyone involved in the Mile High City. Walmart billionaire, S. Robson Walton, with a net worth of $58.44 billion, and son-in-law Greg Penner purchased the franchise for $4.65 billion.
At age 42, Payton assumed the reins of the New Orleans Saints. Now 59 years old and sporting a five-year contract which pays him $18 million annually, he has been meticulously constructing the roster to fit his plans since his arrival.
The same is true for his staff. Seven coaches with ties to the Saints during Payton’s days have landed with the Broncos:
– Joe Lombardi spent a decade with New Orleans in two stints; now he’s the Broncos offensive coordinator.
– Former Saints safety Chris Banjo (2016-’18) is a special teams assistant.
– Mike Westhoff, who spent 2 years in NOLA, is an assistant special teams coach at age 75.
– Zach Strief, who played 12 years for the Saints, is an offensive line assistant.
– John Morton, was passing game coordinator 3 seasons with Saints.
– Dan Dalrymple spent 15 seasons as a Saints strength coach.
– Declan Doyle was a Saints assistant for four years.
Add to that list another native New Orleanian, Vance Joseph, who helped Archbishop Shaw win state titles in football and basketball before his extensive football career as a player and coac. He is Denver’s new defensive coordinator in a surprising return to town after serving as the franchise’s head coach in 2017 and 2018.
“I’m glad (Joseph) is back,” added Foley. “It’s a great move.”
Payton appears to have similar autonomy to make moves in his new job compared to his New Orleans days.
“Payton is probably expecting to have some control,” Foley said. “The owners are not really from the football arena. They’ve done a $100 million renovation on the stadium. Money is not an object. They are business guys.”
During free agency, the Broncos showed no hesitancy to spend dollars. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey (49ers) on a three-year, $87.5 million deal with $50 million guaranteed and guard Ben Powers (Ravens) via a four-year, $52 million are a pair of notable offseason Brocncos signings. Sack artist Zach Allen (Cardinals) will improve the pass rush after inking a $47.45 million contract set for three-years with $32.5 guaranteed.
The offensive line additions make plenty of sense. Denver surrendered a league-high 63 sacks in 2022.
“Russell Wilson didn’t have much time. Those (free agents) will improve the run game and passing attack,” Foley said.
Payton has not been in the public eye since joining the Broncos. He has been burning the midnight oil with free agency and reviewing prospects for the approaching NFL draft.
“Sean is keeping a low profile. You are not seeing him in the news a lot,” Foley noted. “He has a lot of work to do. He has not been very available. He’s looking for hard nosed players.”
Foley, like most of us, is looking forward to seeing if Payton can match his Big Easy success in Colorado.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…