The Denver Broncos’ journey to hire Sean Payton as their next head coach reportedly involved some wild twists and turns.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday, citing sources, that Denver didn’t give up on its dream of hiring 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans even after it became clear he was heading to the Houston Texans.
The Broncos labeled Ryans as their top candidate in the hiring search from the start.
“[Tuesday], when we all thought [the Broncos] were zeroing on Sean Payton, they made another run at DeMeco Ryans, failed there, and now go back to Sean Payton and reach a deal with him,” Rapoport said.
But the Broncos weren’t done there. Rapoport also reported once it was clear Ryans wasn’t an option, members of the organization flew out to Ann Arbor, Mich., but failed to convince University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh to take the job.
Harbaugh hasn’t coached in the NFL since his four-year stint with the 49ers from 2011 to 2014. He has spent the last eight years coaching the Wolverines but has been rumored in recent years to be interested in an NFL return.
With Ryans completing a homecoming to Houston and Harbaugh remaining in the college ranks, the Broncos pivoted to paying a significant price to bring in Payton as their next head coach.
Even though Payton stepped down as New Orleans' head coach after the 2021 NFL season, the Saints still held rights to his contract. The Broncos coughed up a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 second-round pick to the Saints in exchange for Payton and a 2024 third-round pick.
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Payton will have plenty of issues to sort through once he arrives in the Mile High City. The Broncos finished last season with a disappointing 5-12 record, and struggling veteran quarterback Russell Wilson is under contract through the 2028 NFL season.
Ryans, meanwhile, will try to begin a turnaround in Houston coaching the same team that selected him in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft.