ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As another coaching regime settles in for the Denver Broncos, one of the biggest challenges general manager George Paton and coach Sean Payton face is the collateral damage done to a roster marred by years of rapid turnover.
“Having a clear vision is important," Payton said ahead of the draft.
With each coach comes a different vision, and the Broncos have fired three coaches since the end of the 2018 season. Those three had five different offensive coordinators combined, and seven quarterbacks started for the team in that span.
“You have to bring in players that fit the system of the head coach and the staff,’’ Paton said. “We’ve done that every year I’ve been here, and now we’re doing it with the clear vision that Sean has for this football team. I don’t think that’s changed. You always want to bring in players that fit the vision of the head coach or the coaching staff or it’s probably not going to work.’’
With the departure of Dre'Mont Jones in free agency (he signed in Seattle) as well as the Broncos’ decision not to re-sign Dalton Risner (he’s still a free agent), the Broncos will have none of their 2019 draft class on the roster, a class from just three drafts ago, but also two coach firings ago. Two of the other players in that draft class -- quarterback Drew Lock and tight end Noah Fant -- were part of the trade last March to acquire quarterback Russell Wilson.
Broncos owner and CEO Greg Penner was asked about the turnover on the coaching staff when Nathaniel Hackett was fired in December and said “we have to get this right."
Because of the trades to acquire Wilson and the right to sign Payton, the Broncos have just five picks in the draft and won’t make their first selection until they go back-to-back in the third round at Nos. 67 and 68 overall.
“You have a roster stew -- a few players good enough to be with every staff and a bunch on the edge because you can’t replace everybody in one or two offseasons because of your cap or who is available or how many picks you have,” an NFC general manager told ESPN. “There's just a lot of turnover all over the depth chart because every staff wants a little something different. It’s going to be hard to consistently hit if you’re getting rid of players because the new staff says they don’t ‘fit.’"
The Broncos sent their coaching staff to this year's scouting combine so coaches could not only meet with the draft prospects but also spend time with the scouts and new assistant coaches as they discussed prospects.
Paton and Payton have each expressed the importance of quickly getting acquainted -- they have not worked together previously -- to maximize the team’s ability to find the best fits as free agency progresses and the draft approaches. The two, with the coaching staff and personnel staff, spent much of last month in meetings to prepare for the opening of free agency and do what Payton called a “deep dive" on the roster of returning players.
“When you have less picks, you’re still … the whole preparation leading up to this draft, was grading from the very top of the board, through the first round, through the second as if you had every pick, even more picks,’’ said Payton, who in his long tenure in New Orleans had five drafts with five or fewer picks. “ … And then the strategy of how you can draft the most amount of players that meet your threshold that you really like."
Payton has outlined all of it -- roster construction, coaching staff, locker room, other front-office departments -- under a general header of the "winning culture'' he is seeking. He has already predicted plenty of change and has said his way of coaching “is not for everybody."
“Beyond people, it’s every detail, every little thing matters almost in an obsessive way,’’ Payton said. “All of those details matter inside the framework of the field. ... It requires a little unselfishness from all of us in knowing that if we’re all moving in this one direction, chances are it’s going to benefit all of us that are moving."