DENVER — The NFL Scouting Combine begins Tuesday in Indianapolis. Even with coach Sean Payton's methodical approach, there is an expectation his coordinator positions will be filled before the Broncos arrive.
A fifth candidate joined the race for the top defensive spot when Payton interviewed former Lions head coach and longtime Patriots assistant Matt Patricia on Wednesday. Patricia served as an advisor/co-offensive coordinator for the Patriots last season with disastrous results, leading to his dismissal.
He experienced success as New England's defensive coordinator from 2012-2017, helping him land the head coaching job in Detroit. He failed with the Lions, posting a 13-29-1 record as he was fired during the 2020 season.
The connection between Patricia, 48, and Payton is likely Patriots coach Bill Belichick. While Payton is a disciple of Bill Parcells, he admitted in his opening press conference that he also gleaned advice from Belichick.
Payton has been deliberate in his decision, employing a "slow to hire, quick to fire" philosophy.
There are those in the industry who believe Patricia could end up on the Broncos staff as a linebackers coach — a role he filled from 2006-2010 with New England — if Vance Joseph is offered the job. Joseph finished his second day of interviews with the Eagles on Wednesday, leaving him waiting to hear what's next in Denver and Philadelphia.
Joseph, a former Broncos head coach, has been considered a top candidate, along with Rex Ryan, who boasts a resume of success but has not worked in the NFL since 2016. Ryan generated buzz as the leader, but left Denver on Saturday after his second interview without the job.
Sean Desai and Kris Richard also talked with Payton about the position.
One thing is clear: Payton is valuing experience as he attempts to change the results and culture of a franchise that has not had a winning season in six years or advanced to the playoffs in seven seasons.