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Schlereth: Sean Payton will create 'accountability, fear factor' for Broncos

Payton brings reputation for attention to detail, creative offenses
Sean Payton
Posted at 4:29 PM, Feb 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-02 19:19:16-05

DENVER — Peyton Manning stood in the hallway outside the Broncos auditorium, white plastic sheets draped from the ceiling, hammers pounding and drills shrieking all around him. The Broncos were renovating their facility.

That was seven years ago, the day Manning walked out of the building following his retirement press conference. Since his exit, the Broncos have failed to make the playoffs, suffered six straight losing seasons and, this week, hired their fifth coach in eight years.

Will Sean Payton restore order, and give this franchise the CTRL-ALT-DEL reboot it has been desperately craving since gold confetti scattered after Super Bowl 50?

Mark Schlereth believes so. He co-hosts one of the most popular morning radio shows in the country with Mike Evans on 104.3 The Fan. He calls NFL games for Fox. And the three-time Super Bowl winner, including twice with the Broncos, believes that the 59-year-old, whose introductory presser is expected early next week, will provide a much-needed jolt to the franchise.

Mark Schlereth broadcasting
FILE - This Jan. 29, 2014 file photo shows former Denver Broncos offensive lineman and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth in New York. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

"One, he is demanding. I was doing a Saints game this year and somebody from that organization pulled me aside and said, 'You know what it is missing? Fear. Sean walked out of this building and there is no more fear,'" Schlereth recalled. "And with Sean that not only goes for players but coaches as well.

"There has to be an accountability factor and fear factor in an organization."

"This organization has definitely been lacking that the last several years and Sean definitely has that. I think there are going to be a lot of people in that organization that are going to be a little shell-shocked at his attention to detail, the level of football intelligence and also the demand on the players."

How hiring Sean Payton impacts Russell Wilson

Schlereth has known Payton for several years. He has attended Saints practices and provided some consultant work. He also spent time with him at Fox, where Payton spent this past season. He knows the resumé: 10 winning seasons in 15 years, nine playoff berths, seven division crowns and a Super Bowl win.

He has also talked with him about strategy and offense. A top priority for Payton will be fixing quarterback Russell Wilson, who is coming off his worst season, posting a 4-11 record with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

"Well, I don't think Russell Wilson is broken as much as he was doing things he was not capable of doing. You saw in the last couple of games of the season when Jerry Rosburg took over and said, 'No, we aren’t doing those things anymore.' Russell went to nine Pro Bowls in a row by doing things he was capable of doing and some of that is hit the first read and if it’s not open, scramble around and make something happen," Schlereth said.

Mark Schlereth, Gary Kubiak
Denver Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak, right, chats with retired Broncos lineman Mark Schlereth during drills at the NFL football training camp, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

"It's about getting back to the things Russell is really good at: running the football, opening up play action and the throwback game. Sean is exceptional at understanding what a player's weaknesses and strengths are and leaning into those strengths. From talking to Sean I have learned so much from him. And that's something he talks about is that the first priority of a football coach is to mitigate your own potential issues because more games are lost than won. His first responsibility is to not put guys in position to fail."

While Payton's resumé lapped other candidates for the job, he has detractors. Some point to his lone title under Drew Brees as failing to meet expectations. Schlereth views it differently.

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"The revisionist history is interesting. He only won one Super Bowl with a Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees. Did he inherit a Hall of Fame quarterback? He was thrown to the scrap pile because of a torn labrum," Schlereth said. "He wasn’t a bad player. He was a good player. But he had shoulder issues. And what you saw is those two grow together."

The challenge in Denver remains daunting. The Broncos have gone 5-16 over their last 21 overall games and 6-18 in their last 24 AFC West contests. Players from Pat Surtain II to Justin Simmons and Garett Bolles believe Payton will inherit a team hungry to win.

There will be a new boss in town, one with a firm hand not seen since Gary Kubiak.

"From a game-planning standpoint to putting an offense together and building a culture, it is going to be paramount and it’s going to be incredible," Schlereth said. "Sean has had a ton of success. He has that gravitas and he is demanding as anybody coaching in the league."