DENVER, Colo. — The first move has been made in the Broncos’ search for a new head coach.

The Broncos have requested and gained permission to interview Sean Payton, 58, for their vacant head coach position, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday. The New Orleans Saints hold Payton’s rights until the end of the 2024 season and needed to sign off on any interview. The interview cannot take place before Jan. 17, the NFL decided according to Schefter.

If the Broncos and Payton agree to a contract, the Broncos will need to trade for Payton’s rights. The rumored price is a first-round pick, at a minimum. Denver possesses the San Francisco 49ers’ pick, which is likely to fall toward the end of the first round and may not be enough to seal the deal on its own. Schefter reported that the Broncos and Saints will not discuss compensation unless talks between Denver and Payton “go well.”

Payton has a 152-89 record in 15 NFL seasons. He made the playoffs in nine of those seasons and won one Super Bowl. He was the AP Coach of the Year in 2006. He retired last offseason and joined FOX Sports as an analyst.

Payton is well-known as one of football’s brightest offensive minds. His offenses led the NFL in yards six times and finished in the top three in scoring six times. Drew Brees was his quarterback for 14 seasons, and his passer rating improved from 84.9 over five seasons in San Diego to 101.5 with the Saints.

Three head coaching jobs are currently open, including the Broncos’ job after they fired Nathaniel Hackett two weeks ago. More jobs should be open after Black Monday, which occurs the day after the NFL regular season ends. Payton is one of two top candidates for head coaching jobs and will have his pick of the openings. The interview process will probably look more like a courting process for the teams involved.

The Broncos have a number of advantages over other teams, including a new ownership group that is willing to pay top dollar for its next coach and invest in other areas of the organization. The biggest knock against the Broncos is Russell Wilson and his $245 million contract that will tie him to the organization for at least two more seasons.

The Broncos also have reported interest in Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, whom Schefter reported the ownership group had reached out to this week. Harbaugh has spent the past eight seasons coaching college ball after making three NFC Championship Game appearances in four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

See more about the Broncos’ potential choices for head coach here.


Henry was born in Columbia Falls, Montana and graduated from Columbia Falls High School in 2015. He earned bachelor's degrees in journalism and economics from the University of Montana in 2019. After graduation, he joined DNVR. He spent three years covering the University of Colorado before moving to the Broncos beat ahead of the 2022 season. Henry joined DNVR as a remote staff writer in 2017, providing support to BSN's Broncos beat reporters. He interned at DNVR headquarters in the summer of 2018 and accepted a full-time position after graduating from UM. Follow Henry on Twitter - @HenryChisholm