Sean Payton and George Paton detail what they want in the Denver Broncos’ next QB

Henry Chisholm Avatar
February 27, 2024

Russell Wilson’s tenure with the Denver Broncos appears to be ending.

“Next week—Tuesday or Wednesday—we’ll be in meetings with ownership, and I expect that we’re going to know fairly quickly (what we’re doing with Wilson),” Broncos head coach said Tuesday. “I would anticipate it being within the next two weeks.”

Payton and general manager George Paton met with reporters ahead of the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Paton hadn’t spoken publicly since his end-of-season press conference in January. Payton’s only public comments since then were in pre-Super Bowl interviews.

While neither Paton nor Payton was willing to say that the Broncos are moving on from Wilson, their tone indicated that his departure is on the way.

“We want to see the entire landscape,” Paton said. “We had to get through our draft meetings. We had to get through our free agent meetings and evaluate with what we have. We just want to get through the process. Sean needs to see all of these quarterbacks and the coaches need to see all of these quarterbacks before we make an informed decision.”

Even Payton admits that there’s no way to know for sure which quarterbacks will pan out and which ones won’t.

“Historically speaking, we’ve had quiet, successful quarterbacks and we’ve had outspoken, successful quarterbacks,” Payton said. “We’ve had tall and short [successful quarterbacks]. So there are a lot of things that make you understand shapes and sizes and personality traits, but there are some constants that go with successful players at that position.”

Mobility is one of those things.

“I think offenses have changed a little bit and yet, we’ve never not valued a quarterback that can beat you with his feet,” he said. “That goes back to Young and Montana. Historically, that’s nothing new.”

But, of course, being able to run isn’t everything.

“At some point, teams are going to make you win from the pocket,” Payton said. “We can rush a certain way to keep a quarterback from escaping. We’re going to have to be—wherever you’re at—proficient enough on third down to take a snap, find a throw and protect that spot that you’re referencing, regardless of height. I think oftentimes, these guys are seeing through lanes, not necessarily over them. Certainly for some quarterbacks, that can be a little bit more challenging.”

The most important traits can be the toughest to scout.

“I think one thing that’s hard to measure is their ability to multitask, process and make decisions,” Payton said. “You can visit with someone and they can be intelligent, but how quickly can they deliver the information? How quickly can they get through the progression?”

Some of the important traits are easier to scout.

“I think we shouldn’t miss on accuracy because we get to see it. We shouldn’t miss on stature because we get to feel it and look at it and measure it. We shouldn’t miss on athleticism. All of those traits should be easier to be correct on, but the more difficult ones—leadership we shouldn’t miss on because we should feel that and be able to research that. It’s that other element and it’s really the difference of just that. For some, it’s two thumb thick and for others it’s one. You just hope it’s one.”

Sometimes teams will know things aren’t going well early on.

“There’s no certainty or else we’d be fantastic with the draft,” Payton said. “For some when you get them in rookie minicamp, you realize, ‘Ah, I’ve been with a rookie before and just feel like this is not how I wanted it to go.’ He’s having trouble spitting out the plays and maybe it takes a while. Maybe that’s something that you realize is going to be a hindrance or set him back.”

Paton was asked about one quarterback in particular: J.J. McCarthy. The Broncos are meeting with McCarthy, a likely first-round pick, Tuesday night.

“He’s a good player, just like seven or eight other quarterbacks,” he said. “We’re still working through the process. Obviously, he’s a winner. He’s won a lot. He has talent. So I look forward to spending time with him, I think tonight.”

Paton was also asked about trying to trade for the first pick in the draft.

“I think you’d really have to love someone,” Paton said. “To move up to the [No.] 1 [pick], I don’t know if we have the draft capital to do that. We’re open for anything, but that would be hard to move up to No. 1, realistically.”

Drafting isn’t an exact science, and that might be a good thing for the Broncos. If every team knew what the best pick was, the Broncos would be stuck with the fourth or fifth best quarterback in the draft.

“Sometimes it’s not as difficult as we make it out to be and then sometimes it’s very difficult,” Payton said. “I think we’ll be really good at this, and I think to some degree, we’re glad that a lot of people aren’t.”

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