Jim Harbaugh could push Broncos right back to Sean Payton

Jim Harbaugh is no longer in contention for the Denver Broncos job, but Sean Payton might be.

With Jim Harbaugh no longer seen as a serious candidate for the Denver Broncos head-coaching vacancy, all eyes are on Sean Payton possibly emerging as their top candidate.

Let’s be real. Pretty much all of these coaching searches have been a bit odd, well, because mostly highly dysfunctional teams have been conducting them. However, Denver’s has been arguably the strangest of all. It is a new ownership group. The Broncos have interviewed so many candidates, enough to the point where it has been totally exhausting to figure out had has second interviews.

One thing that seems to be true is the Michigan head coach is no longer a candidate. ESPN’s Adam Schefter said this on 104.3 The Fan in Denver on Monday afternoon.

Adam Shefter just said on 104.3 that Jim Harbaugh is out of the running for the Broncos head coaching job

— Denver Broncos 365 (@DailyBroncos) January 30, 2023

He also appeared on Monday’s episode of The Pat McAfee Show, indicating that Harbaugh is out.

Given that Schefter is a Michigan alum like Harbaugh, as well as Denver being the NFL franchise he cut his teeth covering as an insider, what does he know that we don’t?

If you connect the dots, there is a very strong possibility that Payton could be the guy for them.

Jim Harbaugh out of Denver Broncos race, Sean Payton now back in driver’s seat?

Payton’s coaching candidacy has been nothing short of fascinating in this particular hiring cycle. The former Super Bowl-winning head coach of the New Orleans Saints has worked with FOX as a studio analyst after initially retiring from the coaching profession. While he has said he is more likely than not to return to FOX next year, the stars could be aligning for him to join the Broncos.

Yes, Russell Wilson is coming off his worst year as a professional, but he still suffices Payton’s primary need of having an established veteran quarterback. The Arizona Cardinals do to some extent with Kyler Murray, but the diminutive, mercurial quarterback is coming off a major season-ending injury. As for Denver, the Broncos are in as bad of shape as when he took over the Saints.

Playing in the same division as the Kansas City Chiefs is tough, but Payton would make the Broncos exponentially better overnight. Even if Wilson is regressing in his mid-30s, Payton is well-equipped to get the most out of his talent like he did with Drew Brees for years in New Orleans. Overall, this is not a bad fit for him, but the entire hiring process has been shrouded in confusion.

The big key from Schefter’s conversation with McAfee is the Broncos’ brass met with Harbaugh in-person in Ann Arbor for his second interview. They had conducted the first interview virtually, but wanted to meet face-to-face. To add to the strangeness of it all, it was kept a secret for several days and spurred strange cryptic Tweets from insiders. Nothing materialized after the second conversation, so both parties went their separate ways. Payton did say his timeline for returning was set at this week.

Although Payton may end up returning to FOX, who do the Broncos have left to hire at this time?

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