Sean Payton Delivers Emphatic One-Word Response About Russell Wilson's Release


Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton set the record straight about moving on from Russell Wilson via a short but profound response.

As shared by the MLFootball account on X (formerly Twitter) last March 25, a reporter asked Payton during the annual NFL team owner’s meeting, “Was it difficult with Russ (Wilson) knowing that the dead cap consequences were so severe to make that decision to let him go?”

Payton responded with a straight face after drinking his coffee, “No.”


The second-year Broncos head coach needed one word to end a short but contentious working relationship with the nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

But when he expounded on their decision to release Wilson, the 2006 Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year gave a template response.

“We felt it was in the best interest of our team. Now, as we go forward, we’re in the middle of free agency; we’re preparing for the draft. We’ll look at both of those avenues to not only address quarterback but to address the other spots on our team,” Payton said during the AFC Coaches breakfast, as News9’s Mike Klis wrote on March 25.

Wilson was the Broncos’ starting quarterback when Payton inherited the team from Nathaniel Hackett and interim head coach Jerry Rosburg last season. His arrival helped Denver go from 5-12 in 2022 to 8-9 last season.

Despite Wilson’s improved performance under Payton, their relationship was tense. Payton’s heated confrontation with Wilson during their 2023 Week 15 game against the Detroit Lions manifested their strained relationship.

Worse yet, Wilson lost the starting role to Jarrett Stidham with two regular season games left. The Ringer Senior NFL Editor Lindsay Jones shared that Payton addressed the transition in a press conference on December 27, 2023, saying, “We need a spark. We need something right now. We’ll handle the long-term stuff when we get there, but we’re not there.”

Roman Harper knew the Payton-Wilson dynamic would be disastrous for the Broncos

GettyFormer New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper

The Saints drafted Harper in 2006, the same year Payton took over the squad from Jim Haslett. The Pro Bowl safety played eight NFL seasons over two stints in New Orleans. Therefore, the defensive back from Alabama knows what his former coach wants to foster success.

Unfortunately, Wilson’s playing style contradicts Payton’s winning formula.

“(Wilson) was just never a natural fit. Russ likes to cook. It’s more of an off-schedule, roll around a bit (style) … it’s never a 3-step-drop or a 5-step drop-and-throw,” Harper shared in a March 12 article by The Denver Post’s Sean Keeler. “Sean (Payton) would probably love his offense to be run and be coordinated. It was a little bit difficult for Russ. So that (breakup) never surprised me.”

Though Payton advocates timing and precision, Wilson scrambled more when the Super Bowl-winning head coach took over last season. Pro Football Focus notes that Wilson had 36 undesigned runs in 2023, 8 more than his 2022 total. Conversely, his dropbacks went down from 569 to 530.

While Wilson went off-script, the Broncos won more games under Payton’s guidance. But when it mattered most, the veteran quarterback faltered, throwing for six touchdowns and four interceptions in their last four regular-season games in 2023.

Wilson’s inaccuracy led to three losses in his last four games as the starter, eliminating them from playoff contention. Two teams that defeated them, the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Chargers, have top-5 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Sean Payton will let Jarrett Stidham take first-team snaps while keeping other options open

GettyDenver Broncos quarterback Jarrett Stidham

Russell Wilson’s departure left the Broncos with a massive void at quarterback. But even if mock drafts suggest the Broncos take a quarterback in the first round, Payton will allow Stidham to prove himself a worthy starter.

As shared by “The Rich Eisen Show” YouTube channel, Payton said during the March 25 AFC coaches’ breakfast during the NFL owners meeting, “We still real feel positive about this player, and we’re anxious to see him when he’s getting a lot more snaps and work with the 1s.”

In that case, Stidham will have the edge over Ben DiNucci for the starting role. However, it doesn’t rule out the possibility of selecting a quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft. ESPN’s Matt Miller even has them trading up with the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 4 pick in his March 27 mock draft.

The Broncos will consider even wildcard scenarios, as Denver Sports’ Zac Stevens pointed out in his March 30 tweet. He quoted Payton saying, “There are still a few possibilities relative to guys who are currently in this league or have played in this league.”

Have played in the league?

That line adds intrigue to what the Broncos might do at quarterback.

Lance Fernandez covers the NFL for, with a focus on the Denver Broncos. Since 2020, his professional sports coverage has been featured at Sportskeeda, FanSided, Rotoballer, The Cold Wire and Fox Sports Philippines. More about Lance Fernandez

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