By last Monday night, it wasn't clear who the Broncos would be hiring to become the team's next head coach. By late Tuesday afternoon, they had their man, in Sean Payton.
In the aftermath of the news that the Broncos had struck a deal with the Saints on compensations for the contractual rights to Payton, NFL Media reported that, before closing the deal with Payton, the Broncos made a last-ditch run at DeMeco Ryans, who had chosen the Texans over the Broncos.
Multiple reports contradicted that claim. One source with whom PFT spoke was as adamant as that source has ever been about any issue, calling the claim of an eleventh-hour effort to land Ryans a "complete fabrication."
During Monday's press conference officially introducing Payton as the new head coach in Denver, CEO Greg Penner was asked about the reported run at Ryans.
"I can comment [on that]," Penner said. "That wasn't the case. Again, we met with a number of great candidates throughout the process. Once we locked in on Sean about five or six days before we got the trade done with the Saints, our focus was entirely on him and closing that."
As noted last week, it would have been one hell of a hectic day for the Broncos, if Tuesday had begun with an effort to persuade Ryans to change his mind, and if it then consisted of pivoting to striking deals with both the Saints and Payton.
That said, the Broncos would have never admitted that Payton was anything other than their first choice, even if he wasn't. Coincidentally (or perhaps ironically; I'm never sure), Payton touched on that dynamic during his introductory remarks.
"Oftentimes in our league, organizations win the day when they hire their head coach," Payton said. "They want to win the day during the draft. I've never seen a G.M. or head coach come down and say, 'We didn't get our guy,' or 'Gosh dang it, someone just jumped in front of us, and we had to settle on Bill.' You don't say that, right? You say we got our guy."
Indeed they do. Indeed they are. And regardless of whether the search meandered through other candidates, the vibe in the aftermath of Payton's official debut is that, after seven years of subpar performance, the Broncos are ready to become contenders again.
Greg Penner disputes report of last-minute run at DeMeco Ryans originally appeared on Pro Football Talk