The Denver Broncos agreed to trade for former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on Tuesday, a massive move that represents a huge splash for the franchise.
Payton is a Super Bowl-winning coach and one of the most notable coaches available this hiring cycle, but he might not have been the team's top choice.
University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was the first coach to interview for the job, albeit in a virtual format. Harbaugh ultimately decided that he would remain at Michigan, but that didn't stop Broncos owner/CEO Greg Penner from traveling to Ann Arbor to meet with Harbaugh in person last week.
The fact that Penner had to be turned down by Harbaugh twice before moving on seemingly suggests he was the team's top candidate.
After that, Denver seemingly turned its attention to DeMeco Ryans, who emerged as "a top candidate" for the Broncos' job after Penner's meeting with Harbaugh. Ryans ultimately decided to join the Houston Texans instead.
Before the Texans officially landed Ryans on Tuesday, though, Denver made a second effort to hire the coach, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
For what it's worth, NFL Network's report has been rebuffed by several other outlets, including ESPN and local channels KUSA-TV and KMGH-TV. Either the Broncos are trying to do damage control, or NFL Network's report was inaccurate.
Regardless of whether or not Denver made a last-second push for Ryans, it seems clear that Payton was among the team's top three candidates all along. Whether or not he was ranked third among those options is a disputed topic, but there's no question that he was one of the top candidates for the job.
Now, the Broncos have their man.
Story originally appeared on Broncos Wire