Did Broncos prefer DeMeco Ryans to Sean Payton? Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter share conflicting reports


Tuesday brought two major developments on the NFL head-coaching front with DeMeco Ryans heading to Houston (where he played six of his 10 seasons) and Denver acquiring Sean Payton in exchange for two draft picks including a 2023 first-rounder. While Ryans was seen as Houston’s top choice all along, the Broncos took a more circuitous route to Payton, casting a wide net in their coaching search, interviewing Jim Harbaugh, David Shaw, Jim Caldwell, Raheem Morris, Ejiro Evero and Dan Quinn, among other candidates.

It's hard to surmise what precisely the Broncos’ plan was with Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport offering conflicting reports, with the latter implying Payton was only hired after it became clear that Ryans was headed elsewhere.

It’s rare to see two of the sport’s biggest news-breakers contradict each other on a story of this magnitude, leaving fans to wonder whose intel is more accurate. A Denver Post alum who covered the team for years before his star turn at ESPN, Schefter tends to be pretty plugged in on Broncos happenings, though recent controversies (none more egregious than his reported exchange with Bruce Allen) have called his credibility into question.

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It takes a discerning eye to navigate the minefield that is “insider” journalism, a medium rife with conflicts of interest, moral compromises and other ethical dilemmas that would send Aristotle into a tizzy. While some consumers may be naïve enough to treat Schefter and Rapoport’s reports as gospel, taking their every word at face value, it’s important to consider a source’s motivation. More than anything, the scoops business is propped up by relationships, so when information is leaked to a highly visible national reporter with millions of followers on social media, just know that it’s no coincidence.

What’s particularly interesting about Payton’s hiring is that, days earlier, reports had suggested he was out of the running, failing to advance in the interview process over concerns of a “power struggle” with a member of Denver’s ownership group. There was also speculation that Payton, unmoved by any of the jobs available this cycle, was strongly considering a return to Fox, where he served as a studio analyst this past season.

Who knows if we’ll ever get to the bottom of what happened in Denver, arriving at something resembling clarity in the Broncos’ whirlwind coaching search. But after a failed season under one-and-done coach Nathaniel Hackett, the Broncos have to be feeling vindicated, with Payton bringing Super Bowl pedigree to a team that hasn’t been relevant since Peyton Manning retired in 2016.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Sarah Stier, Getty Images