Sean Payton isn’t afraid to call it as he sees it.
The first-year Broncos head coach was asked Friday if safety Caden Sterns can take the next step in his development, to which Payton replied with a seemingly blunt analysis of Denver’s roster.
“Look, ‘the next step’ is that cliche term,” Payton said, according to 9News. “I hope all of them take the next step because last year’s steps were not good enough.”
Payton’s take is spot-on as the Broncos were arguably the most disappointing team in the league last season, finishing at a woeful 5-12.
The results were a far cry from what anyone anticipated after the Broncos acquired quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks last offseason.
During his much-maligned first season in Denver, Wilson threw a career-low in touchdowns (16) and saw his completion percentage dip to 60.5 — the lowest in his 11-year career.
Wilson, a nine-time Pro Bowler, also shouldered the blame in the firing of Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was axed in December after just 15 games, including a blowout loss on Christmas Day to the Rams.
“I wish I could have played better for him,” the 34-year-old quarterback said.
Enter Payton, a Super Bowl-champion coach who is ready to right the ship in Denver following a successful run with the New Orleans Saints, where he coached future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.
Payton coached his teams to top-10 scoring offenses in 12 out of his 15 years in New Orleans and ranked No. 1 twice.
Both Payton and Wilson are yearning to turn the page following last year’s disaster, with the coach noting at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this spring there’s plenty of work ahead.
“We’re looking forward to the start of the season, obviously. Certainly, for Russell standards — and the Bronco standards — it wasn’t the type of year that they wanted. And typically, that’s why new head coaches arrive. We have a lot of work ahead of us right now. We’re just kind of getting started,” Payton said, according to Sports Illustrated.
As great as Payton is as a coach, the Broncos’ job may be his toughest task yet.