Coach carousel: Sean Payton returns to NFL, Texans hire DeMeco Ryans 

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Issa, FISM News

Sean Payton is returning to the NFL to coach Russell Wilson.

The former Super Bowl champion coach of the New Orleans Saints has agreed to a deal with the Denver Broncos, per multiple reports. The Broncos will send their first-round pick (No. 29 overall) in this year’s draft to the New Orleans Saints along with a future second-rounder. Denver also will receive a third-round pick in the trade.

Payton spent 15 seasons with the Saints and led the 2009-2010 team to a Super Bowl victory over the Colts. He stepped down last season when quarterback Drew Brees retired and worked as a broadcaster this season.

The Broncos were 5-12 in 2022, including 4-11 under rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett, who was fired in December.

They already traded several draft assets to Seattle last year to get Wilson, who had the worst season of his 11-year career.


The Houston Texans also hired a new coach, bringing former player DeMeco Ryans to the city where he began his career on the field. Ryans was San Francisco’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons.

The Texans finished 3-13-1 under Lovie Smith, who was only the head coach for one season. Smith had replaced David Culley, who also was the head coach for only one season.

“I’d like to first thank the San Francisco 49ers, (coach) Kyle Shanahan and (general manager) John Lynch for six incredible seasons where I grew as a coach and a man,” Ryans said.

I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished together, and I will always cherish the relationships I built there. Being the head coach of the Houston Texans is my dream job and my family is thrilled to be back in H-Town. I have been around the game of football my entire life and I’ve always had a natural ability to lead others. I know what it takes to win and be successful in this league as both a player and coach. We’re going to build a program filled with players who have a special work ethic and relentless mindset. I understand the responsibility I have to this organization and to the fans of Houston to build a winner and I can’t wait to get to work.

Ryans was a fan favorite as a linebacker in Houston. He led the NFL with 126 solo tackles in 2006 and won the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

“For so many reasons, DeMeco is everything we are looking for in a leader and coach for our organization,” Texans owner Cal McNair said.

He has a proven track record for developing high-quality players and constantly innovated his defensive scheme over the last six seasons in San Francisco. We started this process with the goal of finding someone our fans and city can be proud of and we’ve done just that. While we received a lot of incredible feedback and support for DeMeco from different people, it was our discussions with him and his vision for our football team that made him the right coach to lead us as we continue to evolve as an organization. Congratulations to DeMeco and his family and welcome back to H-Town.

The moves Tuesday leave only two head coach openings this season. The Colts and Cardinals still haven’t filled their vacancies.

Payton was the biggest name on the market. Ryans was the hottest candidate among assistants.

The Broncos are in their first full year under new ownership led by CEO Greg Penner and limited partner Condoleezza Rice.

Payton’s primary task will be to try to get Wilson to regain the form that made him one of the league’s best quarterbacks for a decade with the Seahawks. The Broncos gave Wilson a $245 million contract extension before his first game with the team. He threw a career-low 16 touchdown passes and was sacked a league-leading and career-high 55 times in 15 games for Denver.

“When we purchased this great franchise in August, this is not the season we were expecting,” Penner said after firing Hackett. “I want to personally apologize to our fans and all of Broncos country. We know that we need to be better and we will.”