Sean Payton goes scorched earth on Russell Wilson caring about public persona

New Broncos head coach Sean Payton doesn't sound like the biggest fans of Russell Wilson's search for celebrity status... not in the slightest.
Aug 26, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton gestures in the fourth
Aug 26, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton gestures in the fourth / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos had high expectations during the 2022 season after they acquired quarterback Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. The team underperformed and finished the year with a 5-12 record, and first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett was fired after a Christmas Day blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The Broncos decided to go big for their next head coach, and they did so by acquiring Sean Payton from the New Orleans Saints.

Payton, who is known for being able to coach a top-tier offense throughout his years as a head coach, will have to revitalize the career of Wilson, who had a rough debut season for Denver. As it turns out, Payton has been showing him some tough love.

ESPN's Seth Wickersham detailed Payton's arrival in Denver (subscription required) and brought up an instance in which the head coach told Wilson that he needed to stop caring about his public persona if he wanted to rejuvenate his career.

"...Staffers seem cautious around Payton, not wanting to say something that prompts an outburst. Payton is the program, everything flowing out of his fierce ingenuity and ethic. He showed the team a video of a 2022 Ford Bronco driving off a cliff, letting players know last year is over. He told Wilson that to salvage his career he needed to focus less on Russell Inc. 'Will you f*****g stop kissing all the babies?' he said. 'You're not running for public office.'"

Sean Payton tells Russell Wilson to focus less on 'Russell Inc.'

Wilson was supposed to be the Broncos' answer at the quarterback position, a void that had been on the team ever since Peyton Manning retired after Super Bowl 50. After signing him to a five-year, $242.6 million contract extension before the season, the Broncos watched Wilson regress in terms of production.

In 15 regular-season games, Wilson threw for 3, 524 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions while completing 60.5 percent of his passes. Wilson went 4-11 as a starter that year.

As Wilson struggled, he did receive some ridicule from the NFL world. Whether that was saying "Broncos Country, let's ride" even after a brutal loss, to him admitting to doing high knees on the team plane to London. With each loss and bad performance, the number of jokes about Wilson only increased.

Payton wants Wilson to focus on the season ahead of them, to show that he's still a top quarterback in the league, all the while trying to make it to the playoffs in the tough AFC. If there is any coach who can get the most out of his quarterback, Payton has a qualified resume. Time will tell if Wilson can return to form this season. Broncos fans will get their first look on Sunday, Sept. 10, when the team faces off against the rival Las Vegas Raiders.