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NFL history says trading for a head coach has been worth it

The Broncos' decision on whether to trade for Payton is complicated because the team already traded away two 1st-round picks last year.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Sean Payton didn’t win a game this season.

And he hasn’t won a playoff game since the crowdless COVID season of 2020.

No way New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis can block a Broncos attempt to hire Payton by insisting on two first-round draft picks in return – if indeed Payton is Greg Penner's number one choice as Denver’s next head coach.

Penner, the Broncos’ CEO, has completed interviews with eight candidates but took the weekend to decide which finalist or two or three to bring in this week for another interview. If he brings in just one, then clearly that would be the guy Penner plans to hire.

Is his top choice as the new week commences Sean Payton or someone else?

Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is now available after his Cowboys were bounced Sunday night by the San Francisco 49ers in a second-round playoff game. Hiring Quinn wouldn’t cost the Broncos a first-round draft pick – significant incentive considering Denver surrendered two first-round draft picks and two second-rounders in exchange for quarterback Russell Wilson last year.

Given the Wilson trade, and the 5-12 Broncos have enough roster needs to humble the greatest of head coaches, two first-round draft picks for the right to pay a $20-million-a-year deal to Sean Payton is simply too steep a price.

But how about one first-round pick -- which is known to be in the No. 28 to 31 overall range because that selection originated with the 49ers, who are now in the NFL’s Final Four -- plus one of the Broncos’ two third-round picks?

History says the Broncos should do it if they believe Sean Payton is the man for their job. Here is a look at some of the more high-profile trades involving head coaches:

1997: New England traded Bill Parcells to the Jets for first-, second-, third- and fourth-round picks. The Patriots turned those picks into running back Sedrick Shaw, guard Damon Denson, receiver Tony Simmons and linebacker Andy Katzenmoyer.

Shaw only rushed for 236 yards in two years; Denson had only four starts in three years; Simmons recorded only 56 catches for 981 yards and six TDs in three years; Katzenmoyer was a rookie starter but a neck injury limited him to just three more starts.

Parcells immediately transformed the 1-15 team he inherited to a 9-7 contender in his first year, then went 12-4 with an AFC Championship Game loss to the Broncos in his second year. The Jets won the trade.

1999: The Packers traded Mike Holmgren to the Seahawks for a second-round pick, who turned out to be cornerback Fred Vinson. A nickelback as a rookie, Vinson was traded prior to Seattle for running back Ahman Green, who had five consecutive monster, 1,100-plus seasons from 2000-04.

Holmgren had a nice nine-year run in Seattle, averaging better than 9-7 a season, with a 2005 Super Bowl appearance. He was fired after a 4-12 year in the 10th year, 2008. Even with the indirect deal for Green, Seattle won this trade.

2000: The Jets traded Bill Belichick to New England for a first, fourth and seventh, with fifth and seventh-round picks coming back. The Jets selected defensive end Shaun Ellis, cornerback Jamie Henderson, and defensive tackle James Reed. Ellis was a nice 11-year player with two Pro Bowl appearances. Henderson was a three-year backup. Reed was a solid five-year Jet.

Belichick guided the Patriots to nine Super Bowls, winning six. The Patriots won this trade in a rout.

2002: Jon Gruden traded from Raiders to Tampa Bay in 2002 in exchange for two first-round draft picks and one second-round pick. The best the Raiders did with those picks was offensive tackle Langston Walker (a nine-year player, five years worth of starts) and defensive end Tyler Brayton (the former Colorado Buff was a nine-year player and six-year starter).

Gruden immediately led Tampa Bay to the 2002 Super Bowl title and had two more playoff appearances, although his overall record of 57-55 was disappointing. Still, you’d have to say Tampa Bay won the trade.

2006: Herm Edwards from Jets to Chiefs for a fourth-round pick. The Jets used that fourth-round pick to take running back Leon Washington, who was a terrific returner and change-of-pace running back for four years. Edwards went 15-33 after three years. The Jets won that trade.

So in summary, as long as you’re not trading for Herm Edwards, the head coach is worth trading for. As long as you don’t trade too much.

And if a first-round pick is still a hurdle after already surrendering the top-end draft haul a year ago, here’s a look at the players selected No. 28 to 31 overall in the past three drafts:

2022: (28) Devonte Wyatt, DT Packers; (29) Cole Strange, guard; (30) George Karlaftis, DE, Chiefs; (31) Daxton Hill, S, Bengals

Results: Wyatt played in 16 games with no starts; Strange was a 17-game starter at left guard. George Karlaftis was a 17-game stater with 6.0 sacks; Daxton Hill played in 15 games, mostly special teams, but only got serious action in two games.

Conclusion: Strange and Karlaftis are nice players and starters.

2021: (28) Payton Turner, DE, Saints; (29) Eric Stokes, CB, Packers; (30) Gregory Rousseau, DE, Bills; (31) Odafe Oweh, DE, Ravens

Results: Payton Turner only played in 13 of a possible 34 games; Stokes is a two-year starter but has missed nine games because injury; Rousseau is a two-year starter (30 games) with 12.0 sacks; Oweh is a two-year part-time starter with 8.0 sacks.

Conclusion: Rousseau is a very good player and Stokes and Oweh are nice.

2020: (28) Patrick Queen, ILB, Ravens; (29) Isaiah Wilson, OT, Titans; (30) Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Dolphins; (31) Jeff Gladney, CB, Vikings

Results: Queen has made 50 consecutive starts and has 10.0 sacks while averaging 107 tackles a year. Wilson was one of the greatest first-round busts of all time as he played in just one game because of off-field and team misbehavior. He’s now out of the league and is trying to become a rapper. Igbinoghene only has five starts in three seasons. Gladney was a 15-game starter as a rookie, then was released following domestic abuse charges (later found not guilty). Gladney and his girlfriend were killed in an automobile accident seven months ago in which he was driving and traveling at an excessive speed.

Conclusion: Queen is an exceptional player.

There’s the research. What would you do?


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