Sean Payton confirms conversation with Broncos over head coach opening

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Sean Payton confirmed he has had a conversation with the Denver Broncos about their vacant head coach position.

Payton left his role with the New Orleans Saints at the end of last season, having compiled a record of 152-89 during his 15 seasons in charge, which saw him lead them to a first Super Bowl title in franchise history in the 2009 campaign.

His departure was quickly viewed as the start of a sabbatical rather than a retirement, with Payton regarded as a top head coaching candidate this offseason.

It was reported the Broncos, who fired Nathaniel Hackett following their Christmas Day defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, had asked the Saints, who still retain the rights to Payton's contract, for permission to speak with him.

Asked about his contract status as part of his role as a studio analyst for FOX Sports, Payton said: "I have two years left on a contract with New Orleans, so 23 [this upcoming year] and 24, so because of that, any team that would want to enquire and speak with me, they can do so, they just need permission from the Saints.

"Down the road, if that's something that materialises into anything else, then there would be compensation required, much like a player trade.

"Denver's the first team. I was able to have a conversation with their owner, and that's kind of protocol.

"The interview process can't officially begin until the 17th of this month, so that's really where it's at."

The Broncos are in a difficult position, having traded two first-round picks, two second-round picks, a fifth-round pick, quarterback Drew Lock, defensive lineman Shelby Harris and tight end Noah Fant to acquire nine-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson, who has subsequently endured the worst season of his career.

Pressed on whether the quarterback is the most important thing with any potential new team, Payton replied: "It's really about the triangular relationship. Ownership, front office, head coach.

"When we went to New Orleans, the quarterback was unsettled at that time. I think ownership and the functionality of the front office is most important."