AFC Notes: Sean Payton, Jim Harbaugh, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Derek Carr


Broncos QB Russell Wilson isn’t ready to give up despite the team’s recent performance and the firing of HC Nathaniel Hackett.

“A lot needs to happen,” Wilson said, via Mike Klis of KUSA. “No. 1, I have to play to the standards that I know how to play to. And I’ve been playing to my whole career. I’ll never let a moment like tonight define me. We’re at a low moment right now. I don’t fear low moments because I know every time I’ve always come out the other side. All I know how to do is keep fighting, keep battling. The reality is, it’s been a storm. It’s been a storm all year. It’s not what we hoped for, not what we dreamed for. But it doesn’t mean it’s going to end that way for years to come. We got to change it and like I said it starts with me.”

  •’s Jeff Duncan says Broncos team officials have expressed interest in former Saints HC Sean Payton via back-channel connections. 
  • However, Payton might have better options than Denver considering the new owners are a bit of a wildcard and Wilson’s contract is a potential anchor. 
  • He adds it would not be surprising to see Payton sit out another season if he doesn’t like his options this offseason, even though he wants to coach again. 
  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer has also heard Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh as a possibility for Denver if he’s interested in returning to the NFL. 
  • If Broncos GM George Paton really does have a significant voice in the coaching search, Breer adds Cowboys DC Dan Quinn could remain a possibility, as the two men know each other well. Quinn also has worked with Wilson before, and fixing Wilson will be the next coach’s No. 1 priority. 
  • Breer thinks Denver will pursue a coach with a lot of experience to give them credibility as they deal with the team’s locker room issues. But barring that, Breer notes a former player-turned-coach like 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans or Patriots LB coach Jerod Mayo could provide that sort of instant respect factor to command the team. 
  • According to Mike Silver, if the Broncos were to hire Payton as head coach, his preferred DC Vic Fangio would have to decide if he wanted to return to a team that fired him as head coach a year ago. In this case, the duo may decide to look elsewhere.
  • According to Zac Stevens of DNVR, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will help the Denver Broncos’ search for a next head coach, which could make Harbaugh a candidate for the job. 
  • Stevens points out that Rice would occasionally help Harbaugh with recruiting at Stanford. Rice is notably the director of the university’s Hoover Institution. 
  • ESPN’s Dan Graziano expects the Broncos to request an interview with Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy for their head coaching vacancy. 
  • The Broncos brought in three players for workouts on Tuesday including DB Tyrell Ford, DB Delonte Hood and WR Kian Schaffer-Baker. (Aaron Wilson)


  • ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy still has a fair amount of steam as a potential head coaching candidate this year and expects him to draw interest for the available vacancies, including the Broncos. 
  • He adds he’s hearing Bieniemy’s name more this year than he was during last year’s coaching cycle, which is interesting. 
  • Chiefs HC Andy Reid is optimistic WR Mecole Hardman (abdomen) will be activated from injured reserve and be available for Week 17: “Unless there’s a setback he’ll be ready to go.” (Adam Teicher)
  • Reid said RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) is still unable to play but is close to returning: “He’s not ready yet. He’s close. A high ankle sprain is tough on a running back.” (Nate Taylor)


Raiders QB Derek Carr thinks the team has enough talent to be successful yet it hasn’t always translated to wins this season.

“We are talented, but talent doesn’t mean wins and I’ve seen that firsthand in different years and so when you look at it, you have to watch the film,” Carr said, via Pro Football Talk. “You can’t just throw something out there and say this or that. You have to watch it and know it and see it and make the corrections and Josh [McDaniels] has been doing that. We’re doing our best to do that, to make sure as leaders we’re pushing everybody to do the same things and when you fall short, I mean, my heart breaks. I just care so much. When you don’t do your best, you let your team down, let your organization, and your fans down, and it hurts. It breaks your heart, but at the end of the day, nobody cares, and you get back up and you keep going. That’s how you do it.”

  • Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post said a few weeks ago there was a real chance Las Vegas moved on from Carr this offseason, with the Commanders, Panthers and Buccaneers potential landing spots in a trade. 
  • One GM for another team thought the Raiders might be able to get a second-round pick or more for Carr. 
  • If the Raiders have already decided Carr won’t be back, ESPN’s Dan Graziano points out it makes sense for them to bench him for the final two games to avoid injury, which would complicate an exit. 
  • Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio points out Carr’s 2024 base salary and a portion of his 2025 salary becomes guaranteed three days after the Super Bowl and the Raiders can’t officially trade Carr until the beginning of the league year in March. While they could work out an informal trade, they wouldn’t be protected if that team decided to back out and would be on the hook for $40.4 million. 
  • As a result, Florio says the cleanest solution could be for Las Vegas to simply cut Carr, even if he should have theoretical trade value. 
  • When asked about Carr’s future with the team, Raiders HC Josh McDaniels said a lot must be sorted out: “There is a lot to be sorted once the season is over.” (Vic Tafur)

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