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Sean Payton starting the same rebuild in Denver he tried to dodge in New Orleans

The Denver Broncos will be cutting Russell Wilson at the start of the new league year on March 13, meaning Sean Payton has entered the same rebuild situation he tried to avoid in leaving the New Orleans Saints: a team without a starting quarterback fans can believe in that’s saddled with more dead money than any of its peers.

Good luck to him. Payton without Drew Brees is beginning to look a lot like Bill Belichick without Tom Brady. Belichick’s record as a head coach without Brady was 82-98, a winning percentage of .455. By comparison, Payton has gone 25-21 (.543) in games he’s coached without Brees under center. So he’s not quite there, but he’s trending in the wrong direction after limping to an 8-9 finish with the Broncos last year.

Now, we should be honest: all reporting has said Payton was open to returning to the Saints after his one-year sabbatical in 2022, having felt burnt out after two very difficult seasons at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. If he’d returned, maybe he would have brought Teddy Bridgewater in to compete with Jameis Winston for the starting job, or taken things in another direction. But the Saints had moved on and felt there was no going back.

Either way, Payton must now tackle the challenge he avoided in splitting with New Orleans. He needs to find a real quarterback who can execute his offense and compete for a division title in the AFC West, where Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have won it eight years in a row. And he’ll be attempting it under very real salary cap restraints. It’s a similar situation to where he left the Saints after Brees hung up his cleats but he’s facing a steeper degree of difficulty with a powerhouse rival in the division.

So, again: good luck to him. He’s going to need it. Meanwhile, the Saints have their own problems with a head coach who has won fewer games in his career than Payton won in games without Brees — Dennis Allen, who is 24-46 during his time with the Saints and Raiders. The two coaches will go head-to-head when the Broncos visit the Caesars Superdome during the 2024 season.

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire