Sean Payton and DeMeco Ryans finalized head coaching jobs Tuesday afternoon, but the breaking news pitted ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport against each other.
The hires of Sean Payton with the Denver Broncos and DeMeco Ryans with the Houston Texans were curiously announced ten minutes apart on Tuesday. And at 4:44 pm ET, 20 minutes after the frenzy of breaking news, Rapoport claimed the Broncos attempted to hire Ryans at the eleventh hour but made a last-minute pivot back to Payton after they were rejected.
The #Broncos last few weeks:
— Zeroed in on DeMeco Ryans.
— Secretly tried to lure Jim Harbaugh from Michigan.
— Negotiated a Sean Payton deal.
— Tried to hire Ryans again.
— Finalized the hire of Payton as their new coach. https://t.co/tlMLnjdM9u
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 31, 2023
11 minutes later, at 4:55 pm ET, Schefter refuted Rapoport’s report and said the timing of both hires was completely coincidental, claiming the Broncos were locked in on reaching a deal with Payton and had no contact with Ryans in recent days.
Timing of today’s two hires was completely coincidental. Broncos were zeroed in on Sean Payton, and didn’t make any contact this week with DeMeco Ryans or his agent. Denver was focused on Payton, and Houston on Ryans.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 31, 2023
If Rapoport’s report is true, the instability and uncertainty displayed by the Denver Broncos would be an embarrassment, especially for a franchise with new ownership. Schefter’s retort, meanwhile, was backed by other Broncos reporters.
When it comes to breaking NFL news, Schefter has long been considered the insider with the most connections of any other reporter. But Schefter is also the insider who has most shown he’s willing to blur the line between being a reporter and mouthpiece for the league.
It’s not lost in the case of Schefter vs Rapoport that Schefter was attempting to squash a report that would have made a team look bad. It makes sense that the Broncos would want to hide their uncontrollable waffling over which coach to zero in on. And it makes sense that the Broncos might seek out Schefter, a former writer for The Denver Post, to help them do that.
There’s certainly a scenario where Schefter is right and Rapoport is wrong. Maybe the Broncos were zeroed in on Payton all along, but they balked at the New Orleans Saints price tag for a trade and attempted to use their previous interest in Ryans as leverage. Similarly, maybe Ryans’ agent attempted to push the narrative that he was interested in Denver to boost his leverage while negotiating a contract with Houston.
The problem for Schefter, however, is a history of controversial career moves that include writing a puff piece to help boost the image of Deshaun Watson and admitting to sending a complete draft of an ESPN story to an NFL team for approval. While Schefter is great at breaking news, he’s proven himself to be a shill for the NFL enough times that when it smells like he might be trying to help a team by squashing a potentially embarrassing story, he probably is.