Why Oregon Football Star Bo Nix Reminds Denver Broncos’ Sean Payton of Drew Brees

From the moment the Denver Broncos made former Oregon quarterback Box Nix their first-round pick at No. 12 in the 2024 NFL Draft, there have been comparisons to former New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. Sean Payton, former coach of Brees in New Orleans and now in that role with Denver, is ready to share his thoughts about these two talented signal callers.
Dec 3, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton looks at his play card while the Broncos play against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium.
Dec 3, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton looks at his play card while the Broncos play against the Houston Texans in the second quarter at NRG Stadium. / Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

From the moment the Denver Broncos made former Oregon quarterback Bo Nix their first-round pick at No. 12 in the 2024 NFL Draft, there have been comparisons to former New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees. Sean Payton, former coach of Brees in New Orleans and now in that role with Denver, is ready to share his thoughts about these two talented signal callers.

Payton has long been known to be reluctant in talking with the press, keeping his cards “close to the vest.” However, after spending time with Nix, Payton is willing to provide some insight into both Brees and Nix.

“Their personalities are different. I’d say—all right, we’re looking for similarities," Payton said. "I would say mentally, [Bo] wants to know as much and as fast as he can. He’s the son of a coach. Drew wasn’t necessarily the son of a coach, but this group of quarterbacks, in general, are kind of like gym rats. They enjoy the process."

Payton also believes that Nix and Brees share several traits that translate to success as a quarterback in the NFL, citing accuracy, maturity, and relative experience. Keep in mind that when drafted, Nix had already set an NCAA record with 61 career starts.

“I think there’s maybe a maturity level because again, he’s played 61 games and when [the Saints] got Drew, it was off of his rookie contract and coming off an injury," Payton noted. "(Bo) locates the ball well, and he’s accurate, and I think Drew was."

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton during the game against the Houston Texans.
Dec 3, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Both men also share a history of facing and overcoming obstacles, including those who doubted their ability to perform at the highest levels.

Consider that Brees was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, but his first three years were mostly forgettable. He earned Pro Bowl honors in the fourth year and then was released by the Chargers due to the emergence of quarterback Philip Rivers and a possible career-ending shoulder injury. Brees eventually landed in New Orleans, with a chip on his healed shoulder, and played at the highest levels until retiring after the 2020 season.

Nix’s story is similar in that he had some early success while playing his first three years for the Auburn Tigers. He was voted the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2019. During his time at Auburn, he threw for 7,251 yards, with 39 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 59. However, after failing to meet or surpass prior success as the starting quarterback, Nix told "College GameDay" he began to feel tremendous pressure.

Following his 2021 season that ended with a broken ankle, Nix decided to transfer. He eventually signed with the Ducks—with a bit of a chip on his shoulder—and immediately demonstrated his talents as an elite quarterback. Nix played his final two seasons at Oregon in which he was voted as the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in 2023 and was also a Heisman Trophy finalist.

The point made by Payton and the Broncos is that Brees was able to overcome the doubts and obstacles he encountered while playing at a pro-bowl level in New Orleans.

In many ways, this is the storyline for Nix and the Broncos hope that the negativity and doubt aimed at their first-round quarterback, and the resulting chip on his shoulder, will provide Nix with the motivation to excel as the starting quarterback in Denver both this season and well into the future.


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Mark Lantz

MARK LANTZ