Broncos OC Joe Lombardi Breaks Silence on Pete Carmichael Joining the Team

Now we know how Joe Lombardi really feels about Pete Carmichael joining the Denver Broncos.
Denver Broncos coaches Sean Payton, Pete Carmichael, and Joe Lombardi observe quarterback Zach Wilson passing during OTAs.
Denver Broncos coaches Sean Payton, Pete Carmichael, and Joe Lombardi observe quarterback Zach Wilson passing during OTAs. / Ben Swanson/Denver Broncos

When the New Orleans Saints fired long-time offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, all eyes turned to Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos as his presumptive landing spot. Carmichael worked with Payton in New Orleans for 16 years, starting as a QBs coach and spending 15 of his 18 seasons with the Saints as offensive coordinator, and contributing to the team's Super Bowl XLIV triumph.

If Payton were to make room for Carmichael in Denver, where would he fit in? When Payton landed the head-coaching gig in January 2023, he turned to another former Saints lieutenant to serve as offensive coordinator — Joe Lombardi.

Would Payton opt to separate the duties, like so many teams do nowadays? A run-game coordinator and a pass-game coordinator, such as the San Francisco 49ers have done for years now under head coach Kyle Shanahan?

No. It turns out that when the Broncos made the fait accompli move to hire Carmichael, his role was announced as an offensive senior advisor. Lombardi fully retained his offensive coordinator title, which, in one way, is nominal. After all, Payton calls the plays on gameday, but there's a lot more to coordinating an offense than that.

Carmichael's insertion into Payton's newfangled Mile High gumbo came as no forced, awkward thing. Carmichael and Lombardi go way back, plus there are other familiar faces that both coaches knew from New Orleans, like assistant head coach and special teams czar Mike Westhoff and strength and conditioning coach Dan Dalrymple.

Following the last Broncos practice of the offseason training program, Lombardi spoke to Carmichael's arrival and how the comfort level shared by the two coaches will help team on its 2024 warpath.

“It’s good to have someone to pick on," Lombardi said with a smile. "We’ve been together so long, there are just certain things that come up that we have such common experiences with. As you’re working through how you want to attack a defense, or how you want to solve a problem, we’ve kind of been through that together, so it’s good to have another guy that’s been with us so long that can help paint the picture for some of the new guys. It’s a real comfort level when you speak the same language and you’ve been through the wars together, it’s sure helpful.”

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Although Payton justifiably gets the lion's share of the credit for Drew Brees becoming a future Hall-of-Famer, Carmichael deserves some daps, too. Both men know how to coach quarterbacks and teach offense, and Lombardi has worked with his fair share of top signal-callers, too.

With a little hands-on help from Broncos QBs coach Davis Webb, the team's trio of Bo Nix, Jarrett Stidham, and Zach Wilson have no shortage of expertise and experience to lean on. Lombardi's update on the Broncos' quarterback competition punctuated his remarks at the podium and the last practice of the team's offseason training program.

“I think all three have done well," Lombardi said of the quarterbacks. "I think it’s as deep of a room as I’ve been around, just one through three. They all have good talent. They’re all handling the installs well and coming along mentally. So I’ve been encouraged with all three.”

Payton's final remarks on how the quarterback competition is shaping up touched on the enormity of the task each player is shouldering, as well as Stidham's advantage relative to time spent in the system. But it was Payton's remarks on how the rookie first-rounder, Nix, has been as advertised so far — showcasing all the traits that made the Broncos fall in love with him before the draft — that should make every fan sit up a little straighter in their seat.

“We gave all three of these guys [a lot], and of course, Jarrett is a year further along relative to understanding it," Payton said. "The two younger guys—and I say the two younger guys, but the two new players—both Zach and Bo had a lot of install in a short period of time. Realistically in the season, you spend a week on one plan. Here, we are moving. Overall, though, it’s what we saw and what we evaluated and that is encouraging.”

Entering Year 2 with the Broncos, Payton has officially put the band back together. Not only does he have his core lieutenants in the fold, but Payton has exorcised the Russell Wilson demon, and now has his handpicked quarterback to rebuild the Broncos in his image.

It's gonna be a fun year.

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Chad Jensen


Chad Jensen is the Founder of Mile High Huddle and creator of the wildly popular Mile High Huddle Podcast. Chad has been on the Denver Broncos beat since 2012 and is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.