Sean Payton Canceling Last Broncos Practice a Good Sign for Bo Nix

The Denver Broncos entered the NFL summer a day early. What does it mean for Bo Nix?
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Bo Nix at rookie minicamp.
Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Bo Nix at rookie minicamp. / Ben Swanson/Denver Broncos
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Sean Payton's unexpected decision to wrap up mandatory minicamp a day early, thus ending the Denver Broncos' offseason training program, was based on the progress he feels his team has already made. Some question the move, especially when you factor in Denver's youth movement. Every second the Broncos spend on the practice field could be precious.

At the end of the day, it's only a call that a head coach can make, and Payton knows every Bronco needs the carrot from time to time. Of course, Payton's decision will be rather intensively scrutinized for any hidden meanings, not the least of which is the perception that Broncos rookie quarterback Bo Nix has made enough strides to justify canceling a vital day of practice.

Jarrett Stidham is Denver's only incumbent in the QB room, so Payton is backing his own judgment regarding how quickly Zach Wilson and Nix are processing information. 

"We gave all three of these guys [a lot] and of course Jarrett is a year further along relative to understanding it," Payton explained on Wednesday. "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."

On the subject of Nix, Payton made it clear that everything he and the Broncos identified on tape before investing the No. 12 pick in the QB — that's what the former Oregon star is showing thus far as a pro.

"Overall, though, it's what we saw and what we evaluated and that is encouraging," Payton said of Nix.

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Had Nix not looked comfortable and in command during OTAs, it's doubtful that Payton would be canceling a practice — the last one before the desert that is the six-week NFL summer ahead of training camp. Payton's relaxed demeanor suggests he's more than happy with how far all his quarterbacks have progressed, so finding that mythical work/life balance applies to rookies like Nix and veterans alike.

"There is a happy medium there," Payon said. "It is important that these guys get away. I think these guys will all lift and run. They have their computers, they go to Teamworks and the weight program is there for them. I know that a group of them will gather. All three of the quarterbacks and a lot of the receivers are going to have a week after the Fourth of July where they will go have a workout and train."

In the final analysis, Payton's trust that Nix and his fellow youngsters can stay focused over the next five weeks is a leap of faith, perhaps to prove something to his team and himself. Even after decades at the top of the coaching business, Payton is still learning the subtle nuances of when exactly to push and pull.

"There is probably in the first year where you are pissing on all of the trees, and I'm probably guilty of that," Payton said. "I think it's the thing—look, I got into coaching and teaching with idea that I was going to be a college coach, hopefully in the Big Ten [Conference]. Then this career is interesting and will take you places that maybe you didn't expect to [go]. When young coaches ask, you always talk about being present, where you are at, where your feet are at and the other stuff will take care of itself. That happened to me quite a bit. The reward of seeing someone develop and accomplish and then gain confidence—the reward of that constantly comes with new players, with veteran players and it's kind of addictive."

While that's true to a certain degree, Payton feels that the overlap from last year's install has helped smooth the path somewhat, but just how fast the younger guys have settled in is perhaps the biggest takeaway of all.

"I think that helps, too, Year 2 in what we are doing. I think the competition helps and we are younger," Payton said. "Clearly, we are younger, and we should not be afraid of that. We embrace that. There is probably a combination of things that have gotten us to where we are at now."

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Keith Cummings


Keith Cummings has covered the Denver Broncos at Mile High Huddle since 2019. His works have been featured on,,, and