Sean Payton won't allow Russell Wilson's personal coach at Broncos facility: 'Not gonna take place here'
Russell Wilson's personal coach Jake Heaps joined the Denver Broncos quarterback in his move from Seattle to Denver last season.
He attended last offseason's training camp but won't have access to Broncos facilities under Sean Payton.
The Broncos officially introduced their new head coach Monday, and he was asked about Heaps and his access. He responded that he's "unfamiliar" with the practice, but that it won't continue under his leadership.
Sean Payton asked about Russell Wilson having personal coaches/staff in the Broncos building.
“Yeah, that’s foreign to me. That’s not gonna happen here.” pic.twitter.com/pQFPibq6cy
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) February 6, 2023
"That's foreign to me," Payton said. "That's not gonna take place here. I'm unfamiliar with it. But our staff will be here, our players will be here, and that'll be it."
Wilson's first season in Denver was a disaster. The nine-time Pro Bowler had the worst season of his career as a Broncos team with Super Bowl aspirations flamed out at 5-12. Denver averaged a league-worst 16.9 points per game with a tepid offense that rated midseason as one of the worst in the history of the NFL.
Rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett didn't survive the season. Wilson did, and his five-year contract with $165 million in guarantees all but ensures that he will for seasons to come. But it won't be business as usual under Payton, who joins the Broncos as the highest-profile coaching hire of the offseason after a 15-season stint in New Orleans that included nine playoff appearances and Super Bowl win for a previously perpetually moribund Saints franchise.
Who is Jake Heaps?
A former college quarterback at BYU, Kansas and Miami, Heaps joined the New York Jets as an undrafted rookie in 2015. He signed on for a brief stint with the Seahawks' practice squad in 2016 and returned for an offseason with the Seahawks in 2017. He never threw an NFL pass, but he built a relationship with Wilson during his time in Seattle.
Heaps hasn't been on a roster since a 2017 stint on the practice squad of the CFL's BC Lions. He has since worked as a Seattle sports radio host and a quarterbacks coach. He quit his job with Seattle Sports 710 AM in 2022 to follow Wilson to Denver and work full-time as his quarterback coach.
Wilson, like Payton this offseason, joined Denver as a high-profile trade acquisition expected to lead the Broncos to success. Alongside Heaps, Wilson also brought his own trainer, strength and conditioning coach and massage therapist to Denver. It's an arrangement that's familiar in NFL circles.
Lamar Jackson's personal coach Adam Dedeaux joined him at Ravens training camp last offseason. Trainer Alex Guerrero famously worked closely with Tom Brady in New England before head coach Bill Belichick banned him from Patriots facilities. Heaps said last offseason that he was wary of overstepping his bounds in Denver.
“They’ve been amazing about it and it’s been really fun to work with him and for Russell to get this opportunity in Denver," Heaps told Denver's 9 News last summer. "My job is not to step on the staff’s toes."
The boundaries are now clear under Payton's regime. Heaps is not welcome at Broncos headquarters. Though that doesn't mean that he won't be working closely with the Denver quarterback.
Payton is credited with helping Drew Brees develop into a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback in New Orleans. His primary task in Denver will be to navigate a path for Wilson to return to the form that led him to success in Seattle. He addressed the subject Monday.
“Obviously it wasn’t the type of season he wanted to have," Payton told reporters of Wilson, per the Denver Post. "I do feel like the last couple weeks we saw a little bit more of what we were expecting or accustomed to. I think the No. 1 job for us as coaches when we’re evaluating our players is, ‘What does he do really well?’ And then let’s try to put him in those positions. At least, that’s the starting point is to highlight their strengths and then minimize what might be the weaknesses.
“Here’s what I know. I know he’s a worker. An extremely hard worker. That’s important. And I think you take that, you understand the skillset. ... And then you go from there."