Jon Stinchcomb can still see the reading from the on-field temperature gauge, hovering around 120 degrees. He can still feel the turf at the Saints’ 2006 training camp in Jackson, Mississippi, melting to his cleats. The former NFL offensive lineman remembers thinking that his new head coach must have “made a deal with the devil,” because all the dark rain clouds hovering above that summer only seemed to empty in between the two-a-day practices allowed at the time, never offering salvation during the steamy sessions.

Stinchcomb, drafted by the Saints in 2003, looked around and saw new faces everywhere, the result of a roster that had changed dramatically since Sean Payton had arrived months earlier. He can still hear the whistle blowing, signaling the starting over of a drill that hadn’t commenced correctly. Stinchcomb had always heard the buzzwords about a coach changing a culture, something New Orleans was trying to institute as it came off a 3-13 season and owned just one playoff appearance in the prior 13 years. Now, he and his teammates could feel that process taking place.

And damn did it hurt.

“The overriding message was, ‘You’re either with us or you’re not,’” Stinchcomb said. “It was pretty quick for some folks. We had some veterans who had signed free-agent deals in New Orleans and chose retirement in the middle of training camp instead of enduring the recalibration that was happening.”

That first training camp was the start of a 16-year run for Payton in New Orleans that included a Super Bowl championship in 2009, nine playoff appearances, seven division titles and 152 regular-season wins, the sixth-most among NFL head coaches. Payton partnered with Drew Brees to create one of the most sustained runs of offensive excellence in NFL history, forging an unmistakable identity built on shrewd attention to detail for a franchise that had been wandering before Payton’s arrival.

“It is rare in any sport,” Broncos CEO Greg Penner said in a statement last week, “to hire a head coach with Sean’s credentials.”

Now Payton is tasked with producing similar results for the Broncos, a franchise with championship history that has spent the past seven years stumbling in the dark. It has been a highly penalized, offensively inept operation, its quest to establish a discernible identity torpedoed by constant coaching changes, quarterback turnover and late-game collapses. His former players believe Payton, who signed his five-year deal in Denver on Friday, is the perfect coach to fix those issues for a Broncos team that perhaps needs an injection of confidence above all else.