Former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton walked away from the sideline this offseason after 15 years but is already speaking about the possibility of a return — and it sounds like it could happen sooner rather than later.
“Ultimately, do I think I’ll get back in? Sure,” Payton told USA TODAY. “There’s no way to predict who that club might be. Usually, there are about six openings every year. If there’s a right fit somewhere, that ultimately will depend on several factors.”
Clearly, Payton, whose Saints contract is valid through 2024, felt his time in New Orleans had run its course. Seems he may have realized winning without a Hall of Fame quarterback isn’t that easy.
As you may know, the Saints plucked Payton away from Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. So now that he’s eyeing a return to coaching, the team that Payton has been linked to, is, of course, America’s (so-called) Team.
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Like any sane football fan (yes, I know how that sounds), I, too, believe Payton would be a significant upgrade over lame duck Mike McCarthy.
Dak Prescott playing in a Payton-led offense in Big D would be must-see TV. Payton helped turn Drew Brees into an elite QB for over a decade after showing some promise with the Chargers. It’s easy to see how Payton could have the same effect on Prescott.
Here’s where I have to burst your bubble, Cowboys fans. It’s not going to happen. Jerry Jones is the issue standing in the way of Payton coaching the Cowboys. He’d never be able to run the team how he wants with ol’ JJ in charge
Payton had a front-row seat to witness some of the power struggles Bill Parcells dealt with during his stint as Cowboys head coach. Payton’s earned the right to run a franchise without interference — but it won’t be in Dallas.
Payton molding another young QB
Right now, there are only a few realistic possibilities for teams that could get Payton to return in the next year or two, one of them being Jacksonville.
Despite just hiring Doug Pedersen, I think Shad Khan could take another big swing at a big-name head coach if the Jags fail to make significant strides.
While both Pedersen and Payton have Super Bowl wins on their résumés, the latter’s is obviously stronger. Khan will make that phone call if there’s any chance for the Jaguars — who certainly aren’t Super Bowl contenders — to bring in Payton. Jags fans must be drooling at the mere thought of Payton coaching Trevor Lawrence.
Payton to Hollywood
How about another place with a young QB? The Chargers finished 9-8 in Brandon Staley’s first season at the helm.
With stud Justin Herbert on his rookie deal, the time to win is now, when the team can afford to surround him with weapons and protection.
But if the Bolts continue to miss the playoffs? Perhaps the blame falls on Staley.
The only thing that would likely stand in the way of Payton going to LA would be money. He’ll be able to name his price, probably between $12-$15 million per year. Can the Chargers afford him?
What about the other LA team? Sure, the Rams are fresh off a Super Bowl victory, but Sean McVay still could end up retiring in the near future.
If he were to walk away after 2022 or 2023, the first name on the Rams’ list would have to be Payton. Huge hypothetical, yes, but you never know with these coaches. Not everyone is a football lifer.
Seattle might be looking for its next head coach by the time Payton decides to return. Pete Carroll’s time is nearly up with the Seahawks. Whether he leaves the franchise altogether is another conversation, but, at 70, he isn’t long for his current gig.
The Seahawks don’t have a long-term QB, but could be in a perfect position to draft one next year. Payton may not be keen on a rebuild, but he’d likely have more say over the team.
How about Arizona? If Kliff Kingsbury can’t get that talented team past the wildcard round over the next two seasons, Payton could be the perfect coach to get them over the hump.
Recently, this Cards team has made a bad habit of starting strong before falling off in the second half of the year. Even though Kingsbury in March signed an extension through 2027, there’s a chance he doesn’t finish out the contract. He’s got to be the luckiest coach in America right now.
However this unfolds, one thing is certain, there will be plenty of interest for Payton when he decides it’s time to get back on the field.
Get ready to start hearing his name linked to underperforming or losing teams around mid-November.