Sean Payton’s tenure as head coach of the Saints is over, according to reports. The Saints head coach is under contract through 2024, but questions began emerging about his commitment to the franchise. Then, on Tuesday it became official.
Sources: Sean Payton has informed the #Saints that he’s stepping away.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 25, 2022
It’s been rumored Payton could be aiming for a move to broadcasting, but a lot is still unknown. Payton didn’t report with the rest of the Saints coaching staff on Monday, prompting rumors that he might consider leaving. This reached a point where team owner Gayle Benson spoke publicly, basically asserting that she had no idea what was going on. owner Gayle Benson told local reporters that she has no idea what’s going on either.
This move sends shockwaves not only through the Saints, but head coaching searches around the league. Now there’s another mouth to feed in terms of a hire, and there’s always a chance Payton just wanted out of New Orleans and could still stay in the NFL.
Payton is unquestionably one of the best coaches in the NFL, but a team wanting Payton would need to trade for him. Would anyone bite? It would require a situation where there’s more or less a team ready to win now, willing to give up assets, and believing he’s better than any alternative (including potentially an already employed coach). So let’s see who fits the bill.
Obviously this makes a lot of sense. The Vikings are more-or-less an already complete team with a few holes, but in dire need of a new vision to get them over the hump. Minnesota is in the process of interviewing prospective coaches while still aiming to fill their vacant GM position, but Payton checks a lot of boxes to get the job done before a true rebuild — and theoretically any potential GM should be able to work with a coach like Payton.
This is fascinating for a number of reasons. Nobody is going to mistake Kirk Cousins for Drew Brees, but if there’s anyone who can maximize his potential with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen it’s Payton’s offensive approach. This move would absolutely thrust the Vikings into the world of “win now,” but hell, it’s worked for the Buccaneers and Rams.
The cherry on this delicious sundae is the angst it would cause. Payton and the Saints have no love in the Twin Cities over their playoff battles, so there would be some serious bad feelings initially — but winning cures everything. I think Payton would turn Minnesota into winners, and in 3-4 years he can leave for broadcasting and the team can rebuild in earnest.
I hate getting into all this, because truly I think Mike McCarthy is a good coach — and this scenario involves firing McCarthy. Still, it has to be considered.
Payton has been linked to the Cowboys before, and they represent another nearly-complete team in need of some small adjustments. The big thing for Dallas right now is that they have two really promising coordinators in Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore, both of whom are getting some head coaching buzz — and they’d like to keep one, or both still in the fold.
Is Sean Payton enough to take the current Cowboys’ roster and win a Super Bowl? Perhaps. That could be good enough.
If you’re Jerry Jones then the dream scenario would be to hire Payton, let someone like Moore learn from him with the expectation the job would be his in a few years. Now you have a cohesive plan for the future, and a way to win now.
There’s a lot of moving parts to this, but it’s definitely intriguing.
Lol just kidding, I’m not going to do that to Sean Payton.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders LOVE big, splashy coaching hires — and they’re not afraid to pay for them. This is another case of a well-trodden path.
This team was rumored to be courting Jim Harbaugh to lure him away from Michigan, but shot that down. The reason this rumor had legs in the first place is because we know it’s in the team’s DNA to try something as bold as that.
So, in the scheme of things, trading for Payton is really a fairly small investment based on what the Raiders like to do — and this could really pay off. Already established as a playoff team, Las Vegas already has the criminally underrated Derek Carr in place, and really only needs a few small adjustments to become really, really good.
That said, this would be a pretty big challenge from Payton. Entering the AFC West is really diving into the lion’s den with the Chiefs and the resurgent Chargers, so if he’s looking for an easy job, this might not be appealing enough.
The Dolphins are another intriguing team that makes sense from a football perspective, but I just don’t see it.
On the one hand we have another team on the brink of making a deep playoff run, with all the young talent in place. I have no doubt Payton could lift them up into being a contender inside the AFC East, at least in terms of becoming a team that could challenge the Bills. However, that’s not the only thing that makes this decision.
It would require Payton to work for owner Stephen Ross, who is a hot mess. The world saw him fire Brian Flores for no reason, following two seasons of growth under his leadership. I don’t know if anyone wants to subject themselves to a working environment like that.