What’s next for Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints?
By WVUA 23 Digital Reporter Jeremy Bryant
Sean Payton has officially stepped down as the New Orleans Saints head coach after spending over 15 years with the organization. He is the winningest coach in the franchise’s history, compiling a record of 152-89 since being hired in 2006. He delivered the Saints their one and only Super Bowl championship in 2009.
The Saints do not need to be reminded of how important Payton meant to their successful culture that was built from the ground up when they traded for future hall of famer Drew Brees in 2006. Payton has expressed in a recent news conference he is not looking to coach in the near future, or at least for the 2022 season, according to Sports Illustrated.
The quest for a new head coach will now start as the Saint missed the playoffs with a 9-8 record. Most of the season was plagued with injuries such as Jameis Winston tearing his ACL, and all-pro running back Alvin Kamara being in and out of the lineup, ultimately missing five games. Following in Payton’s shoes will not be a easy task as he capitalized on one of the biggest triumphs in Super Bowl history against the Indianapolis Colts.
Payton left a legacy with the standard of winning at all costs, as many believe aside from Bill Belichick he is the best coach in the NFL. Along with that compliment also comes with Belichick-like criticism. The NFL suspended Payton for one year in 2012 as part of an investigation that resulted in what would be called “Bounty Gate” for the team paying players to lay out harsh hits to injure the opposing team’s players.
Aside from that, Payton has been praised as being one of the best offensive minds the game has ever seen. He has yielded at least 13 Top-10 offenses during his tenure with a hall of fame quarterback at the helm to help. To his credit, he molded one of the best offensive skill weapons in recent years by making Taysom Hill the ultimate playmaker. Hill is listed as a quarterback , but was utilized by playing tight end, running back, wide receiver, and in some cases kick returner.
If he decides to come back to coaching he will surely have a long line of suitors waiting to sign up for his services. Ever since news broke of the resignation, Payton has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys as a potential destination, as owner Jerry Jones has previously expressed interest in wanting to hire Payton. Although if that were to happen the Cowboys would need to trade for him as he still has three years left on his contract in New Orleans.
The Saints will not only have to replace Payton, but need to address the elephant in the room of who will be their long-term quarterback. Brees retired last year after a playoff lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Saint can try and make a run at the free agent pool or look at possible trades with Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson possibly being available this summer. The draft is not a likely option as there are not any considered generational quarterbacks in this year’s NFL draft.
On the other side, the Saints also need to address if star wide receiver Michael Thomas will be with the squad going forward. Thomas missed all of the 2021 season because of an ankle injury that required surgery. He and the organization reportedly had a disagreement on the timing of the surgery, which led to rumors of Thomas being traded.
As far as coaches go, picking the correct one could be critical as there are a few coordinators with great offensive potential comparative to Payton. If the team is looking for another offensive guru then offensive coordinators Eric Bieniemy or Byron Leftwich could be the way to go. The Saints will have all off season to think about who will step into the light to lead this talented roster into next season. Sean Payton on the other hand will be able to relax for once and not have to worry about coming up with a game plan to dissect the league’s best defenses, and may venture into some television opportunities if he so likes.