After speculation on his future continued to grow, Saints’ head coach Sean Payton has informed the team that he is “stepping away”, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (Twitter link). The news brings an end to his tenure in New Orleans dating back to 2006.
[Related: Sean Payton Not Certain To Return in 2022]
Rapoport reported earlier in the week that the 58-year-old was weighing his options, and that there was a strong chance he might not be coaching in 2022. Many thought a one-year absence was a possibility, either for Payton to take a year off from coaching altogether, or perhaps to try his hand in broadcasting, as TV networks are apparently interested in him. ESPN’s Dianna Russini reports (via Twitter) that “he is not done coaching football in the future”.
Meanwhile, Nick Underhill of The Athletic has tweeted that Payton has “retired”. That would of course suggest a much greater degree of finality to the decision, as opposed to a temporary break from the spotlight. Payton was back at the Saints’ facility on Monday, the day owner Gayle Benson confirmed that no one in the organization knew his intentions.
Payton has three years remaining on his current contract, but obviously the Saints need to begin looking for a replacement HC. One of the names mentioned as a candidate to take over is defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who has also received interest from the Bears. New Orleans will certainly have competition for any external options, as there are now nine HC vacancies around the league.
One year after the quarterback who delivered the franchise’s only Super Bowl retired, the coach who was an equally integral part of that championship is now departing New Orleans as well.