Sean Payton

2022 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, seven NFL teams opted to make a head coaching change. With Sean Payton stepping away from the Saints, there are now nine full-time vacancies available this year. After Thursday’s news, two of those openings (Denver and Chicago) have been filled, and a major candidate in Dan Quinn has decided to remain in Dallas. Friday saw another name scratched off the list, with the Giants making their HC hire.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If and when other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-28-21 (6:06pm CT)

Chicago Bears

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Sean Payton Not Planning To Coach In 2022

Sean Payton‘s decision to leave the Saints post he held since 2006 gives the NFL nine HC vacancies. The other eight teams conducting searches can cross Payton off their respective lists, though it appears some of them were interested in the longtime New Orleans leader.

Payton said Tuesday he does not plan to coach during the 2022 season. However, other teams were interested in poaching the Super Bowl-winning coach, Dianna Russini of ESPN.com tweets. Those conversations figure to be relevant in the not-so-distant future. For now, one of modern NFL’s most accomplished coaches is off the market.

I felt like 10 years went by and we talked about the other team for a lot, and I get it; I understand it. But no, my plans are not to be coaching in 2022. And that’s just how I feel,” Payton said. “… I still have a vision for doing things in football and, I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don’t think it’s this year. I think maybe in the future, but that’s not where my heart is right now. It’s not at all.”

Payton perhaps taking a sabbatical creates an interesting situation for various teams, particularly those who have been connected to the former Coach of the Year in the past. The Giants and Cowboys are two notable franchises who have been connected to Payton; each team employed Payton during the 2000s. Other teams will certainly be in the mix if the now-unattached coach plans to return to the sideline.

For the time being, Payton following his former quarterback into the television ranks seems likely. While Payton said he has not spoken to any networks yet, those discussions are likely coming. This would be interesting, given other coaches’ TV odysseys this century. Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson did not return to coaching after their respective agreements to join pregame shows. Jon Gruden and Bruce Arians did end up leaving the broadcast booth to come back, the latter doing so after just one season.

I’ve had some opportunities,” Payton said of a TV career. “I talked to Drew [Brees] about it a little bit last night. I don’t know that part of it that well, but that would be something that would interest me.”

Saints’ HC Sean Payton “Stepping Away”

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.

Saints Owner Gayle Benson Unsure Of Sean Payton’s Future

There is a growing sense of uncertainty surrounding Saints head coach Sean Payton‘s future. It was confirmed today that Gayle Benson, the team’s owner, is also unaware of what Payton is planning on doing in 2022 and beyond. 

[Related: Sean Payton Not Certain To Return In 2022]

During a media availability unrelated to the Saints, Benson was asked about her knowledge with respect to Payton’s intentions. She responded, “Who knows? We’ll find out soon enough, I guess. I don’t think any of us know, but he’ll let us know soon enough” (Twitter link via Nick Underhill of the Athletic).

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that Payton has yet to inform the team of his decision one way or the other. The 58-year-old has three years remaining on his current contract, but it seems a full year removed from coaching is a strong possibility. What he would do during that year – either away from the spotlight or on a TV network, potentially – would of course largely influence how the Saints set up their coaching staff moving forward.

Today, Rapoport provided an update on the situation, beginning with Benson’s comments. He added that Payton is “back in the building in New Orleans”, stressing that that fact shouldn’t be taken as an indication that he is staying or going. Still, it provides an opportunity, as Rapoport puts it, for there to be “some sort of resolution” for the Super Bowl winning coach.

All parties involved, clearly, are anxious to to see a decision made on the Payton front as soon as possible.

Saints HC Sean Payton Not Certain To Return In 2022

After the 2020 season, Saints fans bid adieu to one franchise icon in quarterback Drew Brees. Now that the 2021 season is over, will New Orleans also have to say goodbye to the man who came to town with Brees 16 years ago and helped reverse the franchise’s fortunes?

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, head coach Sean Payton has not yet told the Saints that he is definitely returning for the 2022 campaign. He has been on vacation for over a week, and it sounds as though he is using that time to ponder his NFL future. Rapoport adds that Payton has “gone dark” on several people close to him.

Payton’s desire to go off the grid for a moment seems to have been borne out of his need to recharge after what his confidants tell Rapoport was “an incredibly challenging and difficult season” for him. New Orleans dealt with more than its fair share of injuries in 2021, and Payton was forced to cycle through four different passers in the first year of the post-Brees era. The QB situation was particularly taxing, and it has forced Payton to reevaluate his immediate future.

If he elects not to return to the New Orleans sidelines, Payton would likely not coach another club in 2022, per Rapoport. Instead, as Albert Breer of SI.com suggests, the 58-year-old may choose to follow Brees’ path and become a talking head somewhere, as TV networks have reportedly been gearing up to make a run at him (Twitter link).

Or, he could take a break from football entirely and rejoin the head coaching ranks in 2023 (though in such a scenario, a return to the Saints probably would not be in the cards, and New Orleans would end up trading him to another club). It’s likely that any team in need of an HC at that time would have Payton at or near the top of its list of preferred candidates, and a television opportunity will probably always be there for him whenever he chooses to retire from coaching for good. Indeed, Rapoport says that Payton is not considering official retirement at this point, and that if he steps away, it would only be for a year.

This is far from the first time that these types of rumors have surrounded Payton, who has publicly scoffed at them in the past. But Katherine Terrell, the Saints’ beat reporter for ESPN, suggests that there is real substance to this report (Twitter link). While Terrell believes Payton will be back in New Orleans in 2022, she concedes it is a situation to keep an eye on.

Payton is under contract through 2024 and is one of the league’s highest-paid coaches. It would no doubt be difficult for him to leave the city where he has built a terrific legacy, but it’s worth mentioning that the Saints will once again have an unenviable salary cap situation and do not have an obvious means of adding a championship-caliber QB to the roster. Perhaps Payton will decide that cutting ties now, while his stock is still as high as it can be, is the most prudent course of action.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who has landed a head coaching interview with the Bears, would perhaps be the Saints’ top choice to replace Payton. However, the club would have to conduct a complete search, not only for its own benefit, but to comply with Rooney Rule requirements. And with HC interviews around the league already well underway, New Orleans would have a lot of catching up to do.

Saints’ Hill Suffers Lisfranc Injury

According to a tweet from Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Saints’ head coach Sean Payton informed Fox’s Laura Okmin that quarterback Taysom Hill suffered a Lisfranc injury in the first half of the Saints’ Week 18 matchup in Atlanta. The injury to his left foot, if serious, could take Hill away from play for the rest of the year and potentially some of next year. 

A Lisfranc injury is what downed Jaguars’ rookie running back Travis Etienne in the preseason and kept him from playing for the entire season. When serious the injury can take up to 11-12 months to recover and has, in some instances, forced a couple of players into retirement. Hill suffered a similar injury to his right foot in 2015, when he was quarterbacking the BYU Cougars in their season opener against Nebraska. Hill finished the game, once it was confirmed it wouldn’t cause further damage, but when the game ended, then-head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced the injury would end his season.

This could be a major blow to the Saints as they are attempting to become the first NFL team in the league’s history to make it to the postseason after having started four different quarterbacks throughout the season. Due to season-ending injuries and COVID-19 infections, the Saints have seen Hill, Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book all start games under center. They can get into the playoffs today with a win in Atlanta and a 49ers’ loss in Los Angeles to the Rams.

A playoff berth would certainly be a testament to Sean Payton’s ability to keep the boat afloat no matter who is at quarterback, but going into the postseason with your first- and second-string quarterbacks unable to play may prove to be their toughest challenge of the season.

Matt Eberflus, Jerod Mayo Could Be Candidates For Bears HC

Matt Nagy could be coaching his final game with the Bears tomorrow. If that’s the case, the focus will pivot to his replacement, and we’re already starting to hear some chatter about potential candidates. According to Albert Breer of SI.com, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo would be in the mix if the Bears HC gig opens up.

Breer also acknowledges that Chicago has been connected to bigger names like Jim Harbaugh and Sean Payton, but he can’t envision the organization getting into a bidding war for either coach. Breer also notes that former Bears cornerback (and current Bills defensive coordinator) Leslie Frazier could be a logical option.

During their last HC search, the Bears were focused on adding “quarterback-developers.” However, that won’t necessarily be the case this time around. While the organization will obviously want to hear the candidates’ plans for QB Justin Fields, Breer believes the Bears are instead focused on hiring a “leader-of-men” coach.

Eberflus served as a linebackers coach for almost a decade with the Browns and Cowboys, but he finally got a shot at a DC gig in 2018. In Indy, the 51-year-old has been credited with establishing a culture built on hustle and discipline, and his defenses have mostly been up to the challenge. Eberflus’s defenses have consistently been ranked in the top-half of the NFL for their ability to stop the run, and the team has ranked top-10 in takeaways during each of his four seasons at the helm.

Mayo had a standout career with the Patriots, with the former 10th-overall pick earning two Pro Bowl nods and a Super Bowl ring during his eight seasons in New England. Mayo rejoined the organization as their linebackers coach in 2019. While New England is currently operating without a true defensive coordinator, Mayo (along with Steve Belichick) are assumed to be atop the defensive coaching depth chart.

NFC South Notes: Bucs, Rhule, Saints

Le’Veon Bell joined the Buccaneers earlier this week. They are his fifth team and fourth in the past 14 months. Following the Ravens’ decision to waive him earlier this season, the 29-year-old running back considered retirement, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes. While Bell has not been much of a factor since his final Steelers season, in 2017, he had not been an in-season free agent for a lengthy stretch until this year. The Ravens cut Bell on Nov. 16. The Bucs, who are in need at running back after Leonard Fournette‘s IR placement, may well give him an opportunity on third downs and as a change-of-pace option behind Ronald Jones. Bell also expressed regret for how public his Steelers franchise tag dispute became in 2018, though the former All-Pro said he does not regret skipping that season. While that move ended up benefiting Bell financially, via the lucrative guarantee he received from the Jets in 2019, his career has never recovered from that decision.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Although the Panthers have drifted out of contention and have gone 10-20 under Matt Rhule, the drumbeat of the ex-college HC staying on for a third season continues. Despite Carolina’s 4-10 record, Rhule is still expected to receive a third season, Joe Person of The Athletic notes (subscription required). David Tepper, naturally, is unhappy about being 0-for-4 in winning seasons as owner; this will put more heat on Rhule if/once he comes back in 2022. Rhule returning gibes with what we’ve heard out of Charlotte in recent weeks. Rhule received a monster contract in 2020 — seven years, $62MM — but has not delivered just yet, largely due to decisions at quarterback. The Panthers have bounced from Cam Newton to Teddy Bridgewater to Sam Darnold to P.J. Walker and back to Newton over the past year and change. Rhule said this week Darnold will return to action and play some against the Bucs.
  • Sean Payton returned to Saints headquarters Friday, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com tweets. Payton contracted the coronavirus for a second time and missed New Orleans’ shutout win in Tampa. He will be back for a coaching assignment that will involve game-planning for rookie Ian Book’s first regular-season snaps. Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian are on the Saints’ COVID-19 list.
  • Hill’s second Saints extension will pay between $40MM and $95MM, depending on his role. Hill’s 2022 salary ($10.1MM) is fully guaranteed, with his 2023 base ($9.9MM) becoming guaranteed in March 2022, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. However, the other components of this contract are more complex. Hill’s 2023-25 salaries can increase by $12MM per year if he throws at least 224 regular-season passes the previous year. That prospect will hinge on how the Saints proceed at quarterback in 2022, when Jameis Winston is a free agent. There are also $18MM in incentives included, Florio adds, with many of those escalators tied to passing statistics. Essentially, this is a two-year, $20MM deal with significant upside for Hill, who will be 32 by Week 1 of next season.
  • The Bucs‘ Week 15 injury avalanche will indeed cost them Mike Evans for at least one game. The Pro Bowl wideout did not practice this week and will miss the Bucs-Panthers matchup Sunday. Evans suffered a hamstring injury against the Saints. The Bucs will also be without Fournette and Lavonte David, whom they placed on IR Thursday, due to injuries suffered last week. Chris Godwin is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Saints Place Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Saints are the latest team with a virus issue. It may well lead the playoff-contending squad starting a rookie at quarterback Monday night.

New Orleans placed Trevor Siemian on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier Thursday morning, Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com notes, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds that Taysom Hill will also be moved to the virus list (Twitter link). Rookie Ian Book is the next man up. The Notre Dame product is likely to get the call Monday night.

Book would be New Orleans’ fourth QB starter this season, following Jameis Winston, Siemian and Hill. The Saints selected the ex-Fighting Irish standout in the fourth round. This certainly could stall the Saints’ recent momentum. After nearly falling out of the playoff race during a stretch without Alvin Kamara, the Saints have won two straight — including a 9-0 win in Tampa that doubled as Tom Brady‘s first shutout loss in 15 years.

Sean Payton has not been at the facility this week; the 16th-year head coach remains away from the team after testing positive for COVID last week. The Saints chose Book 133rd overall. He started three seasons at Notre Dame, topping out with a 34-touchdown pass season as a junior in 2019.

Book is also the winningest starting QB in Notre Dame history. He stands to be tasked with helping the Saints stay on the No. 7 seed line in the NFC playoff race. The Saints’ win over the Buccaneers moved them to 7-7; FiveThirtyEight.com gives the team a 44% chance to make the playoffs. New Orleans being forced to give the keys to a Day 3 rookie with zero regular-season snaps will impact those odds.

The Saints also added seven more players to their reserve/COVID-19 list. Malcolm Jenkins is among them. Joining the veteran safety are safety Jeff Heath, guard James Carpenter, offensive lineman Jordan Mills, defensive end Jalyn Holmes, D-tackle Christian Ringo and linebacker Kaden Elliss.

Saints HC Sean Payton To Miss Sunday’s Game

Sean Payton won’t be on the sideline for Sunday’s matchup against the defending champs. The Saints announced that their head coach has tested positive for Covid-19. ‘

[RELATED: This Date In Transactions History: Saints Extend HC Sean Payton]

Per league protocols, Payton will be out for 10 days unless he meets the requirements for a fully vaccinated individual to return to his team. At the very least, Payton won’t be coaching against the Buccaneers this weekend.

Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen will assume the duties of head coach for Sunday’s showdown, according to the team. Allen was the head coach of the Raiders for two-plus seasons from 2012 to 2014. He collected an 8-24 record during his first two seasons at the helm, and an 0-4 start to the 2014 campaign led to his firing.

New Orleans is currently sitting with a 6-7 record and is struggling to remain in the postseason picture. The team already had their hands full against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, but that task will be made even tougher without Payton on the sideline.