Over the weekend, some rumblings began to emerge about Saints head coach Sean Payton, who was apparently mulling his future despite having three seasons remaining on his contract in New Orleans.
The longtime head coach is reportedly being pursued by Fox Sports as a replacement for Troy Aikman, should the Hall of Famer bolt for Amazon’s new Thursday Night Football broadcast booth (with Al Michaels expected to be the play-by-play man) next year. That came as a rather big surprise to NFL fans, and that smoke was apparently real as word broke on Tuesday afternoon that Payton had returned from vacation and informed the Saints that he was, in fact, retiring.
Sources: Sean Payton has informed the #Saints that he’s stepping away.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 25, 2022
Sean Payton is retiring, per source
— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) January 25, 2022
The Saints will join the Texans, Bears, Vikings, Jaguars, Raiders, Broncos, Giants, and Dolphins in the coaching carousel, as nine of the 32 teams in the NFL currently have vacancies. For a New Orleans team already trying to find its way in the post-Drew Brees era, losing Payton now shifts the organization into even more uncertainty about on-field leadership.
While the Saints figure out who they’ll be hiring — with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen expected to be a top candidate — Payton will have plenty of offers to join the broadcasting ranks, apparently starting with Fox Sports who would love to have him join Joe Buck in their A-booth. Whether this is the end of his coaching career or, somewhat like Bruce Arians, just a brief departure from the sidelines before returning later, remains to be seen, as there are already plenty of people making connections between Payton and the Dallas Cowboys.