Sean Payton predicts return to coaching: top 2023 goals for longtime Saints coach


Sean Payton predicts return to coaching: top 2023 goals for longtime Saints coach

It didn’t take long for Sean Payton to rekindle interest in coaching. Almost six months later gone indefinitely by the Saints, the longtime head coach said USA Today this week he thinks he will actually return to the NFL; it’s just a matter of when and where. Payton, 58, even went so far as to note that there are typically around six vacancies a year, a sign he’ll be keeping an eye on all vacancies in 2023.

It’s possible the former Super Bowl champion will eventually reclaim his place at the helm of the Saints, especially considering his contract with New Orleans runs through 2024. But that would have had complications: The team hired defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to take over Payton’s job this offseason, and Payton himself all but said goodbye to the franchise in a lengthy press conference before accepting a job at Fox Sports for 2022.

All indications are that Payton will start fresh when he returns to patrolling the sidelines. That would require his new team to trade to compensate the Saints, but his resume should help New Orleans pull in attractive offers. With that in mind, here are six of the most logical destinations for Payton should he return in 2023:

Note: That Miami Herald recently reported that the Chargers and Dolphins would likely be interested in Payton should they have openings, but we don’t foresee Brandon Staley or Mike McDaniel being replaced after just a season or two on the job.

They’re not firing Pete Carroll even if 2022 is full of lumps. But it’s possible that Carroll, who turned 71 in September, could leave the game if he loses his second straight season as Seattle kicks off its post-Russell-Wilson regime. In that case, who better to lead the real rebuild than a seasoned program developer like Payton? Even if the quarterback remains a question mark through 2023, Payton might be intrigued by the thought of owning four premium picks in the first two rounds of the 2024 draft — an opportunity to handpick core picks to match with big names like DK Metcalf and Tyler mate Lockett and Rookie fight Charles Cross.

Before hiring Josh McDaniels this offseason, Las Vegas was reportedly eyeing a blockbuster trade for a proven name like Payton or Mike Tomlin. Certainly they won’t want to be able to McDaniels, even if 2022 will be a struggle, but their division is so tough that last place isn’t out of the question. When things get really ugly, who says Mark Davis won’t be pining for a bigger, better version of his Jon Gruden game of rolling the dice on star power as head coach? Payton, meanwhile, would have a chance to build Vegas’ NFL legacy with an efficient starting QB in Derek Carr, not to mention elite weapons like Davante Adams.

Bruce Arians has apparently stepped down to leave Todd Bowles with a solid setup for his second attempt as head coach. So it would be strange if Tampa Bay gave up its internal promotion after just one year. But Tom Brady has a big part to play here, and considering he has the power to test the free hand again in 2023, his contribution may well dictate their moves to the top. And remember, both Brady and Payton have danced around rumors that they would be teaming up with the Dolphins following their separate “retirements.” It’s not hard to imagine Brady making a comeback if it means making an offense with Payton, who could help TB12 defeat his Saints’ demons.

Few teams have poured as many resources into supporting their young quarterback as the Jets this offseason, but unless Robert Saleh oversees a significant improvement on either the retooled offense or his signature defense, management could turn to one for a quicker fix proven name . And Payton, aside from offering the QB tutelage that could augment (or replace) Zach Wilson, knows the New Jersey area well, spending six years between the Eagles and Giants from 1997-2002. He would get a big market with the Jets, a young roster deserving of promotion and a division that might only have a major threat with the Bills.

New coach Matt Eberflus isn’t exactly set for success in 2022 as young QB Justin Fields is equipped with a dubious O-line and weapons. If the results are predictably ugly, coming off the Chiefs, new GM Ryan Poles could certainly be talked into a quick trade for an offensive Spirit, especially with nearly $100 million in projected cap space coming in 2023 should be used. Who better to help spend that? Earn money and assemble a real arsenal (with or without fields) as Payton? Chicago is well known to the coach, who grew up, went to college and played professionally in and around the Windy City.

This has been rumored, reported, and speculated on for years, and with good reason. Owner Jerry Jones likes Payton almost as much as he likes teasing current coach Mike McCarthy apparent lack of job security. McCarthy could actually be in the hot seat if he fails to lead a top-10 quarterback in his third year at the helm and fails to make it through the wild card round. And Payton has the right connections: he has family in Texas, he alluded to the American team in his departure from the Saints, the Cowboys are built to win now, and Dallas launched his own career as a head coach that he started in 2003 served until 2005.

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