Sean Payton is one of the greatest coaches of his era. The legendary former Saints head coach announced he was retiring in January, leaving New Orleans to promote defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to head coach.
While Payton may be retired, time and time again, guys can get the itch to coach again. Joe Gibbs came back to Washington, Dick Vermeil returned to coaching with the Rams and Bruce Arians went to Tampa Bay after a year in the broadcast booth.
If Payton does want to come back to the NFL, there will be a plethora of possibilities come 2023.
New Orleans Saints
This one seems obvious. New Orleans is where Payton coached from 2006-22. He helped the city’s revival in a post-Katrina world and brought the city a championship.
However, there are several reasons that probably made him leave in the first place. The Saints are constantly battling the cap. Plus, it seems Drew Brees retiring took some wind of out Payton’s sail. While it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility Payton returns to the Big Easy, it seems unlikely at best.
There is a real possibility Matt Rhule is gone by the time the 2023 offseason rolls around. Carolina hasn’t found any success under the former Baylor head coach, and his seat is scolding hot.
The Panthers have a good set of young players, specifically on the defensive side of the ball. Bringing in Payton to find his guy at quarterback to pair with D.J. Moore and help construct the rest of the offense in his image could get the Panthers back into contention.
Pete Carrol will be 71 in September—is he really going to want to go through a vast rebuild? It took the Seahawks a long time to become a consistent winner. The lure of having Payton as head coach could bring in a haul of free agents.
Plus, assuming the Seahawks flounder this season, a high draft pick could net them their quarterback of the future. Payton and, let’s say, Bryce Young, going into 2023? That would give Seahawks fans a lot to be excited about.
This move would be in-step with what the Miami Dolphins have done in recent memory tells us anything. The Dolphins fired Brian Flores after three seasons, two of which were winning seasons.
If 2022 doesn’t go the way they hope, Stephen Ross might not hesitate to disregard Mike McDaniel in favor of Payton if given the chance.
Before taking the Saints job, Payton was Bill Parcells’ assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach in Dallas. The Cowboys have been inconsistent throughout the last two decades, and the trend seems like it is continuing.
After a 6-10 2020 season, Dallas won the NFC East before being eliminated in the wildcard round. If the Cowboys are one-and-done in the postseason again or miss out on the playoffs altogether, Mike McCarthy could be on his way out, paving the way for Payton’s return to Arlington.
Jarrett Bailey contributed to this report.