Flashback to 2021 and the end of the NFL season. The New Orleans Saints finished the year 9-8 and disappointed. Despite signing an extension with the Saints in 2019 that goes through 2024, Payton stepped down as head coach.
So where are we now? Sean Payton is a prime candidate for multiple head coach openings. The only catch is that whoever wants Payton has to trade for him. The Saints will want significant draft compensation. The last time we saw a coach involved in a trade was 2019 when Bruce Arians was traded from the Cardinals to the Bucs to come out of retirement. So where will Payton land? Let’s discuss.
5.) FOX Sports Analyst
First up, we have a long shot opportunity where Sean Payton decided coaching is still not what he wants and stays an analyst for FOX Sports. He has already indicated he would want to return to the TV booth for the 2023 season. However, this would take him out of football for a second consecutive year and drop his appeal significantly. The Saints would lose their leverage in a trade and a coach out of football for two years is worrisome.
Payton would do just fine with FOX but another shot at being a head coach should be too appealing. Hopefully he makes his mind up soon because teams will grow impatient.
4.) Dallas Cowboys
Next, we have the Dallas Cowboys who are fresh off yet another divisional round exit in the playoffs. While Jerry Jones says Mike McCarthy’s job is not in jeopardy, Payton has been tied to Dallas far beyond coaching rumors. Sean Payton was employed as a coach in Dallas from 2003-2005. A reunion could make sense for the right price right?
Sure McCarthy has multiple 12-win seasons but I am sure Jerry Jones is always looking out for other candidates at head coach. Dallas has the expectation of being a Super Bowl contender but have been nothing short of disappointing for almost 30 years. Jerry Jones has said Dallas has to be “viable in the playoffs” to win his trust. Maybe a reunion with Payton by trading away that late first round pick is the motivation the franchise needs to take that next step.
3.) Indianapolis Colts
The Colts ended this season with plenty of questions and disappointment. A 4-12-1 record is far below what they expected to do. The Colts are expected to go QB in the draft considering they will likely get a top-five pick. Indy will not trade away that top five pick for a coach but maybe their 2024 first rounder is worth the trouble.
Giving Payton the keys to the draft and picking who he wants under center for years to come could be enticing. Indy would be a weird route for Payton but it has potential. Jonathan Taylor being the running back behind a quarterback Payton controls could be enough to motivate him to wind up in Indy.
2.) Denver Broncos
The Broncos are currently the heavy favorite to bring in Sean Payton. After firing Nathaniel Hackett after just one season, the Broncos are desperate for a new head coach. Having a veteran quarterback in Russell Wilson is both good and bad for appeal. Wilson would be easy to work with but he is also aging and not someone who can be molded by a new coach so there has to be a happy medium there.
The Broncos have a young core and solid defense as well. The pieces are there for the Broncos to be legit but now they need good leadership. The Broncos have the 29th pick after trading away Bradley Chubb to the Dolphins. If I was them, trade away that 29th pick and take the necessary step to start contending in the AFC West again.
1.) Arizona Cardinals
Finally we have the best spot as far as appeal for Sean Payton. The Cardinals might have an aging roster but that means plenty of leadership. Having Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins at your feet is quite the offer. Payton has shown plenty of interest in the Cardinals and a move to the beatiful year round weather in Arizona could be too much to pass on.
The Cardinals are going to get a top-three pick so I doubt they trade away that valuable of a pick. However, if they want to be serious about winning, trade away a larger package of second round picks. Payton could be without Murray for the first couple of games but he could at least establish the culture he wants especially after drafting at number three overall.
Why Sean Payton Should Be A Head Coach
The truth here is that Sean Payton deserves one last shot in the NFL. He might be a year behind on the NFL life but he would not struggle to make it back up. Arizona and Denver are enticing franchises to join for the right price. If I was him, go to Denver where there are more pieces guaranteed for you upon entry.
The Broncos have the draft capital to trade away for Payton and they should do it. Taking the big step towards being a competitor again requires leadership and Payton fits that roll as a head coach. Arizona also fits but they would have to sacrifice far too much.
Heck, the TV booth might happen because this is too much drama surrounding someone whos been out of football for a year. Only time will tell where Payton ends up but do not be surprised if he lands with one of these franchises or network for that matter.