Teams Showing Interest in Sean Payton


Sean Payton | Image by USA Today

When Sean Payton stepped down as head coach of the Saints last January, many speculated what his next move might be and if he could return to coaching in the NFL in the near future.

A year later, it seems like a real possibility.

Four teams have contacted the former New Orleans head coach and Dallas Cowboys assistant. He has publicly confirmed interviews with three of them: the Carolina Panthers, the Denver Broncos, and the Houston Texans.

The Arizona Cardinals have also requested an interview with Payton, but he has not confirmed whether he will interview with the team.

Rumors began swirling in late December when it was revealed that Payton would likely bring in renowned defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as part of any potential staff should he return.

Fangio and Kris Richard – who both have ties to Payton – have reportedly already interviewed with the Panthers for their defensive coordinator vacancy despite the team not having a new head coach yet. Payton has confirmed that he will meet with Panthers owner David Tepper in New York on Friday to discuss the head coaching position.

The Broncos were the first to publicize their interest, and Payton confirmed that earlier this season on Fox’s Sunday NFL Kickoff. The team completed their interviews with both Payton and Rams’ defensive coordinator Raheem Morris in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Houston is commonly thought to have one of the worst-run organizations in the NFL, but Payton is not ruling out the possibility.

“They’ve got really good draft capital, really good draft capital,” he told Fox’s Colin Cowherd during an appearance on The Herd with Colin Cowherd. “They’re in a division that you can at least say with Indy, Tennessee and Jacksonville [is winnable]. There’s growth potential immediately there from their two or three wins they had this year.”

The team interviewed Payton on Monday night.

Payton is still under contract with New Orleans through 2024, so any team wanting to hire him would have to make a trade for him. The coach said he had discussed the potential compensation with Saints owner Mickey Loomis.

“Ultimately, the compensation for the Saints would be a mid- or late-first-round pick,” he has said. “Each team has different ammo or different pick selections. It could be a future one where maybe you have to throw in something.”

That compensation is in line with the price tags that teams have placed on coaches in trades in recent years, including Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, and Jon Gruden.

Most recently, the Cardinals traded Bruce Arians to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick in 2019.

In the 2023 draft, the Texans have the second and 12th overall picks, the Panthers have the ninth overall pick, and the Broncos have a late first-rounder from the Miami Dolphins that will be determined by how the San Francisco 49ers finish (San Francisco had previously traded it to Miami).

Many believe the quarterback situations of each team would be a driving force for Payton’s potential return. However, he has said ownership and the people within an organization would be even more crucial.

“It’s really about the triangular relationship: ownership, front office, and head coach,” Payton said on NFL Sunday Kickoff while discussing his future with fellow analyst Peter Schrager earlier this month.

“When we went to New Orleans, the quarterback situation was unsettled at the time. So, I think ownership and the functionality of the front office is most important,” he continued.

This is likely what Payton will be assessing during these upcoming interviews.

“That’s the significance of the upcoming week or two, meeting some of these individuals, asking some questions, maybe some difficult questions,” Payton told Cowherd. “And trying to get answers so we’re not having difficult questions when you’ve already taken the job.”

Payton is currently an NFL analyst for Fox, and there is no guarantee he will return to coaching. However, the level of interest and the number of interviews he has scheduled certainly point to a potential return.

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