It appears it is a matter of when, not if, Sean Payton will return to the NFL.
The former New Orleans Saints head coach stepped down at the end of the 2021-22 NFL season and has enjoyed his time off. The Miami Dolphins reportedly tried to lure Payton and Tom Brady but were ultimately unsuccessful.
The Dallas Cowboys seems to be the favorite to be Payton’s next destination, but the 58-year-old reportedly is eyeing the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers as potential destinations.
That came from ESPN insiders Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano on Wednesday, who discussed the latest buzz around the league.
“I’d like to stop here for a second and talk about Payton, because I think just about every team with an opening will want to talk to him,” Graziano wrote. “Carolina, for example, would probably love a chance to throw a pile of money at Payton. But my sense is that he’ll be picky and will look for a spot where the QB situation is solid, first and foremost. That’s why I think a lot of people are connecting him with a potential Chargers opening. People would line up to coach Justin Herbert if that job came open. If not there, I’ve been told to watch Arizona as a potential Payton destination.”
Fowler and Graziano also discussed former head coaches who could get another crack at the job and other rising candidates around the league. But, as for Payton, his moment would depend on the Saints. New Orleans still retains his rights, so a team would have to give up some compensation in return. That likely won’t be too much of an issue if that franchise is serious about acquiring one of the best coaches of the past decade.
The question will be on vacancies. The Chargers have been disappointing this year, but it’s not clear if Brandon Staley would get fired after his second year on the job. It’s more likely the 39-year-old gets another shot, with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi getting the axe.
Kliff Kingsbury signed an extension this past offseason, but Cardinals ownership may make a panic move if Payton is a realistic shot. The fourth-year head coach’s future may depend on Kyler Murray’s sentiments.
A perfect quarterback situation is a difficult one to find — something Payton himself has admitted — so it would not be surprising if the former Coach of the Year remains patient until a suitable job opens up.
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