Sean Payton still ‘not committed’ to returning to Saints in 2022
By Kristen Wong
Another Sean Payton rumor, but this one is bigger than ever.
As in every offseason, there’s been fervent speculation that Payton will leave the New Orleans Saints, whether for another NFL team like the Cowboys or for a media position.
As with all speculation, take these Payton rumors with 2,500 milligrams of salt (more than your daily recommended sodium intake.)
But there may be more reason to believe this one, rather than the others, since it comes from a very reputable source.
NFL’s Ian Rapoport stated on Sunday morning that Payton “has not committed to returning to New Orleans” next season and that “many close to him don’t know what he’ll do.”
Mike Garafolo followed that up with less of a rumor than a general statement telling us what we already know:
Could Sean Payton actually leave the New Orleans Saints this year?
Payton still has three years left on his contract, but Rapoport notes that the 16-year Saints head coach has not informed the organization that he will “definitely” return.
Payton has reportedly been on vacation for more than a week now, so his radio silence regarding his future in NOLA isn’t as concerning as, say, Michael Thomas ghosting the Saints last offseason.
After a 2021 season where Payton needed to use every ounce of his coaching expertise to steer the Saints to a 9-8 winning record, he deserves the break.
But Rapoport’s sources are saying Payton may want a longer hiatus that could turn into a “mini-retirement” period:
"It would be highly unlikely for Payton to coach another team in 2022, sources say. Rather, this would be a mini-retirement to recharge for a year after a season several people close to him described as incredibly challenging and difficult.In this scenario, the Payton era likely would be over in New Orleans. If he were to return to coaching, it’s expected it would be with another organization, sources say."
Change is already stirring in New Orleans Saints camp with defensive coordinator Dennis Allen interviewing for a head coaching position with the Chicago Bears.
If Payton leaves, it seems likely the Saints will want to promote Allen, but all talk of the Saints coaches’ futures remains rooted in the hypothetical.
At this point, it’s impossible to tell what would motivate Payton to stay or what would cause Payton to walk away. He’s being paid $45 million through the 2024 season, but as Garafolo mentioned, Payton could command a similar salary if he works in media.
We don’t know why on God’s green Earth he would want to (a reunion with Drew Brees?), but it’s an option.
This offseason, the Saints have a looming hole to fill at the quarterback position and plenty of other needs in other areas. 2022 will serve as yet another rebuilding period for New Orleans in the post-Drew Brees era, and perhaps Payton has gotten tired of the constant grind (and criticism to Taysom Hill.)
We anxiously await Payton’s response so that all this speculation can be put to bed.