In his last press conference as the Saints head coach, Sean Payton expressed his desire to step away from the franchise after a hard-fought 2021 season.
There are rumors Payton could get hired by a TV network this season, but as it stands, Payton seems to want to take a hiatus from coaching, football, all of it.
Those Dallas Cowboys whispers aren’t going away, though.
Prior to his tenure in New Orleans, Payton joined Bill Parcells and the Cowboys as an assistant head coach from 2003 to 2005. In Dallas, Payton was one of the main supporters for signing undrafted free agent Tony Romo (he does have an eye for quarterbacks, after all.)
Despite serving as the face of the Saints franchise for 16 years, Payton’s ties to Dallas never faded away. For many offseasons, Payton was rumored to land a head coaching position on the Cowboys, as fans believed an elite coach like Payton was the final piece that would unlock a Super Bowl-contending Cowboys team.
New Orleans Saints ex-coach Sean Payton may want reunion with Cowboys
The Cowboys probably need more than just a head coach to fix their internal issues, but Payton returning to Dallas remains a timid possibility.
As Ian Rapoport notes, Payton is under contract with the Saints until 2024, which means any team interested in poaching him would have to trade significant draft capital or pay a high price.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is also under contract with his team until 2025, but after an early playoff exit in 2021, McCarthy’s tenure could be cut short.
Payton very nearly left for Dallas in January of 2019, when he and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reached a mutual agreement. Dallas had just lost to the Rams in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, and the Saints also lost to the Rams in the NFC Championship.
ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio wrote about Sean Payton’s closed-doors deal with the Cowboys that almost went through:
"So a deal was worked out, behind the scenes. The Saints would have allowed the Cowboys to hire Payton. The Cowboys would have compensated the Saints for the rights to Payton’s contract. And Payton would have signed a new contract with the Cowboys.It was ready to go. It was happening. It was locked, and it was loaded. Then came Monday, January 28. On that day, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis announced he would not sign another contract with the team, and he requested a trade."
Gayle Benson, who owns both the Saints and Pelicans franchises, wasn’t about to lose two NOLA icons at once, and she decided Sean Payton was no longer for sale.
That was one of the more “hush-hush” delicate situations when it came to high-profile personnel changes. With Sean Payton no longer at the helm of the New Orleans Saints, the Cowboys may adopt a more aggressive approach to bringing on Payton in the future.
Payton’s loyalty (and contract terms) currently lie with the Saints, but in a year or two, Dallas may make Payton an offer he can’t refuse.