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NFL insiders expect Sean Payton to return to Fox Sports over head-coaching jobs

Sean Payton
Andrew Wevers-USA TODAY Sports

After emerging as one of the best NFL coaching candidates in 2023, former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is reportedly poised to turn down opportunities to return to the sideline.

When the NFL coaching carousel began, Payton quickly emerged as a leading target to either become the next Carolina Panthers or Denver Broncos head coach. He interviewed with both teams, along with the Houston Texans and soon the Arizona Cardinals, putting together an All-Star staff to join him.

  • Sean Payton coaching record: 152-89 in regular season, 9-8 in playoffs

However, Payton’s preferred destinations never opened up. Multiple reports during the regular season indicated he eyed the Los Angeles Chargers and Dallas Cowboys. Los Angeles provided him with the opportunity to stay in California and coach one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

Meanwhile, Payton’s relationship with Jerry Jones and the chance to coach the iconic Cowboys franchise also appealed to him. With both teams making the playoffs, though, neither head-coaching position opened.

On Monday, it was reported that Payton’s second interview with the Broncos was canceled. While he is meeting Cardinals’ officials later this week, many NFL insiders believe the writing is on the wall regarding the final outcome.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated wrote that he believes Payton is now more likely to stay with Fox Sports instead of coaching in the NFL season. It’s an educated opinion tied to the state of the NFL coaching vacancies and how long the process has already played out.

Echoing that sentiment, NFL reporter Jeff Duncan of NOLA.com shared that the longer this goes on the likelihood of Payton staying in his current role as an analyst for Fox increases.

As noted by NFL insider Benjamin Allbright, the market for Payton might not even be as strong as anticipated. The Cardinals hired a general manager first, taking away an opportunity for Payton to have more control over the roster with a GM of his choosing.

Related: Sean Payton lays out trade cost to acquire him

As for the Panthers, the acquisition cost of acquiring Payton from a division rival likely outweighs the benefit of hiring him when the franchise must also find a way to acquire a high-end quarterback.

Payton made it clear in public interviews that he was very open to returning to Fox Sports and then evaluating his options in the NFL next year. Considering how things have unfolded, patience might be the right approach for a coach who will likely get one last shot at a top job.