Sean Payton is enjoying a year away from the NFL sideline, but the former New Orleans Saints head coach and one of the best play-callers of his era could be eyeing a specific landing spot for a return in 2023.
The 58-year-old stepped away from coaching this offseason, announcing a leave of absence rather than retirement. Immediately after making his decision, multiple NFL teams inquired about his interest in coaching them. The Miami Dolphins were the most prominent club, making an aggressive pursuit of the Saints’ coach that ultimately played a role in their punishment from the NFL for tampering.
- Sean Payton coaching record: 152-89 in the regular season, 9-8 in the postseason
Payton is currently working for Fox Sports as an NFL analyst. While he is delivering unique insight and personality into the role, the Super Bowl-winning coach has also made it clear that there is a desire to return to the sidelines.
Related: Sean Payton trade rumors
“If the right situation presented itself, I would definitely be interested. And there’s no utopia, if you will, when it comes to teams, but if I felt like it was the right situation, I would have an interest in that. That all being said, that could come in a year, that could come in two years.”Sean Payton in September on returning to NFL in 2023 (H/T ESPN)
There is already one job available following the Carolina Panthers’ firing of Matt Rhule. With multiple other head coaches on the hot seat, we’ll see more NFL coaches fired in the months ahead. However, Payton might reportedly have his eye on one specific team with a head coach who is slowly beginning to find himself under more pressure.
A prominent NFL executive told Jason La Canfora of The Washington Post that he believes Payton really wants to become the Los Angeles Chargers head coach, replacing Brandon Staley. It’s largely tied to a desire to work with quarterback Justin Herbert, who many believe could develop into a perennial NFL MVP candidate with the right coach.
Payton, who was born in San Mateo, California, could see it as the perfect opportunity to return home with a franchise that has the pieces in place to compete for a Super Bowl. The Chargers have one of the best rosters in the NFL when healthy, but the team has repeatedly dealt with injuries and poor in-game coaching that hurt them in crucial situations.
Related: Los Angeles Chargers schedule
Los Angeles would need to trade for the rights to Payton, who remains under contract with the Saints. While there hasn’t been a trade for a head coach in more than a decade, Payton’s accomplishments and offensive mind will likely end that drought if he wants to return. Considering his reputation, the starting point will likely be a 2023 first-round pick.
It would be a significant price to pay and Payton will also likely want a contract extension to become one of the highest-paid NFL coaches. While the financial burden might be a significant barrier for owner Dean Spanos, it could be justified if the Chargers believe Payton will make them one of the best teams in football.
Related: Dallas Cowboys expected to pursue Sean Payton if Mike McCarthy doesn’t meet goal