Sean Payton has informed the New Orleans Saints that he is stepping away as head coach, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports. La Canfora added that it is not a retirement per se, but rather a break and that a return to the NFL at some point is possible.
The Saints’ coach since 2006, Payton compiled a 152-89 regular season record and a 9-8 postseason record. In 2009, Payton led New Orleans to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title, a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Saints went 9-8 last season while missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Saints owner Gayle Benson recently acknowledged that she was not sure whether or not Payton — who has three years remaining on his contract — would continue to coach New Orleans in 2022.
Payton had been the NFL’s second-longest tenured head coach behind only Patriots‘ coach Bill Belichick. He is currently tied with Seattle coach Pete Carroll for 21st in NFL history in regular season wins. Payton’s .631 regular season winning percentage is tied for the 22nd highest mark in league annals. His nine playoff wins matches the mark of Hall of Fame coaches Vince Lombardi, John Madden, Paul Brown and Tom Flores.
Founded in 1967, the Saints had just five playoff appearances until Payton arrived in New Orleans in 2006. During his time with the franchise, New Orleans made the playoffs nine times that included three trips to the NFC Championship Game. The Saints also won four NFC South division titles that included four straight from 2017-20.
The high point during Payton’s time in New Orleans was the Saints’ surprising run to the NFC Championship Game in 2006 and the franchise’s victory in Super Bowl XLIV. In that game, Payton notoriously called for the earliest attempted onside kick in Super Bowl history at the start of the second half. The Saints recovered the onside kick and proceeded to outscore the Colts 21-7 in the second half.
Payton’s low points as Saints coach include his one-year suspension from coaching in 2012 for his role in the team’s Bountygate scandal during the 2009 season. More recently, Payton’s teams suffered four consecutive home playoff losses that included the team’s controversial overtime loss to the Rams in the 2018 NFC Championship Game.
Payton’s time in New Orleans will also be remembered for his prolific partnership with former Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who won MVP honors in Super Bowl XLIV. Under Payton, Brees won seven passing titles while leading the league in completion percentage six times and in touchdown passes on four occasions. Brees, is second all-time to Tom Brady in career passing yards (80,358) and touchdown passes (571).
Current Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is reportedly expected to be a top candidate to replace Payton. The Saints will likely try to interview some of the league’s top available candidates that includes current Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Whoever replaces Payton has the Saints’ coach will oversee a roster that is projected to be roughly $74 million over the salary cap when the new league year begins on March 16. While start running back Alvin Kamara is under contract, the Saints have several pending free agents on their roster that include safety Marcus Williams and left tackle Terron Armstead. The Saints also have questions at quarterback, as Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill and Ian Book each saw time under center last season following Jameis Winston’s season-ending injury.