After 16 years in New Orleans, Sean Payton has informed the team he is stepping away from the head coaching job. It's a seismic move for both that franchise and potentially for others who want nothing more than to bolster their sideline with a proven winner. Payton won over 63 percent of his regular-season games and picked up nine playoff victories during his memorable run and seeing the team without him will be super-weird.
At 58 and with plenty left in the tank if he chooses, Payton will have his pick of jobs should greener pastures be a motivating factor. There's also been a healthy amount of speculation about his future on television. Just the other day Michael McCarthy at Front Office Sports wrote about Fox's desire to get him in-house as a potential replacement for Troy Aikman, who may ultimately leave for the Amazon gig.
Here are five potential destinations for Payton. Knowing full well there could be a gap year in play.
Jerry Jones would be within his rights to be nonplussed with Mike McCarthy's maiden voyage. Dak Prescott is an obvious upgrade from a Taysom Hill-complicated quarterback mess. The Cowboys' window is still wide-open and coaching the biggest brand in football is alluring. Increased scrutiny wouldn't phase him after navigating myriad on- and off-field challenges in New Orleans. If Payton wants to return to work under Jones, this is a very strong possibility.
Payton was a scrappy 5-foot-10 quarterback at Eastern Illinois. Justin Fields has the potential to be a franchise signal-caller for 15 years. Though he's an offensive guy his teams have been reliant on the type of grit and guile local fans would love. Payton's been a savior for a completely lost franchise before, and this would be a similar undertaking.
Though Trevor Lawrence had a rough rookie year and the organization faces huge challenges, quarterbacks like that don't exactly grow on trees. Shad Khan should be making his next hire based on stability and few have the track record Payton has put together. Far from an upgrade compared to the Saints but a place that Payton could make an indelible mark.
New York Giants
Scoring a monstrous contract to rebuild in the No. 1 market has its merits. A fresh start is desperately needed from the organizational side and if media is something Payton is eyeing down the road, New York is the ideal spot to continue to make inroads. Like Dallas, it would be a homecoming of sorts for Payton after he scored his first coordinator gig in New York and helped the Giants reach the Super Bowl.
To me, this one seems the most likely. Putting together a quick deal and being on the sidelines next year isn't much of a retirement. And Payton knows that he'll continue to have his selection of jobs after a year off. Reported interest from the networks makes all the sense in the world because Payton is outspoken, has an interesting personality and understands the offensive side of the ball at a time when that's never been more important. Brace for the inevitable bidding war.