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Handicapping Sean Payton's NFL Coaching Prospects for 20023 | Sports

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There are two weeks left in the 2022 NFL regular season, which means two things: Black Monday is approaching and the Sean Payton Contest is about to begin.

The former New Orleans Saints head coach is expected to be the hottest prospect in the coaching market. He, and potentially University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, will be high on every NFL owner’s wish list with a vacant head coaching opening.

In my opinion, Payton’s top job search priorities will be, in order: functional ownership and management; a list built or prepared to win; financial compensation; quarterback potential; and geographical location.

Here’s how I see the landscape for his services heading into the NFL offseason:

Favorite landing sites

Cowboys: Dallas has always had a pull for Payton. He coached there from 2003 to 2005 and knows deep-pocketed owners Jerry and Stephen Jones. More importantly, the team is made to win. With veteran quarterback Dak Prescott and a Top 10 defense, the Cowboys would be viable Super Bowl contenders every year with Payton at the helm. The Cowboys have everything Payton wants in his next head coaching gig. There’s a problem: the job probably won’t open. Mike McCarthy is 23-9 the past two seasons and has resurrected the Cowboys to their status as one of the league’s elite teams.

Chargers: Quarterback Justin Herbert alone makes this an attractive option, but there are other reasons the job makes sense. Payton lived in the Los Angeles area for much of the offseason while working as an NFL analyst at Fox Sports, and his daughter, Meghan, lives in the area. Like the Cowboys, however, the Chargers’ job is unlikely to open up. The Chargers clinched their first playoff berth in four years on Monday night and are expected to post a double-digit season for only the second time in the past 13 years. Head coach Brandon Staley’s job seems secure for now.

Saints: From everything I’ve been able to gather, Dennis Allen’s job seems safe. Despite the disappointing season, management and ownership are supporting him to return as head coach next year. Allen is in the first year of a four-year contract he signed in February. To release him after one season would be prohibitively expensive and out of place for general manager Mickey Loomis and owner Gayle Benson. Although the season didn’t go as planned, they are pleased with the courage the team showed throughout the period. While many fans would love to see Payton return to the sidelines next year, it seems highly unlikely to happen at NOLA – at least not in 2023, anyway.

Potential landing spots

Panthers: Interim head coach Steve Wilks has guided the Panthers to a 5-5 record since owner David Tepper fired Matt Rhule in Week 6 and is sure to receive strong consideration for the permanent position. But Tepper is one of the wealthiest owners in the league and is hardwired to compete at a high level. He will undoubtedly make a run at Payton. That said, there will be obstacles to overcome. Being in the same division, he would pay a bounty in compensation to the Saints for Payton’s services. Would Loomis be willing to hand over a Hall of Fame coach to a division rival?

Foals: Indy has an opening after leaving Frank Reich, and owner Jim Irsay already made a back-channel pitch for Sean Payton in 2016, so there’s precedent here. Payton could return to his Midwestern roots and resurrect an organization that has lost its way since Andrew Luck’s shock retirement three years ago. The Colts have a solid salary cap situation and their quarterback spot is wide open as they are expected to leave Matt Ryan this offseason. Irsay doesn’t have the best reputation in league circles, but the club has an enviable track record of success with 18 playoff appearances over the past 28 seasons.

Broncos: Denver fired Nathaniel Hackett after less than a season, and team officials have expressed interest in Payton through secondary channels. The club is a bit of a mystery due to new ownership, but Rob Walton has some of the deepest pockets in the NFL, so hitting the eight-figure salary it will take to land Payton shouldn’t be a problem. The biggest hurdle here is Russell Wilson’s below-average play and onerous five-year, $242.5 million contract, which cost the club their first- and second-round picks in the NFL Draft in 2023. Payton would be stuck with Wilson for the foreseeable future and the roster isn’t that great around him. At best, Denver appears to be years away from the playoffs.

Cardinals: Several reports have linked Payton to Arizona, but my intel says it’s much lower down the list than widely reported. Arizona has one of the least attractive ownership situations in the league and a mess of a quarterback situation. Payton is not afraid of challenges. He rebuilt several times in New Orleans. But he would obviously need the means and the quarterback to succeed, and I’m not sure the Cardinals have either.

Texas: Predictably, Lovie Smith is in the hot seat after her team’s 2-12-1 campaign. Like Arizona, the Texans have a history of dysfunctional leadership that would be a major obstacle in getting Payton to turn. Their quarterback situation isn’t bad with a cheap young Davis Mills at the helm and plenty of room to upgrade at the position if desired. Additionally, the club has a slew of high draft picks to recover from quickly. Whether this is enough to overcome historical incompetence at the top of the organization is debatable.

To monitor…

Titans: Mike Vrabel is considered one of the best coaches in the NFL, so it would be surprising if he moved on or was let go. But if the job were to open, it might interest Payton. The ownership is seen as positive and the club has a $2.1 billion stadium project in line for 2026. The Titans have a messy cap situation but can get out of Ryan Tannehill’s contract after this season which would open up the way to Payton to bring it. in. a veteran free agent. There are worse places to live than Nashville, which is closer to the West Virginia roots of Payton’s wife, Skylene Montgomery.

Seahawks: There’s a surprise opener almost every NFL offseason, and this one would be one to watch if Pete Carroll decides to retire. The Seahawks have quality ownership and an overflowing roster of young talent. Additionally, they have a very open quarterback situation with Geno Smith in the final year of his contract and plenty of resources to work with. For all of these reasons, Carroll will almost surely return for another year on the sidelines. But if he doesn’t, Payton would surely take a look at the opening. He has a home in the Pacific Northwest and the Seahawks have a history of success.

Summary: Payton definitely wants to coach next season. He has spent enough time playing golf and traveling to recharge his batteries. By all accounts, he is ready and eager to return to the sidelines. But he won’t just take a job to take a job. He enjoys his media work and has the luxury of being choosy about his next destination. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him sit out another year if no attractive jobs open up this offseason.

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