Pretty big news this morning from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, who reports that Sean Payton’s future coaching the New Orleans Saints is up-in-the-air.
However, Payton’s pending departure might not lead to the move you’re probably wishing on:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 23, 2022
Payton not committing to a return to the Saints in 2022 is the eye-catching headliner, but it isn’t totally what it seems. Especially when Rapoport shares through sources that it is “unlikely” Payton coaches another team in 2022 and that a “mini-retirement” and a bridge year on television could be on the table.
In other words, sorry Bears fans. But no. It doesn’t look like Payton is leaving New Orleans in his dust to come to Chicago and lift Justin Fields to new heights, as had been briefly discussed. But this news nugget still finds a way to impact the Bears. Go figure.
Should Payton not return to coaching the Saints, New Orleans Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen is considered a top candidate to take over. Allen, if you’ll recall, is a candidate for the Bears open head coaching position and has an interview set for this week. Of course, New Orleans would have to undergo a search and satisfy Rooney Rule requirements before naming a replacement for Payton. But that Payton could leave *AND* take one of the Bears’ actual head coach candidates off the board could be a potential double-whammy.
Payton leaving after putting up a 152-89 with a Super Bowl ring in 15 seasons with the Saints would be a shocker on multiple levels. A “mini-retirement” would mean Payton walks away from at least $45 million in a contract that has him tied to the team through 2024. But skipping town now could best position him to pick his own team whenever he decides to return. And if he attempts a comeback while his contract is still running, then the Saints would be eligible for some compensation. It could look similar to when the Buccaneers sent a sixth-round pick to the Cardinals to tie up loose ends in their coaxing of Bruce Arians out of retirement. So, there is precedent here. And it is something worth watching — even if it didn’t have loose connections to Chicago’s football team.