Sean Payton rumors: Two key factors could influence whether ex-Saints coach returns to sidelines in 2023

The NFL coach hiring cycle has been unusually slow during the 2023 offseason, and part of that may be related to the Sean Payton sweepstakes.

The former Saints coach is widely considered to be the top talent available on the coaching market. He has interviewed with four of the five teams that have head coaching vacancies but he hasn’t yet found a home for the 2023 NFL season.

And he may not find one at all as the coaching carousel continues to turn.

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Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported on Monday that Payton may decide to remain with Fox for 2023 instead of making a return to coaching. Why? There are a few key factors that could influence Payton’s decision.

Geography (meaning close to Los Angeles) and quarterback are most important to [Payton], on top of the money, and I’m not sure there’s a place that sufficiently checks the box for him right now.

Indeed, if being close to Los Angeles is the most important factor for Payton, it will be hard for him to find the right fit. Arizona and Denver are the two teams that would be the closest to the city, so it makes sense that each is considered among the favorites to land Payton.

That said, each also has drawbacks at the quarterback position. The Cardinals have Kyler Murray, who Payton likes, but he tore his ACL late in the 2022 season and may not be back to start the 2023 season — if he can return to action at all.

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Meanwhile, the Broncos have Russell Wilson, who was once considered a top talent at quarterback. However, he struggled mightily in his first year in Denver and there’s no guarantee that the 34-year-old will ever quite be the same QB who played at a Pro Bowl level during his time with the Seahawks.

Those questions may be enough to scare Payton away from either situation, though he is expected to have a second interview with the Broncos this week, per Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune.

Of course, it’s worth noting that even if Payton wants to return to coaching, it will come at a price. The Saints still have ownership of his contract, and while Payton indicated that a late first-round pick would probably be enough to get him via trade, ESPN’s Jeff Legwold reports that New Orleans is believed to have a bit more leverage than that.

That is a cost that many teams would be willing to pay for Payton. But would a team like the Broncos be willing to do that after giving up so many picks to land Wilson? Or would they prefer to land another candidate for whom they wouldn’t have to trade?

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All that’s to say that while Payton has options, they aren’t plentiful. And none, as one would expect, is perfect.

So, if none are appealing enough for Payton to take on, he could work in TV for another year in the hopes of a better situation becoming available. If that happens, the Chargers would be the top team to watch given their Los Angeles location and the presence of a young, star quarterback in Justin Herbert.


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