New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton steps down after 16 years with franchise

METAIRIE, La. — Sean Payton announced his decision to retire on Tuesday, 16 years after being hired as coach of the New Orleans Saints, despite repeatedly stressing that “retirement is not the right word. “.

Payton, 58, said he does not plan to coach another team in 2022, adding: “That’s not where my heart is right now.” And since he has three years left on his contract, the Saints would have to agree to exchange compensation if he wanted to coach another team.

However, Payton hasn’t ruled out a return to training in the future. And he said he was interested in pursuing work as a television analyst, although he insisted that neither he nor his agent Don Yee had yet spoken with any media.

“I don’t know what’s next – and it feels good,” Payton said during an emotional 90-minute press conference at the team’s training facility. “But, man, I felt like it was about time. … But not with any regrets. There’s some excitement, like, ‘Okay, what’s next?'”

Payton explained that he had considered this departure since returning to training camp before confirming how he had been feeling over the past two weeks. He said owner Gayle Benson, general manager Mickey Loomis and team president Dennis Lauscha all tried to talk him out of it. And he thanked Benson for encouraging him to go on vacation for the past two weeks before making a final decision.

“It really is a bittersweet day. I feel like he deserves it,” said Benson, who said the team will do a thorough search for Payton’s replacement inside and out. building exterior. “I think we’re going to do a great job of picking another person who can lead us like Sean did.”

The Saints are now the ninth team in the NFL with a vacant head coaching position. Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. are two obvious candidates for possible promotion, given the Saints just won their fifth straight season and aren’t necessarily looking for an overhaul.

Payton mentioned Allen by name while explaining that he and the Saints never discussed any arrangement where he could possibly return after a year-long hiatus.

“To be fair to Dennis, who’s a great candidate in the building, or any other coach that might be hired, there’s no halftime in this game,” said Payton, who also pointed out that he thinks the team is still pointing in the right direction despite the fact that quarterback Drew Brees retired a year ago and the injury-plagued 2021 squad missed the playoffs for the first time in five years with a 9-8 record.

“We talk all the time about leaving a better place than when you got there to begin with. And it’s not over (here),” he said.

Payton admitted to searching the internet on Monday night for tips on how to avoid crying at a press conference. He began by singling out Benson, Loomis, and Lauscha individually, calling Loomis “one of my best friends”. And he presented Benson with a piece of royal cake – a traditional New Orleans Mardi Gras dessert – saying it was his version of TV character Ted Lasso’s cookie tradition.

Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards were among many to greet Payton on social media Tuesday:

Payton made his mark as the winningest coach in Saints history and one of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds. The Saints signed Brees two months after Payton was hired in 2006, and they led New Orleans to the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history in 2009.

Payton is tied for 21st in NFL history with 152 career wins, according to data from Pro Football Reference. His career record is 152-89 (.631 winning percentage), not including his one-season suspension in 2012. Payton is 9-8 in the playoffs.

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Payton and the Saints rank first in NFL history in average points scored (27.6 per game) and yards gained (391.2 per game) among all coach-team combos with at least five seasons together.

Although the Saints narrowly missed the playoffs in 2021 (Payton joked that they are now rooting against the Los Angeles Rams since they failed to help them with a Week 18 win against the San Francisco 49ers), the season was still one of Payton’s most impressive. coaching jobs in many ways. The Saints had to weather Brees’ retirement, an unexpected salary cap drop, a month-long hurricane evacuation to Dallas and an NFL-record 58 starters used due to a deluge of serious injuries and COVID-19 issues.

Payton, however, said the difficult season was not the reason for his departure. He joked that while a lot of people were telling him he looked “exhausted” this season, he blamed it on being a little too out of shape – and bad angles during his Zoom press conferences.

Payton began his NFL career as a quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997 to 1998 before becoming a QB coach and offensive coordinator with the New York Giants from 1999 to 2002, then assistant head coach / Passing Games Coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003 to 2005.

Payton’s longevity in New Orleans is a rarity in today’s NFL. Only Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has been with his team longer. Additionally, Payton had four 11+ seasons in his second decade with the Saints. Only three other coaches made it in the Super Bowl era: Belichick (10), Tom Landry (eight), Don Shula (six).

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