It was reported early on Sunday morning by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has not yet committed to return to the team for 2022.
Rapoport noted that at least one TV network approached Payton about a potential media job, and it appears we now know who that was.
According to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, Fox Sports is targeting Payton as a potential candidate to replace Troy Aikman in the booth should the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and longtime Fox color commentator leave for Amazon full time.
Aikman has reportedly been linked as Amazon’s preferred choice to be its color commentator for Thursday Night Football, which the streaming service has exclusive rights to starting next season.
It is unclear if Aikman would continue to do Sundays for FOX if he does join Amazon.
Eric Weinberger, a former executive producer at NFL Network and senior producer at Fox Sports, told McCarthy that the network would need to “go big” if they replace Aikman.
“I’m not sure Sean would be as bombastic as Jon Gruden, but I think Sean would be more opinionated than Gruden,” he said.
Payton, 58, has three years remaining on his contract and would be walking away from $45 million on his deal if he does not continue to coach next season.
The Saints, meanwhile, enter the offseason at a crossroads having missed the playoffs and Jameis Winston, who had a season-ending knee injury, set for free agency and leaving the quarterback position up in the air.
It is possible Payton could choose to work in TV as a breather from the coaching life and return as a head coach. Bruce Arians recently did it between the Cardinals and Bucs jobs, calling games for CBS in the season in between.
FOX could also turn to one of its other up-and-coming analysts to replace Aikman, such as Greg Olsen or Aqib Talib, per McCarthy. He also added that many TV executives would like to see Philip Rivers in the booth.