Sean Payton’s transition into the broadcasting ranks is imminent—he’s said to be weighing studio offers from both Fox and Amazon—but what about his future as an NFL head coach? Most expect Payton back on the sidelines as soon as 2023 (because the Saints hold his rights, returning before that would necessitate a trade), but in that scenario, where would he go?
The Cowboys are thought to be a distinct possibility—he has history with Dallas (where he coached as an assistant for three seasons under Bill Parcells) and Mike McCarthy could be heading into a make-or-break season. Payton nearly went to Miami in a package deal with Tom Brady this offseason, though that plan was thwarted by Brian Flores suing the team for racial discrimination. With the Dolphins no longer a consideration (that went off the table as soon as they hired former 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel), Payton could be of interest to the Panthers, who have never had a winning season under Matt Rhule.
Deep-pocketed owner David Tepper has wanted to make a splash for years (the Panthers were heavily involved in trade talks for Deshaun Watson), and hiring Payton, who ranked fifth among active coaches in career victories before his “retirement,” would accomplish that. While Tepper has been publicly supportive of Rhule (10-23 in his two seasons with Carolina), the opportunity to upgrade could be appealing to a team that hasn’t had much success of late. The Panthers are “eyeing” Payton, among other potential coaching candidates, according to Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports, feeling he could be the “savior” to turn around a struggling franchise that has missed the playoffs five of its last six seasons.
The Panthers obviously can’t comment on a coach who’s still technically under contract (though it will never be completely eliminated, the league is trying to crack down on tampering) and even if McCarthy’s intel is accurate, it’s anyone’s guess if Payton would be interested, particularly with the Cowboys’ job potentially opening up next offseason. The Panthers boast some interesting pieces offensively—Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson, for starters—though the team’s uncertainty at quarterback could be a deterrent in landing a whale like Payton.