Sean Payton Leaves Saints

Sean Payton, ex-New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton, ex-New Orleans Saints
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Conference Championship - Note that the language here appears to be that Sean Payton is "stepping away from the Saints," not necessarily that he is "retiring." I wouldn't be surprised if he was interested in taking another job down the line. (Hello, Cowboys!) Payton made the playoffs in nine of 15 seasons, won seven division titles, and brought New Orleans its first Super Bowl. He's also leaving the team completely wrecked on the salary cap, currently an estimated $74 million over the cap according to That ridiculous Taysom Hill contract? Some other head coach has to deal with that now.

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40 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2022, 3:40pm

1 Wow. End of an era.

Wow. End of an era.

EDIT: 63.1% winning percentage in the regular season, 9-8 in playoffs. One Super Bowl, always seems to have an at least decent team even after Drew Brees. And he’s only 58.

The speculation hinted at in this article is very plausible. He spends one year in the media, then he comes back and takes his pick of better jobs, such as the Cowboys, who he worked for in the 90s. 

He’s leaving a terrible position with the Saints, what with them having no serious QB option, and being 78 million over the cap. 

39 I'm guessing that either…

I'm guessing that either there is an offset-type provision in his contract if he gets another job, or that money/picks from his new team could address any contractual concerns with the Saints.

3 He and Brees were pretty…

He and Brees were pretty linked, and the Gulf Coast Offense was predicted on Brees always knowing where to go and putting it in the right spot.  I think it's probably safe to say Taysom Hill (and Jameis, were he to return) don't exactly match the skillset Payton really wants in a QB, so who's shocked here?  There's no QB to run his offense, the roster is going to get even worse due to salary cap issues, and he just doesn't want to deal with the rebuild.

He'll be the Cowboys' coach in 2023 or 2024.  Jerry will bring him home.

7 Jerry also hired Parcells…

Jerry also hired Parcells after frustration over 3 straight 5-11 seasons. It sounds like he's feeling some of that frustration with McCarthy after a lost 2020 season was followed by a disappointing playoff exit, plus Payton is the kind of big name Jerry loves... I could certainly see it happening.

17 Also

Also, Jerry is approximately three hundred years old (citation needed). Not that he's going to pass on anytime soon, but being a hands-on GM and all-around active front office guy won't go on forever. Hiring a guy he actually trusts to the point of not feeling he needs that much oversight might be a good thing at some point.

19 Jones meddles. It's what he…

In reply to by JS

  1. Jones meddles. It's what he does. Johnson quit over it.
  2. Jones's kids have all his flaws and none of his virtues.

21 I think his reputation for…

I think his reputation for meddling is way overblown, at least in the last ~10 years. After all, he famously wanted Johnny Manziel who... the Cowboys passed on to take an offensive guard, about the least flashy pick they could've made. He talks a lot for an owner, sure, and that's obviously going to rub some coaches the wrong way (understandably), but the Cowboys have actually had a pretty solid front office for a while now. And his son Stephen ascending to Executive VP was regarded as Jerry taking a step back and a positive development, locally at least. The other two are involved on the business side rather than the football side, so I don't really see how they'd affect a coach either way.

I'm not defending his history, but it doesn't necessarily match the present-day reality either.

4 Skol.


8 The timing of this seems odd…

The timing of this seems odd if Payton is indeed going to be taking a year off (or broadcasting or whatever). I guess it's possible he just wanted more than a week to decide, given that the Saints were in the hunt until Week 18, but it's not like their situation would've been any different had they scraped into the playoffs. 

12 Maybe...

He also could have been making sure he had all his ducks in a row (especially w.r.t. his contract) before he publicly announced anything.

9 The Saints' cap situation is…

The Saints' cap situation is a complete mess. As others have noted, they're $74 million over the cap for next year, and pre-June 1 cuts won't even begin to address it, meaning they need to use post-June 1 cuts and spread some of the pain into the next year.

What might those cuts look like? I messed around with's salary cap page, and the following is a list of post-June 1 cuts that (in my opinion) would have the greatest savings combined with the least roster disruption:

  • Demario Davis - $7.5 million
  • David Onyemata - $8.5 million
  • Malcolm Jenkins - $7.75 million
  • Terron Armstead - $7.8 million
  • Bradley Roby - $10.0 million
  • Mark Ingram - $2.3 million
  • J.T. Gray - $2.1 million
  • James Hurst - $2.9 million
  • Tanoh Kpassagnon - $2.7 million
  • Chauncey Gardner-Johnson - $2.5 million
  • Wil Lutz - $3.7 million
  • Blake Bortles - $1 million

Those contracts together add up to just less than $56 million that can be saved by outright cuts. Then there are guys like Michael Thomas ($24.7 million), Cameron Jordan ($23.2 million), Andrus Peat ($15.5 million), Ryan Ramczyk ($23.0 million), and Marshon Lattimore ($27.5 million), who can't be cut but who have big cap numbers that could be lowered by a restructure/extension. But all these solutions, both the cuts and the restructures, will involve dead money and/or bigger cap hits pushed into future years. In addition, this roster is going to be hollowed out by all these cuts, and as mentioned by others, the Saints still don't have a QB under contract other than Taysom Hill, who looks like he'll be next year's starter by default. 

This will be an ugly, ugly multi-year process of digging out.

14  But all these solutions,…

 But all these solutions, both the cuts and the restructures, will involve dead money and/or bigger cap hits pushed into future years

In other words, business as usual for the Saints.  It will be interesting to see how they deal with the cap issues this year as it could be a tell on whether Payton of Loomis had more to do with it in the past.

My own opinion this may be a good time to bit the bullet and get things straightened out. 

40 I think kicking the can down…

I think kicking the can down the road is far more justified when you have an aging star QB with a year or two left (which seemed to be the case with Brees for the last 4-5 years of his career). Loomis's salary cap management was pretty smart in that context. So I agree that this is a good time for a tear-down.

16 This feels like the most…

This feels like the most justifiable situation for tanking ever. Although, does it even constitute tanking if you intentionally tear down your roster to take your salary cap medicine now ("now" being in the next 2-3 years, since as you said there's nothing they can do to be in a good cap situation in 2023 either) rather than kicking the can down the road in a probably vain effort to be the 6 or 7 seed in the playoffs with no realistic chance at a Super Bowl?

34 They're actually in a…

They're actually in a terrible spot to tank like you normally think about it, but it's still "tanking" in some sense. Like, they shouldn't be sacrificing '24 more for a chance in '22, sure.

The first thing to note is that yeah, they're psycho-over, like $70M next year. But there's partly a reason for that - they've got 52 players rostered! Compare that to, say, the 49ers who only have 31. The 49ers have to fill out 20+ spots on the roster for less than $11M. That's not to say the Saints are better off than the 49ers (they're... not), just that part of the reason the Saints are so over is that they already have a team locked down for next season. Which is part of the problem, mind you, because they weren't very good!

They can't really tear down the roster: there's only a handful of guys they can release/trade (Thomas, Jordan, Roby, Jenkins) and really, of those only Jordan really super-hurts, but you lose so much flexibility in '23 if you do and he'd be crazy valuable in trade. They should be able to snag a first-round pick there partly because he's so cheap to a trading team. To me, this decision right there is the difference between them tanking and them trying to contend in '22.

But a bunch of the younger talent they're just locked into, although that's not a terrible thing - those guys are all basically young enough they're likely to contribute for their entire contract.

Really, they should just be shifting focus for '22 (well, OK, not really "shift," this should've always been the plan). Instead of finding high-cost high-value targets (which is what you do when you're trying to contend, cough New England) you go bargain shopping. Sign castoff starters from other teams. Draft late-round guys with issues. If those guys produce in camp better than guys on your roster (other than the locked-in ones, obviously) you swap 'em.

Obviously it'd be nice to try to get the #1 pick in the '23 draft, but there's nothing you can do to guarantee that.

20 It's... not that bad. Don't…

It's... not that bad. Don't get me wrong. It's super bad. But there are a few things to note there. (First, as a note, you can't use post-June 1 cuts to help you get under the cap. You have to carry the guy's original cap hit until June 1).

Jordan and Thomas are both cuttable (I don't know why you think they aren't) and they have huge cap hits in '23. Even though they don't gain you a lot in '22, that doesn't really matter that much. Plus Roby+Jenkins are just 'duh' $17.5M right there.

If you release or trade Jordan and Thomas, release Roby and Jenkins, you stand at -$56M in '22 but +$92M in '23, so functionally you can just shuffle money forward via restructures. At that point you have a team in '22 (55 guys signed), and still a fair amount of money in '23 (restructure Peat, Onyemata, Ramczyk, Kamara, Lattimore, and Davenport, gets you just under and $74M in '23). No flexibility in '23 (you need 30+ guys and only have $74M to do it), but hey, that's what draft picks and UDFAs are for!

You're still hamstrung through '24, mind you: your entire roster consists of 10 guys so you'll be filling 40 spots with $145M. But it's not horrendous - literally everyone on the roster in '24 is likely to still be valuable.

The place where it super-hurts is 2022. Whoever is taking over at head coach is just going to have to live with that roster. There's nothing to do about it.

28 also

You might have 2 first round picks if you give rights away for Sean Payton. That will help the new guy.


1 season tank job with a garbage roster to get you through to better times. It sounds like a job for Brian Flores :)

22 Just for fun, I also messed…

Just for fun, I also messed with the OTC calculator and simply went down the list cutting everybody who would provide 2022 cap savings. No restructures, no post-June 1 cuts. By cutting literally everybody who would save on 2022, they can get down to just 17 million over the cap, with a nice round 12 players on the roster.


What does that mean? Nothing really. But it's funny.

24 Post-June 1 cuts can't get…

Post-June 1 cuts can't get you under the cap. You have to carry the guy's original cap hit until June 1. It just gives you space after. The whole "cut early and act like it's post June 1" thing was intended to help players, not teams.

The Saints clearly have to contract restructure guys, but of course they knew that. In many cases it's built into the contract as a team option.

31 Sam Monson said

on the PFF daily podcast it can all be converted. This must be where he got it from. 

Either way, shed and suck if needed. Pick up Young/Stroud next year and go from there. 

15 Am I the only one who thinks…

Am I the only one who thinks Payton is pretty overrated as a coach? What evidence is there that outside of utilizing a HOF QB effectively (which isn't nothing; a bad coach would have achieved less than Payton actually did), he's actually great at it?

Just him thinking that Taysom Hill could be the answer at QB is a huge black mark in my book.

18 GB

The parallels with McCarthy in GB are interesting. Sure, Rodgers>Brees, but GB probably was closer to another SB and had more contenders over the last decade plus, and zero non-injured-QB bad teams. Hell, whomever was/is responsible for the cap wizardry that the NO organization has displayed over that period deserves a lot of credit.

29 Not sure about overrated. …

Not sure about overrated.  Could be similarities with Andy Reid; i.e. may have gotten stale in N.O. and could use a change of scenery.

IMO his biggest weakness as a coach is that he sometimes likes to get WAY too cute in his playcalling.

30 No

But without Brees he went:

  • 5th round (118th overall) Mark Brunell 0-1
  • 4th round (106th overall) Luke McCown 0-1
  • 1st round (32nd overall) Teddy Bridgewater 5-1
  • UDFA Taysom Hill 7-2
  • 1st round (1st overall) Jameis Winston 5-2
  • 7th round (250th overall) Trevor Siemian 0-4
  • 4th round (133rd overall)  Ian Book 0-1

Overall 17-12

Give him props for believing in Brees after his injury if you think Hill is a mark. I've been impressed personally. IDK what others rate him but it should be highly. 

32 He suffers from Tomlin's…

He suffers from Tomlin's disease. It's a condition where you have the bad fortune of having your entire head coaching career coincide with Bill Belichik's career. So, even though you do a much better than average job as a head coach, everyone, consciously or unconsciously, compares you to the greatest/luckiest coach of all time and finds you lacking. If you're above .600 and have multiple SB appearances and at least one ring, you're a really good coach. Not necessarily the GOAT, but still really good.

35 I'm not even arguing that he…

I'm not even arguing that he's not "really good." It's interesting that you mention Tomlin because I feel like Payton is more respected than him, but I would clearly place Tomlin above him. I could be wrong but I feel like a lot of people put Payton right below Belichick, and that I just don't see. Obviously he is a good coach.

36 In part this is because…

In part this is because Payton had success versus Belichick (and Brady in general), but Tomlin did not have success against them.

I suspect, however, that if Tomlin had Payton's team, he'd have done better than Payton would have done with Tomlin's team.

37 Odd

Tomlin without Ben is

  • 2nd round (60th overall) Charlie Batch 3-3
  • 5th round (156th overall) Dennis Dixon 2-1
  • 1st round (7th overall) Byron Leftwich 0-1
  • 1st round (1st overall) Michael Vick 2-1
  • 4th round (115th overall) Landry Jones 3-2
  • UDFA Devlin Hodges 3-3
  • 3rd round (76th overall) Mason Rudolph 5-5

Overall 18-16 vs Paytons 17-12

23 Three years left on Paytons deal- He's under contract

Even though he has said words to the effect that a Broadcasting booth job may interest him; Payton has only said he is stepping down from Coaching the Saints...he has NOT said he is LEAVING the Saints and he has not said he is retiring. ...he could have a mental health year and continue as a consultant/advisor/Oracle in chief ...Things always look different- perspective will change- decompress and see things through a different lens for a while...Saints appoint an Interim Coach...and in 2023-24 he decides whether he wants to step back into the HC position.

26 Smells to me like a guy who…

Smells to me like a guy who doesn't want his career W-L record blemished by whatever next year is going to look like.

The Taysom Hill contract gets more baffling by the minute.  On the one hand, it looks like Payton making sure that "his guy" is looked after before he leaves.  On the other hand, is anyone else likely to play Hill at QB now?  I'm not sure how that contract works salary cap wise, but unless it uses his highest potential salary regardless, it would seem like NO would be incentivized to push Hill into the non-QB pay tier in order to save cap space.

27 Bieniemys from LA!

Hearing they might be going the retread route with Dennis Allen though (no offense, but at 8-28, he might just be a DC). Bleh. 

Although if they want to keep it in house, they should look towards Pete Carmichael and get him Russ somehow. That'd be fascinating.