The announcement Tuesday that New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is set to retire has left more questions than answers, including could he be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the not too distant future?
While the consensus around the league is that Payton will ultimately coach again much like his mentor Bill Parcells did after stepping away to work as a television analyst, this decision leaves the New Orleans Saints at a crossroads. They have major decisions to make after Payton left with three years remaining on his contract and $45 million due him.
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Could Sean Payton return in 2021 as the Dallas Cowboys head coach?
Several sources theorized that Payton could return in a year or two, perhaps with the Dallas Cowboys as the replacement for Mike McCarthy. Payton went 9-8 last season, marking the first time since 2016 that the Saints didn’t make the playoffs or win at least 10 games.
Payton, 58, could recharge conceivably and then return. He did that after being suspended for an entire year for the Bountygate controversy. In his career, Payton is highly decorated as a coach. During his time with the Saints, he went 152-89, winning one Super Bowl and being named NFL Coach of the Year once.
Payton remains under contract with the Saints through the 2024 season. If the Cowboys and Payton have mutual interest, then the Saints would need compensation to make it happen. We have seen head coaches traded before, so it is certainly not out of the question for it to happen.
Payton ends an impressive career in New Orleans
Payton joined the Saints in 2006 — making the move from the Cowboys — where he had been assistant head coach, quarterbacks coach, and passing game coordinator in three years there. His arrival in New Orleans coincided with the arrival of Drew Brees, and the two made a dynamic duo together for 15 years.
On the field, Payton’s offense was consistently impressive. In his first 13 seasons as the Saints’ head coach, the offense ranked in the top 10 in terms of yards. In 11 of those seasons, they were also top 10 in terms of points. Overall, during his 15 years in New Orleans, the offense was a top-10 scoring unit 12 times.
Could Dennis Allen replace Payton as the Saints head coach?
The Saints are expected to consider elevating defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to the head coaching job, according to several league sources, who emphasized that the Saints will also conduct a thorough search with external candidates.
Allen’s defense ranked seventh last season, allowing 318.2 yards per game. They were also fourth in run defense, allowing just 93.5 yards per game, and in scoring defense (19.7 points per game). Allen has also had experience as the lead man, having been the Raiders head coach between 2012 and 2015.
The Saints’ offense is coming off a tough year
It was a difficult year for Payton and the Saints. He had to use four quarterbacks due to injuries, including Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, and Ian Book. It took its toll on Payton.
The Saints ranked last in passing offense, averaging 187.4 yards per game. Whoever is the next coach will need to upgrade the passing game. Additionally, the Saints may have to accept that a rebuild is in order after Payton’s somewhat surprising exit.