Sean Payton never goes too far in the news. The former Super Bowl-winning head coach is looking to get back into the game after taking a year to do some television work. Of the four NFL teams Payton has or is scheduled to interview with, which teams best fit his parameters, and what are those parameters?
Sean Payton Best Fits
Well, we know that the coach doesn’t much like cold weather. He’s spent most of his career in New Orleans and is originally from California. While Payton spent time early on in the midwest and northeast, those days are long gone. A warm weather climate is imperative. Payton also wants a competitive roster and control over the roster.
The easiest way, although probably inexact because Payton almost surely weighs each thing differently, is to rank each fit in each category and then add up the total tally.
Payton has been connected to four franchises so far in the hiring cycle. The Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, and Houston Texans have all either interviewed him or are scheduled to.
That means Denver, Glendale, Charlotte, or Houston. That means four teams who all lost at least 10 games in 2022. Three of the four spots have general managers in place.
- Glendale, Arizona
- Houston, Texas
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Denver, Colorado
Unless Payton really, really likes to ski, Breckenridge, Colorado, is probably last on his list of destinations. Denver is a beautiful city with an outstanding craft beer culture and beautiful mountain scenery. But with mountains comes the cold, and we know Payton wants a warm climate.
Like Doc Holliday in Tombstone, Payton could escape to the southwest for the warm, dry weather. The Phoenix area is sprawling, with plenty to do for families and plenty of golf courses for Payton to get some comped rounds on! While it certainly gets cold in the desert, years in the bayou could have Payton searching to avoid the humidity of Houston.
However, if Payton is a masochist who loves to sweat, it’s hard to beat Houston in that area. We joke about the difference between wet and dry heat, but the humidity in Houston can be overwhelming. It’s not Dallas, where he and his wife planned to locate in retirement, but it’s only a short (relative to Texas) drive Northwest to Dallas from Houston.
Carolina is a sneaky contender as well. Maybe Payton doesn’t want to sweat through multiple shirts each day at practice before October. The average low temperature in Charlotte barely dips below freezing. The hottest average temperature barely eclipses 90 degrees.
Without being in the room during the interview process, it’s nearly impossible to know which organizations would be willing to hand over a significant portion of the roster control to Payton. Therefore, we’re going to look at each team’s roster, first looking specifically at their quarterback situation, and then at the roster and draft assets as a whole.
While the prospect of progressing Kyler Murray should undoubtedly interest Payton because of his outrageous physical abilities, Murray has an expensive contract and has been banged up multiple times over the past few seasons.
Houston has an opportunity to draft the first quarterback off the board. Although they’ll likely have to move up to do so (unless they love two QBs), they’ll have a fresh start with the allure of upside at the position.
Carolina is a bit of a mystery at the moment, but they also possess a top-10 pick, and David Tepper could want to be aggressive in free agency, the trade market, or moving up in the draft.
Taking on Russell Wilson would be a massive challenge, considering what he looked like in 2022. The only thing that would make Payton interested in taking that job on would be the arrogance of a coach believing he can make lemonade from pond water.
The Cardinals are an absolute mess. Even though Arizona has the third pick in the draft, they have so many needs on the roster that it’s unlikely they can become a consistent competitor over the next few seasons. Their defense has leaks at all three levels, and the offensive line is underwhelming at best.
The Panthers might be just a QB away from competing in the NFC South. The division is in shambles, and Carolina has a young and talented roster that’s simply looking for an uptick in QB play to be consistently competitive.
The Broncos have talent at receiver, and their defense was incredible this season. Denver simply plays in the AFC West, meaning they have to compete against Patrick Mahomes for the foreseeable future.
Houston seems to be improving their roster, but they’re still probably a year away from thinking about competing in the AFC South against Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars.
Arizona – 8
Carolina – 8
Houston – 9
Denver – 5
In our little exercise that has no actual bearing on what Payton will decide to do with his employment, the Texans accrued the most points overall and are declared the winners of our contest.
The truth is, none of these situations fit each of the criteria Payton is looking for. Payton has earned the right not to oversee a rebuild or even a retooling of rosters. It’s probably most likely that Payton decides to forgo coaching in 2023, biding his time for the right situation a year from now.
If not, Houston actually makes a lot of sense, considering they’ve already gone down the road of handing a head coach control of the roster. It was a disaster, but the precedent is there, and Payton isn’t Bill O’Brien.