Sean Payton’s retirement could be short-lived: Chargers, Cowboys, and Dolphins among teams rumored

It's possible that we see Sean Payton back on an NFL sideline as early as next year. But where could the longtime coach end up?

Earlier this year, on Jan. 24, Sean Payton met with Mickey Loomis to tell the longtime New Orleans Saints general manager his plans to retire from coaching. After weeks of retirement and trade rumors, the legendary NFL coach confirmed the retirement suspicions. But football is a game coaches often marry, and the divorce, even if mutual, can turn back into lust and admiration.

Payton dedicated over 30 years of his life to football. And that dedication can win out even when faced with a potential retirement to a remote beach somewhere. At only 58, it’s hard to believe he’ll be gone forever.

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Where could Sean Payton coach if he comes out of retirement?

The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson updated Dolphins fans on the Payton situation, just in case Mike McDaniel crashes spectacularly in his first season with Miami. Jackson spoke with an anonymous source close to Payton, who gave Jackson some stipulations should Payton want to return to football.

He wants to be in a warm weather climate. Sure, who in their right mind wants to be cold for eight months out of the year? Payton also intends to coach for a contending roster. That is a privilege he’s earned with his résumé.

A source close to Payton cited the Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, and Dallas Cowboys as three potential fits for the coach. However, 2023 doesn’t seem realistic for any of the three spots. But one makes the most sense.

Los Angeles Chargers

If the Chargers somehow fall like a cartoon anvil while remaining relatively healthy in 2022, then maybe there’s a chance they pull the plug on Brandon Staley’s tenure early. But Staley appears universally loved by players, and the organization has brought an influx of defensive talent to complement their high-powered offense.

It’s unlikely they’re enough of a disaster that Staley wouldn’t see his fourth season. However, ownership could panic if they underwhelm in 2022. They have a golden opportunity in the next few seasons while they still pay relative pennies for Justin Herbert on a rookie deal.

Miami Dolphins

Miami was at the centerfold of the Payton rumors. There were even talks about Tom Brady teaming up with him in Miami, but that never came to fruition.

Firing McDaniel after a single season would be an embarrassment for the Dolphins. Tua Tagovailoa has already been through multiple offensive coordinators in his two NFL seasons. Continuity is essential for young quarterbacks, and McDaniel is widely considered one of, if not the brightest offensive mind in the game.

If McDaniel fails through two seasons, then Miami could send a private jet full of duffle bags to the Maldives to try and get Payton out of his beach chair.

Dallas Cowboys

That leaves us with Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones denied rumors all offseason about Payton. That move felt more tactical than truthful, considering past comments about Payton being the one that got away from Dallas.

But during the 2022 offseason, Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore were interviewing for head coaching jobs, and Jones probably didn’t want to risk them jumping ship if they believed Payton was waiting in the wings behind Mike McCarthy.

And in reality, he probably isn’t. Jones has stated that Quinn would love to be the coach of the Cowboys and that McCarthy won’t be around forever. If Dallas underwhelms again, it will be Quinn coaching the Cowboys in 2023 if the defense has a season similar to 2022.

While defensive performance is hard to replicate year-to-year, the Cowboys’ schedule sets them up for defensive success. That will keep Quinn in the league’s microscope as a possible head coaching candidate. And if the Cowboys whiff on playoff success, Jones will probably pull the plug.

But not for Payton.

Arizona Cardinals

So, if none of those teams are realistic for Payton in 2023, do any other spots fit the criteria? There is only one other team that could fit; the Arizona Cardinals.

Kliff Kingsbury’s record has improved every season since 2019, but it only takes one disaster to wipe away a positive outlook. The Cardinals’ defense outperformed their talent and film, a feat that boggles the mind even months later. It was the Cardinals’ offense, specifically Kyler Murray’s play after the ankle injury, that faded.

Kingsbury could be on the way out if Arizona suffers a defensive regression and Murray doesn’t take the next step in his progression. The Phoenix/Scottsdale area certainly isn’t a cold climate. The golf is excellent, and there is a massive community that Payton and his family could integrate seamlessly into.

With that said, Payton can and should be picky about any potential landing spot. The Cardinals’ roster is flawed today, even if it is talented in spots.

While it doesn’t look like Payton will be back in the league come 2023, the NFL is far from static. Things change in an instant.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.

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