Why is Sean Payton ‘stepping away?’ Saints coach leaves New Orleans with murky future

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When the Saints go marchin’ out…

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has decided to hang up his fleur-de-lis gear and leave the Saints, per multiple reports. 

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported that Payton is “stepping away,” but didn’t offer many details beyond that:

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According to other reports, the 58-year-old Payton is looking more for a break than he is to spend the rest of his years on a golf course.

Here’s what we know about the longtime Saints coach’s departure:

Why is Sean Payton stepping away?

According to Saints beat writer Nick Underhill, Payton has decided to retire, though there’s some ambiguity with his departure. 

Sean Payton is retiring, per source

— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) January 25, 2022

While Rapoport reported that the Saints head coach is simply “stepping away,” it’s unclear exactly what his plans are. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported that this may be more of a “break” for Payton as opposed to a full-blown retirement, saying he first discussed the possiblity with Saints owner Gayle Benson earlier this month.

Sean Payton was wrestling with stepping away for a year or two or retirement months. Told Mrs B couple of weeks ago & she asked him to take some time off and think about it. He’s gone up and down about it for a while too but the theme I got more than not is that he needs a break

— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 25, 2022

Jeff Howe of The Athletic echoed that report, citing a source saying Payton “needs time away to recharge” and could return to the sidelines in teh future. 

Should Payton decide to coach again, it will cost an interested team: With Payton under contract with the Saints through 2024, any potential hiring would mean that a team would have to compensate New Orleans for his services in the future.

But a stay in the broadcast booth could come first. According to Front Office Sports’ Mike McCarthy, Fox has already targeted Payton to replace Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth should Aikman make the move to Amazon for the 2022 season.

On Jan. 24, Gayle Benson recently said she was unsure of Payton’s future with the Saints, saying that she would expect an answer from Payton sooner rather than later:

Payton is leaving the Saints on something of a low note: New Orleans is expected to deal with serious salary cap issues this offseason (the Saints are currently sitting $74 million over the salary cap) and has no clear solution at quarterback. 

Dennis Allen is the current clubhouse leader to be the next Saints head coach, per reports.

Over 15 years in New Orleans, Payton-led teams are 152-89 with a 9-8 record in the playoffs. The Saints have made the playoffs in nine seasons under Payton, with a win in Super Bowl 44. They won seven NFC South titles, as well.

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