As head coach, the Saints turned from perennial losers to legitimate contenders.
He and Drew Brees have the second-most victories of any quarterback-head coach tandem in the Super Bowl era.
Payton also led the team to nine seasons of at least ten wins, seven NFC South division titles, and victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
But while other NFL teams might be interested in acquiring his services, he doesn’t plan to handle any coaching capacity in 2022.
Sean Payton: “My plans are not to be coaching in 2022. And that’s just how I feel."
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) January 25, 2022
Regardless of his future decisions, he deserves a break after a successful run in The Big Easy.
What Made Him Step Away?
Payton may not admit it, but he finally reached a breaking point after 15 seasons with the Saints.
He went through a roller-coaster season wherein they lost their starting quarterback to injury, and COVID-19 protocols hurt their playoff hopes.
Next season, the Saints are already $71 million over the projected salary cap.
Such a high deficit will force the team to trade away key players because salary cap gymnastics won’t be enough to keep them below or within the threshold.
Sean Payton addressed what may be next in his career:
"I still have a vision for doing things in football, and I'll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don't think it's this year … that's not where my heart is right now."
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 25, 2022
If that’s the case, he will be coaching a team stripped of talent, and he’d rather not be a part of what amounts to a rebuild.
The grind of being an NFL head coach isn’t easy because of the offseason, free agency, the draft, and training camp.
After closing the regular season, he was able to step away from the game for a while and decided that he was better off away from that never-ending cycle.
Will He Ever Return As Head Coach?
It’s not an exaggeration to declare that there might be a ton of interest from other teams to lure Payton.
But for now, he’s keen on exploring other options like being an analyst on television.
Even if he has a change of heart and decides to return, interested franchises must clear two hurdles before acquiring his services.
Sean Payton says he would like to try going into TV. Says he talked to Drew Brees about it last night and it does interest him.
"Hopefully that opportunity comes."
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) January 25, 2022
First, he is under contract until 2024, and the Saints are eligible for trade compensation from teams that want to get him.
Second, his team must be willing to pay his average salary of close to $10 million annually.
However, he did not close the door on a potential coaching return, but not as early as next season.
His Legacy Goes Beyond Football
Payton brought triumph not only to one of the NFL’s laughingstocks but also to the city they represent.
That’s why every NFL personality who grew up in New Orleans during their heyday had nothing but admiration for the Saints, especially for Payton.
Former pro safety Ryan Clark stated that Payton and the Saints gave them hope.
Louisiana native @Realrclark25 spoke on Sean Payton's impact in New Orleans:
"He's a hope-giver. … I think Sean Payton's legacy goes far beyond what he's meant to football in New Orleans." pic.twitter.com/nyZzARmWAv
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) January 25, 2022
They gave New Orleans a reason to cheer even when the situation was bleak after Hurricane Katrina.
Therefore, no Super Bowl meant so much to a city than what the 2009 Saints won.
That achievement alone gives Payton the right to do what he wants.
But for now, he will be closing the book on his coaching journey.