Sean Payton Is “Stepping Aside”

Yesterday, New Orleans Saint’s coach, Sean Payton, announced that he will be on hiatus from coaching in 2022.  Payton emphasized that he is not retiring; he simply wants a year off – – after which, he will decide what to do from that point forward.  Sean Payton is 58 years old; he has been in the “football coaching business” since 1988 and he has been the head coach of the Saints since 2006.

The “smart money” has him headed to the broadcasting booth next Fall; that would keep him involved with football, but it would change his calendar demands significantly.  Being a head coach in the NFL is a job that calls for about 90 hours a week of commitment; doing color analysis or studio work on TV for the NFL requires a bit more travel time but a lot less overall time.

If you saw his news conference announcing his “stepping aside”, you realize that Sean Payton is comfortable with who he is and is comfortable behind a microphone.  [If you have not seen that presser, here is a link to it.  It is 32 minutes long.]  It is not a stretch to imagine him taking a deal from one of the NFL’s “broadcast partners” for the 2022 season as a  trial run.  But Payton made it clear in his news conference that he is not shutting the door on the coaching phase of his life.

Contractually, he is the coach of the Saints through the 2024 season; that means if another team were to try to coax him out of his decision to “step aside”, they would have to trade with the Saints to acquire his services.  There are teams looking for head coaches and there are owners who would see Payton as a significant upgrade on the sidelines who might be willing to open up the checkbook to sign him for next season, but after listening to the news conference, I really believe that Sean Payton is not going to be doing any coaching in 2022.

On the assumption that rumors turn out to be correct and Payton lands a job with a network, let me offer a minor caution.  As I said above, Payton is clearly comfortable behind a microphone – – but that does not translate immediately into his being a good color analyst on TV.  Moreover, successful coaches do not always translate into good color analysts either – – lest the TV execs be blinded by the huge success of John Madden.

  • John Madden and Dick Vermeil were both successful NFL coaches and excellent color analysts on TV.
  • Jon Gruden was a successful NFL coach and an annoying presence on TV.
  • Bruce Arians is a successful NFL coach and was a dud on TV
  • George Allen is in the Hall of Fame as a coach and was absolutely awful in a mercifully brief broadcasting career.

I would argue that coaches translate much more naturally to studio positions than to game analysts.  Some of the current coaches doing studio jobs are Jimmie Johnson, Bill Cowher, Rex Ryan and Tony Dungy.  Personally, I doubt that any of them would be good as game analysts without a ton of practice work off the air.

To give Sean Payton a fair chance to succeed in the booth so that he has a real comparison to make in terms of plotting the direction of the rest of his life, his new employer needs to invest time and energy in giving Payton “rehearsal games” preferably with some of his intended play-by-play partners.

So, what might happen under the following scenario:

  • Sean Payton leaves the sidelines in 2022 but the itch to be a head coach demands scratching…

Around this time next year, I think there are several teams that would be extremely interested in hiring someone with Sean Payton’s coaching record.  [152-89-0 with 9 playoff appearances in 15 seasons.]  Here are some off the top of my head:

  • Saints:  After all, he is still under contract with the team…
  • Cowboys:  Payton has plenty of ties to the Dallas area having coached there before going to the Saints – – and Jerry Jones has expressed a fondness for Payton over the years.
  • Giants:  Payton is from the “Parcels coaching tree” and Bill Parcels’ image still evokes “glory” in the minds of Giants’ fans and owners.
  • Seahawks:  I think Pete Carrol needs a playoff run in 2022 to continue to be welcome as the head coach in Seattle.
  • Panthers:  Owner David Tepper seems like someone who will spend whatever it takes to get what he wants.

One more broadcasting thing before I close today…  Rumor has it that NBC will “move on” from Al Michaels as the play-by-play guy on Sunday Night Football and replace him with Mike Tirico.  I like Mike Tirico as a play-by-play announcer; but in all candor, he is a significant step down from Al Michaels.

Finally,  there is one other great example of a highly successful coach who left that business and became an outstanding color analyst on TV.  I am referring to Al McGuire who teamed with Dick Enberg and Billy Packer to be the best announcing team for college basketball over a 10-year period in the 1980s.  Rest in Peace, coach…

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………



6 thoughts on “Sean Payton Is “Stepping Aside””

    1. Doug:

      Johnson may have regional appeal – – but it wanes with every season that he remains out of the sporlight.

  1. Payton was the Giants OC as well – I think they have to make the call this year. I expect to hear “No”, but they have to make the call. The giants like continuity of coaches and staff, and they will have a new guy in this year. Even for Payton, the Maras will not like dumping a guy after one year… Parcells was 3-12-1 his first here….

    1. Ed:

      Maybe Parcells takes the Giants’ job for 1 year to keep the seat warm for his protege? Just kidding…

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