Sean Payton takes note from Ted Lasso, gives parting King Cake to Saints owner

Emily Olsen
USA TODAY Sports+
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, whose 15-year tenure with the club included its only Super Bowl championship and also a one-season suspension stemming from the NFL’s bounty investigation, leaves the Saints.

After 16 years, Sean Payton is leaving the New Orleans Saints. The former head coach won seven division titles and a Super Bowl championship in his 15 seasons with the Saints. While he appeared emotional but confident about his departure, Payton revealed one regret he had from his tenure with the team: not having biscuits with the boss, team owner Gayle Benson.

Paying homage to Emmy-winning TV series Ted Lasso, Payton presented Benson — standing stage left — with a white box of traditional New Orleans King Cake. 

LASSO LEGEND:How a game of pool in Amsterdam 20 years ago helped create the 'Ted Lasso' everyone loves

"Fifteen seasons, 16 years here, and I've got like the best female owner in the world of sports. And we don't do biscuits here in New Orleans, but we do King Cakes," Payton said before leaving his place at the table to give Benson the gift.

Benson welcomed Payton with a smile and said, "Let me give you a hug first," before accepting the cake and watching the second-longest tenured NFL coach return to the podium. 

The gesture goes beyond Payton. Like Benson, the owner of the fictional AFC Richmond team in Ted Lasso is a business-savvy woman named Rebecca who took over for her former husband. While Rebecca took ownership of her team through divorce, Benson became the principal owner of the Saints following the passing of her husband Tom in 2018. 

"Mrs. B, you have been fantastic carrying on everything about his legacy," Payton said. "I know he would be extremely proud."

It was Benson who encouraged Payton to take some time away to think about what's next. 

"I'm glad she told me to spend some time away and give this some thought, because it is a big decision and it certainly affects a lot of people," Payton said. "It is not often that you as a coach get that opportunity to leave."

New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson waves before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in New Orleans.

Payton was visibly emotional, at one point revealing he Googled “how not to cry during a speech” the night before. 

Payton collected a 152-89 record (.631), including a Super Bowl 44 victory over the Indianapolis Colts after the 2009 season.

The Saints (9-8) failed to make the playoffs in the final week of the 2021 season. The team was bogged down by a string of COVID-19 troubles and inconsistency at quarterback.

Payton did not say what was next for him. There are reports the Dallas Cowboys could be interested after a disappointing exit from the playoffs. Payton was also asked about a job in media. He said he is interested, but does not have anything in the works. 

He didn't close the door to coaching in the future, but Payton said he doesn't think he will coach football this year. 

"That is not where my heart is right now," he said.

Maybe a leap across the pond like coach Lasso? One can only dream.