Sean Payton believes he'll be an NFL coach again, but 'no way to predict' which team he would lead
The calendar says that this is the time of year when the adrenaline ramps up a bit for Sean Payton.
“I usually get a pit in my stomach about seven days before camp opens,” Payton told USA TODAY Sports while undoubtedly in a total chill mode without a current NFL team to coach. “When do most teams go in, the 26th (of July), the 27th?”
Payton, 58, who stepped down earlier this year after a long, stellar run with the New Orleans Saints, will get back on the NFL calendar soon enough. He’s signed on with Fox Sports as a studio analyst and is upbeat about how his new TV job will keep him close to the game.
Then there’s that next gig. From the moment Payton ended his 15-year tenure with the Saints, buzz has persisted about his next stop. A recent Miami Herald report, citing a person close to Payton, said that he was eyeing three teams – the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers – as potential landing spots. He’s hardly at a point to publicly declare (or limit himself to) that.
The Miami Dolphins were also interested in Payton but didn’t receive permission from the Saints to talk to him before they settled on Mike McDaniel. Payton is under contract with the Saints through 2024, which means that whatever team lures Payton out of retirement will have to compensate his former team.
“Ultimately, do I think I’ll get back in? Sure,” Payton said. “There’s no way to predict who that club might be. Usually, there are about six openings every year. If there’s a right fit somewhere, that ultimately will depend on several factors.”
For now, Payton is flowing with a low-stress existence that includes golfing, hiking and boating while living in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. He’s pegged to work on both of the NFL pregame shows for Fox Sports, alternating weeks with former coach Jimmy Johnson on Fox NFL Sunday while appearing each week on Fox NFL Kickoff.
“I’m really excited about Fox and working with the crew,” Payton said. “It’s going to be a great experience. I’m looking forward to being on the other side.”
Payton won a Super Bowl crown and seven division titles as the winningest coach in Saints history (152-89). Teamed largely with Drew Brees, he produced one of the league’s most consistently prolific offenses – the calling card that will fuel the demand for a comeback.
He knows. But Payton is also content to live in the moment. The adrenaline is in check.
That next coaching job can wait.
As Payton put it, “We’ll deal with it when the time comes.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.