The New Orleans Saints are coming off of a tough season, as they went 9-8 and failed to win the NFC South for the first time since 2016. It was the first year without Drew Brees, and while the Saints went 5-2 with Jameis Winston as the new starter, he tore his ACL in Week 8. The Saints would go on to start three other quarterbacks throughout the year. The quarterback issue is still a question, but now, the franchise also has to reportedly worry if their head coach will come back.
On Sunday morning, NFL Media reported that Sean Payton has not committed to returning to coach for another season in New Orleans. He has been on vacation for more than a week, and has reportedly "gone dark" on several people who are close to him. It's thought maybe Payton would take a year off from coaching in 2022, but sources told NFL Media that if Payton did step away for a season, he would likely return to coach with a different team.
On Monday, Saints owner Gayle Benson appeared to give credence to the report while speaking at a press conference.
"We don't know, you know? Who knows?" Benson said when asked about Payton, via Fox 8. "We'll find out soon enough, I guess."
"I don't think any of us know. But he'll let us know soon enough."
Payton has three years remaining on his contract, and he would reportedly be walking away from over $45 million if he wants to be done with the Saints. Current Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen is reportedly expected to be a top candidate to replace Payton.
This is a rumor that just adds on to the stress the franchise is under this offseason. Last offseason, the front office won gold in cap gymnastics after digging themselves out of what was considered by many to be an unprecedented hole. This offseason they will have to do it again, as New Orleans is projected to be more than $74 million over the cap. Then, there's the quarterback question. Taysom Hill signed another extension, but would a different coach want to move forward with him as the No. 1 guy? Additionally, the Saints have to make a decision on Winston, who is looking for a new deal. Losing Payton could also hurt New Orleans' chances of wooing a major player like Russell Wilson to the Bayou. The Saints have other big free agents looking for new deals too, such as left tackle Terron Armstead and free safety Marcus Williams.
It's early in the offseason, but it sounds like no one knows what Payton is going to do.