Saints' Top Options to Replace Sean Payton as Head Coach Reportedly Retires

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 25, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - AUGUST 29:  Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen of the New Orleans Saints reacts before an NFL preseason game against the Miami Dolphins at the Mercedes Benz Superdome on August 29, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The New Orleans find themselves behind the competition after joining the NFL's coaching carousel Tuesday.

Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football reported longtime head coach Sean Payton is retiring. Not only do the Saints have to replace the greatest coach in franchise history, but their search also begins as other teams with vacancies have already interviewed multiple candidates.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, who has spoken with the Chicago Bears, is an obvious possibility to succeed Payton. As questions surrounded Payton's future, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Allen "would be a top candidate to take over."

If New Orleans has to look outside the organization, then any of the usual suspects could emerge as a target: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.

With their team's season over, Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles would be free to interview as well.

The franchise's precarious position could work against general manager Mickey Loomis, though.

For years, Loomis adeptly kicked the can down the road so the Saints could remain under the salary cap while retaining most of their best players or adding reinforcements. The trouble with that approach is that the bill comes due sooner or later.

Spotrac projects New Orleans to be $71.6 million over the salary cap for 2022. Payton's departure could foreshadow a difficult offseason.

Robert Mays @robertmays

Sean Payton leaving the Saints as they're about to stare down the consequences from years of YOLO spending and draft-pick trades is like bailing after you and your buddies burned down an Air BnB following a week-long rager. <br><br>Gotta respect it.

The search for a head coach might run in tandem with the search for a new starting quarterback.

Jameis Winston is due to be a free agent, and his production in seven games before suffering a torn ACL (1,170 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 59.0 percent completion rate) wasn't definitive about whether he could be the long-term solution. Taysom Hill isn't the answer either after attempting just 134 passes in 2021.

Dugar, Michael-Shawn @MikeDugar

Sean saw the QB situation + the Saints cap situation and said aight let me slide to Cabo right quick <a href="https://t.co/ccpsc6rBvn">https://t.co/ccpsc6rBvn</a>

Under Payton, the Saints made nine trips to the playoffs, winning Super Bowl XLIV and collecting four straight NFC South titles from 2017 to 2020. He transformed an organization that had rarely enjoyed on-field success since its inception in 1967.

Now, a major rebuild could be in store.

Payton may be stepping down with the knowledge that Allen will take his place, ensuring continuity within the coaching staff.

Allen aside, potential candidates might not be keen to run a team with such a murky outlook.