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Panthers' Interest in Sean Payton as Head Coach Last Season Denied by David Tepper

Erin WalshMay 13, 2022

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 09: Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers appear to have no interest in bringing in Sean Payton despite a recent report from Michael McCarthy of Front Office Sports saying the franchise was "eyeing" the former New Orleans Saints head coach. 

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule told reporters Friday that team owner David Tepper called him to say the reported interest in Payton isn't true. 

Payton retired as head coach of the Saints after the 2021 season. He spent 16 seasons with the franchise, going 152-89 in the regular season and 9-8 in the playoffs, including a Super Bowl title following the 2009 campaign. 

After stepping away from coaching, the 58-year-old is set to be a studio analyst for Fox Sports during the 2022 season. However, he hasn't ruled out an eventual return to the sideline.

"I still have a vision for doing things in football, and I'll be honest with ya, that might be coaching again at some point," Payton told reporters in January. “I don't think it's this year. I think maybe in the future, but that's not where my heart is right now. It's not at all."

McCarthy's report said Carolina "might be willing to wait a year" to land Payton. However, he is still under contract with the Saints through 2024, and a Panthers spokesperson told McCarthy the Panthers "would not talk to—or consider—a coach who’s under contract with another team."

Carolina will enter the 2022 season with Rhule as its head coach. It will be the 47-year-old's third season on the sideline, and he'll be hoping to improve upon his first two seasons in which he went just 10-23.

Tepper also told reporters last month that Rhule has his full support: 

"Well, I am a fan. I don't like to lose. Who likes to lose? I want to win. But it takes time and it takes a foundation to win. I do believe Coach Rhule and Scott [Fitterer] are doing a great job creating that foundation. I think we have made improvements in the coaching staff. I think we have done a good job during free agency to fill holes. I'm fairly optimistic about the new season."

If the Panthers don't show any signs of improvement in 2022, then maybe Tepper and the team's front office will consider a coaching change. For now, fans should just wait and see what happens.