The Houston Texans have requested permission from the New Orleans Saints to interview Sean Payton for their vacant head coaching position, according to Peter Schrager of Fox Sports.
Payton can't formally interview with teams until next Tuesday, Schrager added.
The Arizona Cardinals have already received permission to interview Payton, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and the Denver Broncos are also setting up an interview with the former Saints head coach.
Payton stepped down as head coach of the Saints in January 2022 after 15 seasons with the franchise. He exited with a 152-89 regular-season record and a 9-8 postseason mark, in addition to one Super Bowl victory and a Coach of the Year award.
The 59-year-old still has two years remaining on his contract with the Saints, meaning any team that hires him will need to provide New Orleans with compensation. The NFC South team is believed to be seeking at least a first-round pick for Payton, per ESPN's Katherine Terrell.
Since stepping down as head coach of the Saints, Payton has worked as an analyst with Fox Sports.
On Sunday, Payton discussed his possible return to the NFL, noting that a team's quarterback situation isn't what will be the biggest factor in his decision-making process if he were to consider a return:
"I think that it's really about the triangular relationship—ownership, front office, head coach. When we went to New Orleans—and I say 'we' because there were a lot of people involved—the quarterback was unsettled at that time. So I think ownership and the functionality of the front office is most important."
FOX Sports: NFL @NFLonFOX
Yesterday, the Broncos reached out to the Saints to inquire about their former HC Sean Payton.<a href="https://twitter.com/SeanPayton?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SeanPayton</a> discusses the situation and his possible return to the NFL ⬇️ <a href="https://t.co/XDr7HADIUT">pic.twitter.com/XDr7HADIUT</a>
The Texans are looking for a new head coach for the third time in three seasons.
Houston fired Bill O'Brien following an 0-4 start to the 2020 campaign. O'Brien had been the team's head coach since 2014 and he went 52-48 with four postseason appearances in his seven seasons. He was replaced by interim head coach Romeo Crennel.
The Texans then hired David Culley for the 2021 season, but he was fired after the team finished with a 4-13 record. Lovie Smith, who served as the team's head coach in 2022, was recently fired following a 3-13-1 finish.
Houston has come under fire over the last week as it has now fired two Black head coaches in back-to-back seasons in Culley and Smith. With the team's current situation—a young squad that lacks star-level talent and was destined to be among the league's worst teams—it's hard to imagine anyone finding success.
Former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III was among the many to voice his opinion about the situation:
Robert Griffin III @RGIII
Hackett was fired for the team underperforming MASSIVELY after trading for Russell Wilson. Roster was SUPER BOWL Contender level like the Rams and Bucs were after getting Stafford and Brady. Texans hired Culley and Lovie knowing the roster was bad, then fired them for being bad.
Todd Bowles, Mike Tomlin, Mike McDaniel, Robert Saleh and Ron Rivera are the only head coaches of color remaining in the NFL.
In addition to Payton, the Texans have reportedly requested to interview Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero.
The Texans have the No. 2 and No. 12 picks in the first round of the 2023 draft, but they're still expected to be among the worst teams in the league next season, meaning any coach who takes the job will have his work cut out for him.