Sean Payton pulled a minor surprise on Tuesday by walking away from the New Orleans Saints and essentially said that he will not coach in 2022 but that he still might in the future. Payton remains under contract for three more seasons so any team would have to give the Saints compensation to hire him. Where do the "Who Dats" turn now? SportsLine oddsmakers heavily favor defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to be the next head coach.
"We're gonna look in-house and outside," Saints owner Gayle Benson said, "and I think we're gonna do a great job in choosing another person that's gonna be able to lead us the way that Sean did."
How good of a job is the Saints gig right now? That could be debated. The team has no clear-cut starting quarterback for 2022 – it seemed only Payton was convinced that Taysom Hill was an NFL starter – and has the worst salary-cap situation in the NFL as the Saints are projected to be $74 million over the 2022 cap.
Jameis Winston, the Week 1 starter at QB this season, is a free agent. So are star left tackle Terron Armstead – ESPN ranks him the No. 2 free agent on the market behind Packers receiver Davante Adams – and excellent young safety Marcus Williams, who played the 2021 season on the franchise tag.
Payton already has endorsed Allen as his replacement. He does have head coaching experience, going 8-28 for the then-dysfunctional Raiders from 2012-14. Allen went 1-0 as the Saints' interim head coach this season – Payton was out with COVID -- with a 9-0 shocking upset the Bucs. The New Orleans defense has been in the top five in points allowed for two seasons in a row. Allen was going to interview for the Bears' opening, but Chicago called that off.
Another potential in-house candidate is offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who has been with the Saints since 2006 when Payton arrived and served as OC since 2009. Alas, he didn't call plays. Payton did.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn served as New Orleans' secondary coach from 2016-2020 and played his final season in the NFL with the Saints in 2008. The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport already has reported that Glenn will get an interview in addition to Allen.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy apparently is going to be passed over for an NFL head coaching job for the second straight season unless the Saints hire him. Bieniemy was born in New Orleans. He obviously is a bit too busy to interview at the moment with Kansas City in the AFC title game.
Some have mentioned Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, but he is expected to be named the head coach of the Giants any day now. If former Eagles Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson doesn't land another opening, he has ties from the state as a former quarterback at Louisiana-Monroe who also coached high school football in Louisiana. Pederson has interviewed for vacancies with the Bears, Vikings and Broncos.
New Orleans hired a rising young offensive mind away from the Cowboys in Payton. Could the Saints do it again with current Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore?
Chargers offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was a long-time assistant under Payton. Lombardi has good coaching genes as his grandfather was a guy named Vince Lombardi.
Then there's the long-shot option: Drew Brees. The future Hall of Famer's TV gig with NBC has been … uh … not great so far. Would Brees be willing to return to the Saints as a head coach? Would the team even want him despite zero coaching experience? It wouldn't be surprising to see Brees coach someday, but it's likely too soon.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the Saints' next head coach?
- Dennis Allen Even
- Aaron Glenn +300
- Pete Carmichael +500
- Doug Pederson +600
- Eric Bieniemy +700
- Joe Lombardi +900
- Kellen Moore +1000
- Drew Brees +2500
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