The Saints will enter the 2022 NFL season with a new head coach. Sean Payton has decided to walk away from the team at age 58, leaving New Orleans in need of a replacement. The franchise becomes the ninth team seeking a new full-time sideline leader earlier this year.
Payton, in 15 seasons, went 152-89 in 241 games in New Orleans. That’s minus the one-year suspension from the “Bountygate” league in 2012. He led the Saints to the playoffs nine times, all with Drew Brees, now retired, as his starting quarterback. He had nine more wins in the postseason, including Super Bowl 44 over the Colts.
Like Brees, he will be difficult for the Saints to replace. The new coach will also inherit a bad cap situation and face a big rebuilding change after Brees.
Here are the top eight candidates for New Orleans officials to consider, at the end of the process.
Ranking potential replacements for Saints’ Sean Payton
Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator (age: 33)
The Saints took Payton away from Jerry Jones, who probably still regrets that happening given that Payton developed a consistent winner and got a ring. Although Payton was older when he was Dallas’ successful offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells, Moore has some similar attributes with great playmaking acumen. He is prepared to lead an entire team despite his age.
Dennis Allen, defensive coordinator for the Saints (age: 49)
Allen last served as an NFL coach with the Raiders in 2014. He had three decent seasons with that organization. He has done a great job leading the Saints’ defense since 2015, filling in for the mess Rob Ryan left behind. He has a lot of respect from current players, and the Saints can focus on pairing the right offensive coordinator with whoever’s at QB, whether it’s Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, a No. 1 pick or a standout free agent.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator (age: 52)
Bieniemy was born in New Orleans before performing as a running back at California High School and the University of Colorado. His current performance continues to be Andy Reid’s strong right-hand man lifting the play and intriguing for Patrick Mahomes. His resume is loaded and he’s late for work.
Brian Flores, former Dolphins head coach (age: 40)
Flores would be the best defensive option out of the organization. He was headed for a bright future in Miami before he unwisely cut himself off. He would also push the importance of a top franchise quarterback and stay quiet about offensive changes.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator (age: 46)
Daboll is available after Bieniemy and the Chiefs’ offense outlasted his. The Canadian is ready for a bigger concert after his great work with Josh Allen. The trick will be finding another great all-around QB talent.
Mike McDaniel, 49ers offensive coordinator (age: 38)
The 49ers staff under Kyle Shanahan is having a postseason run. McDaniel has learned well under Shanahan and the Yale product is brilliant and can be organized well to lead a team, as can Moore. The Saints should also think about their defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans.
Kevin O’Connell, offensive coordinator for the Rams (age: 36)
O’Connell Archive with McDaniel and Moore. Sean McVay’s coaching tree signings are no longer a joke, given what Zac Taylor has done with the Bengals and Brandon Staley can do with the Chargers.
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator (age: 42)
Leftwich is a name of a division rival to watch. He may want to stay if Tom Brady does, knowing that he may soon become Bruce Arians’ successor. But the Saints have to do their due diligence to maybe give him another chance in the NFC South.