Why is Sean Payton ‘stepping away?’ Saints coach leaves New Orleans with murky future

When the Saints march out…

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has decided to hang up his fleur de lys team and leave the Saints, according to multiple reports.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported that Payton is “retiring,” but didn’t offer many details beyond that:

According to other reports, Payton, 58, is looking more for a break than spending the rest of his years on a golf course.

Here’s what we know about the veteran Saints coach’s departure:

Why is Sean Payton retiring?

According to Saints rhythm writer Nick Underhill, Payton has decided to retire, although there is some ambiguity with his departure.

While Rapoport reported that the Saints’ head coach is simply “walking away,” it’s unclear exactly what his plans are. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that this may be more of a “rest” for Payton rather than a full retirement, saying he first discussed the possibility with Saints owner Gayle Benson earlier this month.

Jeff Howe of Atletico echoed that report, citing a source who said Payton “needs time to recharge” and could return to the sidelines in the future.

If Payton decides to return to coaching, it will cost him an interested team: With Payton under contract to the Saints through 2024, any potential signing would mean a team would have to compensate New Orleans for his services going forward.

But a stay in the broadcast booth might come first. According to Front Office Sports’ Mike McCarthy, Fox has already targeted Payton to replace Troy Aikman in the broadcast booth should Aikman move to Amazon for the 2022 season.

On January 24, Gayle Benson recently said that she was unsure of Payton’s future with the Saints and said that she would expect an answer from Payton sooner rather than later:

Payton leaves the Saints on a pretty low note: New Orleans is expected to deal with serious salary-cap issues this offseason (the Saints are currently $74 million over the salary cap) and has no clear solution at quarterback.

Dennis Allen is the current clubhouse leader to be the Saints’ next head coach, according to reports.

Over 15 years in New Orleans, Payton-led teams are 152-89 with a 9-8 record in the playoffs. The Saints have made the playoffs in nine seasons under Payton, with a win in Super Bowl 44. They also won seven NFC South titles.