Front Office Sports writer Mike McCarthy is reporting that the Carolina Panthers are interested in former New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for their head coaching position.
McCarthy reports that Carolina may be willing to wait a year to officially pursue Payton. In McCarthy's article, he cites a Panthers source as quoting ‘‘We would not talk to, or consider, a coach who's under contract with another team''. Payton will be working for FOX Sports during the 2022 NFL season.
Sean Payton officially retired from the Saints at the end of the 2021 season. However, he signed an extension with the franchise in 2019 that has him under contract with New Orleans through 2024. If he returns to coaching before then, any team that hires him would have to give up significant compensation.
The Miami Dolphins were reported to have interest in Payton this past offseason. The Dallas Cowboys are another team often linked to Payton, who has a close relationship with owner Jerry Jones.
Payton, 58, received his first head coaching job with the Saints in 2006. He had been an offensive assistant with the Eagles, Giants, and Cowboys over the previous nine years. In 15 years with New Orleans, Payton had ten winning seasons and qualified for the playoffs nine times. He led the Saints to their only championship, a Super Bowl XLIV win over Indianapolis during the 2009 season.
Payton has a 152-89 record as head coach, a .631 winning percentage. His record against the NFC South was 58-33 (.637), on his way to winning seven division titles. The Saints had a historically productive offense under the leadership of Payton and QB Drew Brees.
Carolina, an NFC South rival of the Saints, is currently coached by Matt Rhule. The Panthers have a 10-23 record under Rhule the last two seasons, including 5-12 in 2021.
Rhule had previously been the head coach at Baylor for three years and Temple for four years. Other than one season as an assistant offensive line coach with the Giants in 2012, Carolina has been the only NFL job Rhule has held.
A return to the sidelines for Payton is certainly not out of the question. However, it does seem extremely premature to link him to another NFL team at this time. Especially to a division rival when the Saints would still hold his rights to even negotiate.