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This week’s news that Sean Payton would be stepping down as coach of the Saints came with a fair amount of shockwaves. Conor (the man who predicted it) and Gary break down what it all means for the Saints, for Payton and for a handful of coaches who will likely enter 2022 on the hot seat (sorry Mike McCarthy, but we’re looking in your direction).

Then, a preview of conference championship Sunday. Can Ja’Marr Chase go off again—and do the Bengals need him to if they’re going to pull off the upset? Does it matter that the Bengals can’t protect Joe Burrow? And how many snaps will Blake Bell take?

On the NFC side, do the 49ers continue with their magical run? Does Kyle Shanahan continue to have Sean McVay’s number? And is the Rams’ offense ready to fire on all cylinders again?

Have a comment, critique or question for a future mailbag? Email themmqb@gmail.com or tweet at @GGramling_SI or @ConorOrr.

The following is an automatically generated transcript from The MMQB NFL podcast. Listen to the full episode on podcast players everywhere or on SI.com.

Gary Gramling: Hello and welcome to the MMQB NFL podcast I'm Gary Gramling.

Conor Orr: I'm Conor Orr

Gary Gramling: And Conor, your Oracle powers a few weeks ago, they were going off. A shining type of thing, is how I like to picture it. But you were getting some vibes from, however you do it, from the universe that maybe Sean Payton would not be long for that Saint's job and here we are, a couple of weeks later and Sean Payton has indeed stepped down.

Conor Orr: It's a pretty fun stuff. I don't know if you remember, I was talking to somebody about this show yesterday. Did you ever watch "Crossing Over" with John Edward?

Gary Gramling: Yeah, I believe I've accused you of being John Edwards.

Conor Orr: Oh, okay. Perfect. Yeah. So this was good. Cause I imagine that John Edward goes out some days and he's just like, 'I'm hearing from a Peter' and then nobody in the audience brings anything up. And then he's like, 'oh shit, I'm in a lot of trouble today.' That's most days in the prediction business I would say. But every now and then a blind squirrel finds a nut. And that was our Sean Payton column that we wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Gary Gramling: All right, so let's talk about the Saints first, and then we'll talk about the larger impact, because certainly we haven't seen the last of Sean Payton on an NFL sideline at this point. But the saints are in, boy, just a rough spot right now. Because if you go back to last season, I would argue they were probably – probably not definitely, but probably a Jared Cook fumble away from hanging on against the Bucks and going on to the NFC title game. And then let's see what happens out in Lambeau. But, that team was super bowl ready. Obviously they had Drew Brees under center. It was a very similar team except for the quarterback situation. And then you fast forward to this year and Jameis Winston was not really working, even before the torn ACL, and then after the torn ACL there's just nothing there. Whether it was Trevor Siemian, whether it was Ian Book or whether it was Taysom Hill. So I'm not really sure how much anyone wants to go to New Orleans, despite the fact that you have a veteran team that is kind of a win-now roster from two to 53, cap problems, it looks like a rebuild.

Conor Orr: Yeah, which is probably why he left, right? And again, I wrote this yesterday. I don't think he owes anybody anything. I mean, Sean Payton Won them a Super Bowl, he played competitive football there for 15 years or whatever. But it is amazing that nobody's pointing at it and kind of calling it what it is, which is; of course he thought it was a good time to go! This team's going to suck for like three years. And you don't feel like doing that, you'd rather do something else. And I don't blame him. It's the same thing as Tom Brady in Tampa bay, like you're retiring now because you're losing half the roster. *You might be retiring now.* I don't know. Cause you're losing half the roster.

Gary Gramling: The Oracle going off again.

Conor Orr: Because half the rosters gone and half the coaching staff is gone. And so whatever happens, happens there, but it is a little bit of an abandonment, right? And this is the trouble with teams that put everything into the idea that one guy's always going to be there. So the Saints mortgage their future, like over and over and over and over and over again. And their cap is just like the one guy at the national debt relief hotline now, that's just trying to figure everything out and piece it together. And you can do that when Sean Payton is calling plays. But when he's not all of a sudden, it's like, whoa, like we're going to need an exterminator to come in here and figure this out. And their cap is not as bad as everyone's making out to be. Yes, they are are $70 million over for next year. But of that is like extensions and restructures and stuff like that. And then I think there'll be fine. It's not like they're going to fail to produce a team or like only have eight guys to put on the field next year.

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Gary Gramling: Show up with 21 guys, here we are!

Conor Orr: That happened to me on Madden by the way. I kept taking undrafted free agent quarterbacks, and then I would make them really famous and have them throw for like 9,000 yards in the season. And then I would franchise tag them and then trade them for the first pick in the draft. And I kept doing that over and over and over again. And then like season four came and I had like 24 players on the roster. And they were like you don't have any more money. You can't make this work. And I was like, then we're going to play with 24! But that's not what the saints are going to do. They're going to have enough, they're going to have all the players they're suppose to have.

Gary Gramling: All right, so the quarterback situation is up in the air in new Orleans, the head coach situation is up in the air. As we tape this on a beautiful Wednesday evening, it's kind of up in the air everywhere. We don't have any, hirings to this point. But, Sean Payton, so he says he's not going to coach in 2022. If we take him at his word for that, and there's no reason not to. He is going to be basically THE candidate in 2023. How does that sort of change things? Like if I'm Mark Davis right now, and I know he kind of has a thing for Jim Harbaugh, we'll see if that can work out, but does that tip you over into one more year with Rich Bisaccia and then backup a dump truck full of, JFK 50 cent pieces for Sean Payton should it come to that till next offseason?

Conor Orr: I keep a jFK 50 cent piece in my wallet. I don't know if you knew that. I wish I could find a way to use it. But I think you're right. I think if I'm the coach who is the most scared right now, it's obviously Mike McCarthy, right? Jerry Jones probably isn't gonna make any staff changes at this point, but boy, he's probably thinking of it , he's probably mad about it and isn't psyched about the way that the season ended. And he's long had an affinity for Sean Payton, that's home for him in Texas there. So I think that makes a great deal of sense if Sean Payton ends up working for like Sunday night football or Thursday night football or something, and they have like a game in Dallas, I would just not let him in the building if I were Mike McCarthy I'd be like no, you can't come in this week. But yeah, I think it definitely changes the equation for a couple of these teams. If you're Las Vegas, you're right, just stick with Bisaccia now, because if you're not going to bring in Harbaugh, this is a very underwhelming –relatively speaking, coaching class. Now a lot of times do those end up producing some of the best coaches? Yes, no doubt about that, but, I think if you're waiting for that star to ripein and season, ,just stick with Bisaccia for a year, or you get Sean Payton, but I can't remember, and maybe you would have a slightly broader scope of memory than I, but I can't remember a coach coming back on the market and being a bigger free agent than Sean Payton would be a year from now. Like I think that he would be the biggest free agent coach in history. And even though he's not a free agent, you have to trade for him still. But, I think that would be gigantic.

Gary Gramling: Bill Cowher... he's still coming back any day now, still waiting for that one.

Conor Orr: He did kind of get through his tributaries that he wanted that Jets job when it looked like Trevor Lawrence was going to be the quarterback. So you never know.

[00:06:53] Gary Gramling: Yeah, I guess you can't completely rule it out. But I mean the Cowher thing is just so funny looking back on it, because like every off-season it was like, ah, he's coming back, someone's got to get him back, and just, Nope, he's just fine at CBS and doing his thing. So good for him.

Conor Orr: You live in the greater New York city area too, so you have access to WFAN and it was like... I moved here in 2010 but started living in the greater New York city area in 2009. And so I've been listening to WFAN for that long. And every third call was about Bill Cowher from 2009 until 2018. I mean, it was nine straight years of what we should do to get rid of this Todd Bowles guy? Get a Bill Cowher! But yeah, outside of Bill Cowher, I don't remember... like when Joe Gibbs came back? I don't know. I mean he's the only person I can think of.

Gary Gramling: Yeah, Sean Payton, boy, what a feeling it's going to be for him when he starts shopping around for a job next year.

Conor Orr: It's going to be fun.

Gary Gramling: All right, we have actual football this weekend. Conference championship games. Let's go in regular chronological order because we usually go in reverse chronic logical order, and I feel like this is, I dunno, just respecting the way that time moves forward, when it's all said and done. So we're going to start with the AFC game, Bengals and Chiefs obviously, over in Arrowhead, a rematch of their matchup earlier this year. We'll start with the Bengals offense against the chiefs defense, because if you go back to the first matchup, obviously Joe Burrow sort of had his way with the chief secondary. We will see what Tyron Matthew's situation ends up being, because that was not a very good performance after he went down last week for the Chiefs. So, you have that going on, you also have a game last week where the Bengals offense did not function at the kind of level where you'd want it to function in a game like this. So I don't know if the Chiefs necessarily can find more answers. I didn't think they necessarily had an issue getting to Joe Burrow last I checked. Just, it's that thing where it's like, Joe Burrow knows his right side of the line can't block, and he's ready for it, and he ducks and he escapes and then they do it that way.