Sean Payton is working for Fox Sports this season after stepping down from his coaching job with the New Orleans Saints in January, but he says he’s interested in returning as an NFL head coach in 2023 for the “right situation.”
“If the right situation presented itself, I would definitely be interested,” Payton said on the NewOrleans.Football podcast, which was posted Wednesday. “And there’s no utopia, if you will, when it comes to teams, but if I felt like it was the right situation, I would have an interest in that. That all being said, that could come in a year, that could come in two years.”
Asked what he would be looking for in a coaching opportunity, Payton said the right ownership and front office is important.
“The most important element is functional ownership [and] front office … because there’s a handful of teams that aren’t, and those teams, regardless of what takes place, they can win on Sunday but they have trouble winning long term,” he said. “The opportunity to win consistently and the willingness to build the correct culture and all those things.”
Payton will still have two seasons left on his Saints contract after the 2022 season, meaning that if he were to take an NFL coaching job in 2023, his new team would have to compensate the Saints.
The Miami Dolphins were penalized by the NFL in August for having “impermissible communications” with agent Don Yee in January about Payton becoming the team’s head coach. The NFL found that the Dolphins “did not seek consent” from the Saints to begin the talks, which occurred before he stepped down from his job with New Orleans. The Dolphins eventually hired Mike McDaniel as their head coach.
Payton, 58, left his job with the Saints in January after 16 seasons with the franchise. At his news conference in January to discuss his decision to leave the Saints, he didn’t rule out a future return to coaching but he said his focus was on finding a television job as an NFL analyst.
He eventually found that job with Fox Sports and he said on the podcast that he’s “really enjoying” his role with the network. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss coaching, and he said the Saints’ Week 2 game against Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the first time this season he wished he was back on the sidelines.
“This past weekend’s game versus Tampa was the first time I had a version of FOMO [fear of missing out]. I was jealous of everyone that was there, including random Bruce Arians on the sidelines,” he said.
Arians, who stepped down as the Buccaneers’ head coach before the season to become a senior assistant to general manager Jason Licht, was on the sidelines for the Sunday game and drew a warning from the NFL for his conduct.
Payton said working in television is allowing him to recharge his batteries, similarly to 2012 when he was suspended for a season by the NFL as a result of the league’s bounty investigation.
“Hopefully, I’m quite certain this is doing the same thing,” Payton said.
Payton’s record with the Saints was 152-89 (.631 winning percentage), not including his season-long suspension in 2012. He went 9-8 in the postseason and led the Saints to a championship with a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.