After a year away from the sidelines, Sean Payton is at least willing to consider returning to the NFL in 2023. He’s spoken to a few teams that currently have an opening. Whether or not a team is willing to shell out the kind of money Payton commands (and compensate the Saints) remains to be seen.
A Super Bowl-winning coach, Payton’s hiring would be exciting for any fan base. Of course, he’s also an offensive guru whose presence would immediately boost the fantasy value of the skill-position players from his new team. Payton is likely to stay out at least one more season, but it’s still worth a look.
We realize there are only five head coaching vacancies in the league right now, but one of the five best fantasy landing spots for Payton is actually a team that still has a head coach currently in place (sorry, Houston Texans).
The one silver lining of Dallas losing in the divisional playoffs is that it gives Jerry Jones an excuse to move on from Mike McCarthy. Look, it probably won’t happen, but it would be hard to question Jones if he said something like, “Coach McCarthy did a great job for us, but I’m always looking to improve our team and Sean Payton is an automatic improvement.”
Payton was the passing game coordinator for the Cowboys from 2003-05; he and Jones have remained tight since then. Payton had no continuity at quarterback in his three seasons with Dallas, so he’d have a much better time with Dak Prescott. All offensive players on the Cowboys would benefit from Payton’s offense. Perhaps the biggest leap might be taken by tight end Dalton Schultz, who’d be the best tight end Payton has had since Jimmy Graham led the NFL with 16 TD receptions in 2013.
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As soon as the Broncos decided to part ways with Nathaniel Hackett after just one season, the talk was that Payton would be a good fit. Payton thrived with an undersized QB in Drew Brees (6’0”), so he’d be comfortable with the 5’11” Russell Wilson. Wilson’s numbers would have to explode. Under Payton, Brees attempted 630 or more passes in a season an incredible eight times. Wilson has never attempted more than 558 passes in one season, averaging 474 attempts per season. Payton would have a field day with two dangerous receivers in Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, and he’d also get the best out of running back Javonte Williams, who could blossom into a dangerous all-purpose threat a la Alvin Kamara.
Another undersized QB for Payton, as he’d get to work with Kyler Murray. The 5’10” Murray would be the most mobile QB Payton has had. While former coach Kliff Kingsbury never really had a solid plan for Murray, Payton might help him become more of a pocket passer. It remains to be seen which receivers will be staying in Arizona, and running back James Conner might not be the best fit for Payton’s offense. Then again, Conner caught a career-high 55 passes for the Steelers back in 2018. There’s a good chance Conner would smash that number under Payton.