Just as we see with the NFL Draft, there are no guarantees when hiring a head coach. Just in this most recent hiring cycle we saw huge hits with Mike McDaniel in Miami, Kevin O’Connell in Minnesota, and Brian Daboll in New York.
And there have been huge misses, with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas and Nathaniel Hackett in Denver.
Just looking at the resumes, those last two should have been the biggest coaching upgrades. McDaniels has the Super Bowl rings and the endorsement of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. Hackett was the offensive mind who guided Aaron Rodgers to back-to-back MVPs. Compare that to what Miami was getting with McDaniel - a Yaley with a single season as an offensive coordinator, and with an offense that ranked 13th in points scored.
This next offseason hiring cycle, we are sure to see some good hirings turn into misses, and questionable hirings turn into home runs.
And the one sure thing of the cycle, Sean Payton.
Payton Connected to Chargers and Cardinals
This will be news to Brandon Staley and Kliff Kingsbury, the current holders of the head coaching jobs for the Chargers and Cardinals, but reportedly the former Saints head coach is watching those two positions with the most interest.
The report says that the Chargers job would be preferred because of quarterback Justin Herbert, but the Kyler Murray contract extension in Arizona also makes that job attractive to him. Essentially you are not going to see Payton take over in Carolina or Houston, because he wants a stable quarterback situation and not a rebuilding project.
Of course, the caveat for any potential Payton job is his current contract situation with the New Orleans Saints. He wasn’t fired. He isn’t a free agent. Not only would the Cardinals have to pay out the five-year contract extension Kingsbury just signed in March, they would have to send the Saints trade compensation for the right to pay Payton even more money.
As a fellow NFC team, the Saints would be reluctant to send Payton to Arizona. That would also be the case with the Cowboys, who have long had Jerry Jones flirting with the idea of having Payton as his head coach.
So most likely, the AFC would be involved, which brings us back to the Chargers and Brandon Staley, who still has the job.
How Far Does Payton Move the Needle?
Sean Payton is a Super Bowl champion as a head coach, and he helped turn Drew Brees into one of the best quarterbacks in history. It’s intriguing to think about what he could accomplish with a Justin Herbert or Kyler Murray.
But perspective is needed here. His Super Bowl win was in 2009. He did make it to two other NFC Championship Games, but he also missed the playoffs in six of his 15 seasons in New Orleans, and a seventh season if we count the year that he was suspended by the NFL.
Payton is a very good head coach, no doubt. He’s a great offensive mind. But he only ever had success with Drew Brees. Payton and Brees have been dogged by the same question for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick - which man made the other, and which was most responsible for the success?
Like Belichick, who presided over a bad offense when Brady left, Payton had a bad offense in his one and only season without Brees. In 2021 he attempted to turn Taysom Hill into a quarterback, and what he got instead was the 28th-ranked offense in the NFL, and 32nd-ranked passing offense.
Payton has said numerous times that Hill is one of his favorite players he’s ever coached, and he even joked last month that he would trade for Hill once he gets with a new team. But, since his new team will have had to trade for him, he may not have the draft capital left to trade for Hill.
Whichever team gets Sean Payton in 2023, they will get themselves a good head coach. But when you consider the contract he’ll demand and the trade compensation New Orleans will require, just as with any head coaching hire, there will be no guarantees.