Could New Orleans Coach Sean Payton Leave the Saints and NFL for Fox Sports?

Payton could succeed Troy Aikman on Fox’s top team to work alongside Joe Buck

Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons
Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Todd Kirkland/Getty

With just four teams remaining in the NFL playoffs, the majority of NFL teams are already looking forward to next season and planning for next year.

In the NFC South, there’s some uncertainty about whether one of the biggest names in the division will be returning to the NFL next season — and it isn’t Tom Brady.

Per the NFL Network, longtime New Orleans coach Sean Payton “has not committed” to returning to coach the Saints for another season even though he has three years left on his contract. Payton, who has previously been non-commital about his future with the team he has coached since 2006, was approached by at least one TV network about working in media before the end of the season and could choose to spend next season in the booth rather than on the sidelines.

While Payton probably would not reunite with his former quarterback Drew Brees at NBC, the 58-year-old could wind up at Fox if current No.1 NFL analyst Troy Aikman takes a job working for Amazon on Thursday Night Football. In that scenario, Payton would pair up with top play-by-play man Joe Buck on Fox’s top broadcast team. It’s also worth noting Payton may have a soft spot for Fox as the network previously offered him a job during his suspension without pay for the 2012 season as punishment for the “Bountygate” scandal. 

“[Fox] has to go big if they need to replace Troy,” former NFL Network producer Eric Weinberger told Front Office Sports. “I’m not sure Sean would be as bombastic as [former ESPN Monday Night Football analyst] Jon Gruden. But I think Sean would be more opinionated than Gruden.”

Forced to roll with a combination of Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian and Ian Book at quarterback this season due to injuries, the Saints finished at 9-8 and failed to make the playoffs in their first season in more than a decade without Brees under center. Payton, who won the Super Bowl with Brees in 2009, appeared to still be a solid coach last season, but perhaps embarking on “a mini-retirement” and working at Fox for a year or two would be a good way for him to get some distance from the Saints prior to coaching with a new team as he’s likely not done in the NFL.

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