NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, whose 15-year tenure with the club included its only Super Bowl championship and also a one-season suspension stemming from the NFL’s bounty investigation, is leaving coaching.

Payton informed the team on Tuesday that he is leaving his first and only NFL head coaching job with a 152-89 regular-season record – and nine playoff appearances – in 15 seasons. The Saints won the NFL title in 2009.

“I don’t like the word retirement,” he said. “I still have a vision for doing things in football. And I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don’t think it’s this year, I think maybe in the future. That’s not where my heart is right now.”

The Saints made Payton a first-time head coach in 2006, when he oversaw a stunning turnaround in the franchise’s first season back in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The club had been displaced from the city during the entire 2005 season, going 3-13.

The Saints went 10-6 and advanced to the NFC championship game in Payton’s first season. He has coached the Saints to the postseason eight other times in his 15 seasons since.

New Orleans narrowly missed the playoffs this season, going 9-8 in its first campaign since the retirement of Drew Brees. Payton had lured the quarterback to New Orleans as a free agent in 2006 and Brees went on to set every significant franchise passing record.


Under Payton, the Saints became a perennial contender, and they beat Peyton Manning and Indianapolis 31-17 to win their lone Super Bowl. They also lost the 2018 conference title game to the Rams after a blown officiating call that led to a temporary NFL rules change.

Payton was a member of the league’s powerful competition committee from 2017 until leaving that position last November.

“I don’t know what’s next,” he said. “Look, I read the reports and I understand. I’ve not spoken to anyone from a media outlet relative to doing television, or radio. Maybe that opportunity arises. But every time I read something that says he’s in line for this job, I’ll call my agent Don (Yee) and I’ll say `Don did you hear something because I’ve not heard anything?’ That’s OK. I think I’d like to do that. I think I’d be pretty good at it.”

A valued offensive assistant for the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys before landing the head coaching job in New Orleans, Payton actually played in the NFL – as a replacement player for the Bears during the 1987 strike.

He missed the 2012 season when the NFL suspended Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt, General Manager Mickey Loomis and four players after an investigation found the Saints had a performance pool offering cash rewards for key plays, including big hits. The player suspensions eventually were overturned by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, and Payton was reinstated early in 2013.

Including playoffs, Payton has a 161-97 record, by far the most victories of any Saints coach. Jim Mora, who coached New Orleans from 1986 to 1996, is second with 93.


Payton’s 152 regular-season victories rank 21st in NFL history. Payton has presided over seven NFC South titles.

Payton made his mark as an innovative designer of offenses and play caller, coinciding with Brees’ extraordinary production. The Saints never led the NFL in offense before Payton arrived but finished first in that department six times since: in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016.

The Saints ranked first in scoring in 2008 and 2009. They ranked in the top 10 offensively for 14 consecutive seasons from 2006-2019. Although Payton wasn’t coaching in 2012, his offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael Jr., was calling plays based on the principles of the offense designed.

In 2020, Brees’ final season, the Saints, went with more of a ball-control attack featuring running back Alvin Kamara and ranked 12th offensively. This season, however, New Orleans dropped to 28th in offense.

Payton also had to miss a game in 2021 after contracting COVID-19 for the second time since the spring of 2020.

Defensive coordinator Dennis Allen stepped in as acting head coach for that game, which the Saints won 9-0 at Tampa Bay. Allen, a former head coach with the Oakland Raiders, has made no secret of his desire to be in charge again.


Now there’s an opening on the very team that employs him.

BEARS: Ryan Poles was hired as Chicago’s general manager almost 15 years after he signed with the team as an undrafted free agent and then failed to make the final roster.

Poles spent the previous 13 seasons in the Chiefs’ front office, the past year as executive director of player personnel under General Manager Brett Veach. He was the team’s director of college scouting in 2017 when Kansas City drafted Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 overall pick – after Chicago took Mitchell Trubisky at No. 2.

The Bears fired General Manager Ryan Pace and Coach Matt Nagy after a 6-11 season, hoping new leadership will lift a struggling franchise. They brought in Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian to lead a five-person search team that also included chairman George McCaskey and president Ted Phillips.

A big part of Poles’ job will be solidifying the quarterback position that has haunted the founding NFL franchise for decades.

That likely means figuring out a way to get the most out of Justin Fields and surrounding him with the talent to help him develop. The former Ohio State star had a shaky rookie season, though he also showed potential.


Turning around the franchise will be a big job. First up, he has to help the team settle on a coach after Nagy was let go.

GIANTS: Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll seemingly has become the front-runner for the vacant New York Giants’ head coaching position.

Daboll got his second interview for the job in five days when he spent Tuesday with co-owners Steve Tisch and John Mara, new general manager Joe Schoen and senior vice president of player personnel Chris Mara at the team’s headquarters. The 46-year-old also was interviewed Friday on a video conference call.

He is the first man to receive two interviews for the job that opened when Joe Judge was fired on Jan. 11 after a 4-13 second season. He was 10-23 in his short tenure.

The Giants also have spoken with Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. The team also plans to meet with current Giants defensive coordinator Pat Graham on Wednesday and former Miami coach Brian Flores on Thursday.

Schoen, who was the Bills assistant GM before being hired by the Giants Friday, and Daboll worked with the Bills for the past four seasons.


PACKERS: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he can’t envision coming out of retirement once he ends his playing career.

Rodgers has said he hasn’t decided whether to return to the Packers, pursue a trade or retire. The three-time MVP went into more details about his future on “The Pat McAfee Show” on YouTube and SiriusXM.

“One thing I would not do, 100% not do, is retire and then come back a year later,” Rodgers said. “I don’t have any desire to do that. That makes no sense.”

Rodgers earned All-Pro honors this season and played his way into contention for a fourth MVP award this season, though he struggled Saturday in a 13-10 NFC divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The 38-year-old Rodgers said after that game he would try to decide on his future before the free agency period begins in March. All-Pro receiver Davante Adams heads a long list of Packers with expiring contracts.

Rodgers updated that timeline Tuesday by referencing late February, when teams can start giving out franchise tags to potential free agents.


“I think that should be enough time to make a decision, by then,” Rodgers said. “I don’t want to put myself on a specific date, but again, I do want to be sensitive to Davante and many other guys who have decisions to make on their own futures. To drag it out past free agency would be disrespectful to the organization and to those guys, and that 100% will not happen.”

Packers Coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that “we would love for (Rodgers) to be a Packer and be a Packer to the day he decides to retire.” LaFleur said General Manager Brian Gutekunst, executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball and president/CEO Mark Murphy share that opinion.

“We’re all on the same page there,” LaFleur said. “There’s no debate.”

Rodgers skipped the Packers’ offseason team activities and mandatory minicamp last year. He reported on time for training camp but said he wanted to have a voice in the team’s decision-making process, and believed the organization didn’t treat departing high-character veterans with enough respect.

Since then, Rodgers has praised Gutekunst on multiple occasions and said his relationship with the general manager has improved.

“There’s not going to be any weird standoff, war of silence or anything,” Rodgers said. “Brian and I have had good conversations throughout the year. When it comes time to make a decision, we’ll have a conversation and that will be that. It won’t be a long, drawn-out process. I think that’s what’s best for me, for him, for the organization and for all the other decisions that need to be made.”


COVID-19:  The NFL is partnering with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Super Bowl Experience, the league announced.

The clinic will be located in the South Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center and appointments are encouraged. Fans who receive any dose of the vaccine at the clinic will receive a free ticket to Super Bowl Experience. Tickets are redeemable on the day the vaccine is given or for a future date that the interactive football theme park is operational. Fans ages 5 and up will be eligible to receive a vaccination.

Super Bowl Experience will take place at the convention center on Feb. 5-6 and Feb. 10-12. If fans are unable to meet pre-entry full vaccination requirements, the NFL has partnered with Medea Testing Solutions to provide free COVID-19 rapid antigen testing with zero out-of-pocket cost to fans.

The NFL is encouraging anyone traveling to Los Angeles for the Super Bowl and Super Bowl Week activities to have up-to-date COVID-19 vaccinations, which include a booster dose, if eligible.

TV: The four NFL divisional round playoff games had the highest average viewers on record with 38.2 million tuning in on television and digital platforms.

Every game over the weekend came down to the final play. Besides it being the highest average for the divisional round since Nielsen started keeping track of viewer averages in 1988, it was a 20% increase over last year and up 12% compared to two years ago.

Kansas City’s 42-36 overtime victory over Buffalo averaged 42.74 million on CBS, making it the most-watched divisional playoff game on any network since the 2017 Green Bay-Dallas matchup averaged 48.52 million on Fox. Sunday night’s audience peaked at 51.70 million.

Sunday’s first game – the Los Angeles Rams’ 30-27 win over Tampa Bay – averaged 40 million, making it NBC’s most-watched, non-Super Bowl game since the start of its “Sunday Night Football” package in 2006.

San Francisco’s 13-10 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night averaged 36.92 million on Fox while Cincinnati’s 19-16 win over Tennessee drew 30.75 million.

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