The Saints will go marching into the 2022 NFL season with a new head coach. Sean Payton has decided to step away from the team at age 58, leaving New Orleans in need of replacement. The franchise becomes the ninth team looking for a new full-time sideline leader early this year.
Payton, in 15 seasons, went 152-89 in 241 games in New Orleans. That’s minus the “Bountygate” year-long suspension from the league in 2012. He took the Saints to the playoffs nine times, all with Drew Brees, now retired, as his starting quarterback. He had nine more wins in the postseason, including Super Bowl 44 over the Colts.
Like Brees, he will be difficult for the Saints to replace. The new coach will also inherit a bad salary-cap situation and face a big rebuilding change post-Brees.
Here are the eight best candidates for New Orleans officials to consider, late in the process.
Ranking the Saints’ potential Sean Payton replacements
Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator (age: 33)
The Saints plucked Payton away from Jerry Jones, who probably still regrets that happening given that Payton developed a consistent winner and got a ring. Although Payton was older when he was Dallas’ successful offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells, Moore has some similar attributes with a great acumen for play-calling. He is ready to lead an entire team despite his age.
Dennis Allen, Saints defensive coordinator (age: 49)
Allen last served as an NFL coach with the Raiders in 2014. He had three decent seasons with that organization. He’s done a tremendous job leading the Saints’ defense since 2015, replacing the disaster left behind by Rob Ryan. He has great respect from the current players, and the Saints can focus on attaching the right offensive coordinator with whoever’s at QB, between Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, a top draft pick or a marquee free agent.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator (age: 52)
Bieniemy was born in New Orleans before starring as a running back in high school in California and at the University of Colorado. His current gig is continuing to be Andy Reid’s strong right-hand man lifting the play and scheming for Patrick Mahomes. His resume is loaded and he is overdue for the job.
Brian Flores, former Dolphins head coach (age: 40)
Flores would be the best defensive option outside of the organization. He was headed to a bright future in Miami before it was unwisely cut short. He also would push the importance of a top franchise QB and be hands off regarding the offensive changes.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator (age: 46)
Daboll is available after Bieniemy and the Chiefs’ offense outlasted his. The Canadian is ready for a bigger gig after his bang-up work with Josh Allen. The trick will be finding another great all-around QB talent.
Mike McDaniel, 49ers offensive coordinator (age: 38)
The 49ers’ staff under Kyle Shanahan is having itself a playoffs. McDaniel has learned well under Shanahan and the Yale product is bright and can be well organized to run a team, much like Moore. The Saints should also give their defensive coordinator, DeMeco Ryans, some thought.
Kevin O’Connell, Rams offensive coordinator (age: 36)
File O’Connell with McDaniel and Moore. The Sean McVay coaching tree hires aren’t a joke anymore, given what Zac Taylor has done with the Bengals and Brandon Staley can do with the Chargers.
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator (age: 42)
Leftwich is a name from a division rival to watch. He may want to stick around if Tom Brady does, knowing that he can become Bruce Arians’ successor soon. But the Saints need to put in due diligence to maybe give him another shot in the NFC South.