Legendary New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced today that he is stepping away from the team and from football. Payton also served as play-caller during his tenure, and for the first time in their history, took the Saints from a struggling franchise to a perennial Super Bowl contender.

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With Drew Brees and longtime offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, he concocted a nearly perfect offense, one that ranked at or near the top in the league every season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Payton's Saints teams rank first for both points and yards per game amongst all head coach and team pairs in NFL history (27.6, 391.2). Payton led the Saints to their first and only Super Bowl win in the 2009-10 season and would finish 1-2 in career NFC Championships. Over his tenure, he posted a 9-8 playoff record.

The success of the Saints was a massive source of pride for the city while recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Payton and Brees will always be adored by Louisiana for their accomplishments together.

New Orleans had 10 winning seasons under Payton, going to the playoffs 9 times. His career record is 152-89 (.631 winning %), with his 152 wins making him tied for 21st all-time. Payton finishes amongst Don Shula, Tom Landry, and Bill Belichick as the only coaches in the Super Bowl era to have more than four seasons with 11-plus wins in the second decade of their career with a team.

In a press conference a few hours after the announcement, Payton thanked the fans, team, owner, and media.  He said that his proudest achievement was not their Super Bowl, but the winning culture they created, and that he most wanted to be remembered as "passionate".

This new opening adds to the long list of teams that could be interested in Alabama offensive coordinator and former NFL head coach Bill O'Brien. New Orleans would seem to be a somewhat desirable job compared to most, with a highly ranked defense and an All-Pro RB and WR in Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas.

The Saints have already been rumored to be targeting Alabama WR Jameson Williams in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft, and for O'Brien to land with his top weapon from Tuscaloosa could make sense.

As this news is surprising, nothing has been hinted at yet by the team. It's possible they would promote defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, a head coaching candidate for many other teams. Payton, meanwhile, has been rumored to be going to just about every other team in the league, while confirming himself today that stepping away from the game is right for him. So, instead of letting speculation run wild immediately, let's just take a few minutes to appreciate a future Hall of Fame coach and a fantastic career.

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