Longtime New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is stepping down, he announced Tuesday.
Payton, 58, led the Saints to the Super Bowl championship in the 2009 season. He has three years remaining on his contract after the 2021 season.
"We coach, we coach, we coach, and at some point they tell you to leave," Payton said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. "As difficult as being fired is, it sure seems easier to thank everyone and move on your merry way."
Amid swirling rumors that he could be in line for a broadcasting job, Payton said Tuesday that nothing was in the works but left the door open.
"I don't know what's next," he said. "I've not spoken to anyone from a media outlet relative to doing television or radio. Maybe that opportunity arises."
Following a 3-13 season in 2005, the Saints hired Payton as their head coach, and he compiled a 152-89 record in 15 regular seasons and a 9-8 mark in the playoffs. Payton was suspended for the 2012 season over his role in the "Bountygate" scandal.
He was named NFL Coach of the Year in 2006 after engineering a turnaround that saw the team finish with a 10-6 mark and advance to the NFC Championship game.
Payton spent all but one season -- 2021 -- with record-setting quarterback Drew Brees by his side, and together, they took the team to the playoffs nine times. They brought a new energy to the franchise and to a city that was recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In 2021, the Saints finished 9-8 and out of the postseason. With Brees retired, the Saints used a quarterback rotation of Jameis Winston, Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill and rookie Ian Book, necessitated by both injuries and COVID-19 protocol.
The Saints' vacancy is the ninth opening for a head coach in the NFL.
As recently as Monday, team owner Gayle Benson said she was unclear of her head coach's plans.
"On behalf of our entire organization, I have the highest appreciation for what Sean Payton has meant to the New Orleans Saints since 2006," Benson said in a statement Tuesday. "Sean came to New Orleans during what was a difficult time for our organization, as well as the entire Gulf South region following Hurricane Katrina. Under his leadership, Sean helped lead this football team to new heights with easily its most successful period, showing what can be accomplished with a combination of vision, hard work, leadership of his coaching staff and players. We are grateful for everything Sean has given to this organization and this city and I give my best wishes to he and his lovely wife Skylene in the future."
--Field Level Media