Sean Payton

The elephant in the room during FOX NFL Sunday was the constant stream of reports and rumors surrounding Sean Payton and his potential return to NFL sidelines. Thankfully, rather than ignore it, Fox leaned into the drama and had Payton directly address his situation and where it might lead him.

Payton joined Fox in his NFL analyst role this past off-season and it was assumed even then that a media gig was a short-term plan before he returned to coaching in the league. By September, Payton was publicly saying that he would “definitely be interested” in a return to the league and added earlier this month that he anticipated a return to coaching “sooner than later.”

In recent days, rumors and reports have swirled about shocking contract numbers, a Sean Payton-Tom Brady package deal, Payton purportedly prepping a coaching staff, and specific franchises that Sean would consider joining. All the while, it’s noted that the New Orleans Saints still have his rights and would require compensation if any other team hired him. And it sounds like the Denver Broncos are leading the charge to meet those demands and hire him.

Sunday, Payton clarified his situation and employment future live on Fox.

“I have two years left on a contract with New Orleans, so, ’23, this upcoming year, and ’24,” said Payton. “So because of that, any team that would want to inquire or speak with me can do so. They just need permission from the Saints. And then down the road, if that’s something that materializes into anything else, then there would be compensation required much like a player trade.”

Payton then acknowledged that “Black Monday” was fast approaching and it’s likely that could change some scenarios. But right now, Denver is in the driver’s seat.

“Denver’s the first team, and I was able to have a conversation with their owner — and that’s kind of the protocol,” Payton said. “So it’ll go team to Saints, and then the interview process can’t officially begin until the 17th of this month. So that’s really where it’s at.”

When asked if any teams are “off the board,” Payton said “I don’t think that’s the case.” He noted that we’ve seen coaches move directly to division rivals, such as when Bill Parcells went from the New England Patriots to the New York Jets and Bill Belichick flipped that. In other words, don’t count out the Carolina Panthers, who have been rumored to be interested.

For what it’s worth, Payton was asked later on what the chances were he would still be in the Fox NFL studio next season on a scale of 1-10. He said “seven,” which seems surprising given all the discussions and numbers being thrown around.

[Fox NFL, AA on Twitter]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to