Sean Payton on the sidelines during a Jan. 2, 2022 game. Jan 2, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines in the second quarter against the Carolina Panthers at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Following Sean Payton leaving his role as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints in January, there was a lot of TV interest in him, and he wound up signing with Fox as a studio analyst for Fox NFL Sunday. But Payton has been quite clear that he’s still interested in coaching. And now, it looks like his coaching return may be closer than ever.

Back in September, Payton told Nick Underhill and Mike Triplett of the NewOrleans.Football podcast “I really enjoy what I’m doing right now, more maybe than I thought.” But he added “If the right situation presented itself, I would definitely be interested,” and “that could come in a year, that could come in two years.” Now, deeper into the season, Payton (seen above on the sidelines during a Jan. 2 game) appeared on Tom Brady’s Let’s Go! podcast with Brady and Jim Gray Monday. There, he said he’s interested in a coaching return “sooner rather than later.” Here’s the full quote, via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:

“I think sooner than later. I really enjoy the current job I have. . . . But I think relative to coaching, though, I know that I want to coach again and it’s not really been a secret. But I wanna find the right spot. And as Tom alluded to, you know, it’s still about the people. Because when it’s all done and it’s quiet, I don’t think it’s the money or the crowd cheers or the trophies or any of that other stuff. I think it’s about the journey with the people that you really enjoy. . . . So we’ll kind of see what happens. But sooner than later though, in fairness to that question. I think that, you know, if not this year, hopefully next year.”

There’s also been talk that Brady (who would be a free agent after this season) could potentially wind up with Payton on a new team rather than retiring and heading to his 10-year, $375-million contract with Fox. Payton certainly didn’t diminish that:

Whether Payton will actually return to the NFL sidelines in 2023 remains up in the air. He’s been very adamant about needing to find the right fit, and that may not be available this offseason. His contract with the Saints also runs through 2024, so a compensation deal would have to be worked out if he wants to coach elsewhere in the NFL before then. And he’s talked about how he is enjoying his current broadcasting role. But “sooner rather than later” does make it sound like he’s eager to get back to coaching quickly.

[Let’s Go! on Apple Podcasts, Pro Football Talk

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.