NFL Coach Tracker: Sean Payton Leaves Saints, NFC South; Move to Cowboys?

Falcon Report
Falcon Report

Follow along with Falcon Report for up-to-date news on the NFL firings and hirings

With the 2021 NFL season coming to an end, "Black Monday'' and beyond is a "thing.'' The Atlanta Falcons are set with Arthur Smith after a seven-plus win season, but other teams will spent from now throughout the offseason making big decisions.

Who else is on the hot seat? Who will receive a pink slip? Follow along with for up-to-date information on all the moves.


The New Orleans Saints enter the conversation for a new head coach following Tuesday's news. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport , Sean Payton has informed the Benson family that he will be "stepping away" from the team after 16 seasons. According to Nick Underhill of NewOrleans.Football, Payton is retiring and will not be interested in coaching as of this time.

Hired in 2006, Payton, 58, became one of the two faces to transform the Saints from one of the league's worst teams into a stable organization. Teamed with future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints became one of the NFC's best franchise, finishing with nine seasons of 10-plus wins and nine playoff appearances during that span.

This past season without Brees, the Saints finished 9-8, missing the postseason for the first time since 2016. Jameis Winston was expected to replace Brees, but a torn ACL in Week 8 cost him the remainder of the season, leading New Orleans into playing four different quarterbacks over the 17-game period.

Payton finishes his time with the Saints with a 152-89 record and a Super Bowl win in 2009. Multiple reports suggest that the Dallas Cowboys could be interested in firing Mike McCarthy in order to bring Payton over after an early Wild Card Round Loss to the San Francisco 49ers earlier this month.

JAN 24: AIKMAN, PAYTON AND TV The coaching carousel has in recent days included the name of Sean Payton.

To the Dallas Cowboys, as the head coach in place of the suddenly beleaguered Mike McCarthy?

Or to FOX Sports, in place of the desired-by-Amazon Troy Aikman?

Front Office Sports is reporting that FOX Sports is eyeing at New Orleans Saints coach Payton as the replacement for Aikman should the Hall of Fame take a job doing games for the new "Thursday Night Football'' on Amazon.

The Payton news comes on the heels of NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reporting that the Saints' iconic and long-time boss has not committed to returning to the team. And of course mixed into the rumor mill is another Cowboys connection beyond Aikman's legendary ties to Dallas, as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' unwillingness to announce his public support for McCarthy feeds the idea of him possibly flirting with hiring Payton, a former Cowboys assistant who maintains a good relationship with the Joneses.

JAN 23 RAMS OUST BUCS We’ve been trained to believe that Tom Brady leading his team to clutch wins is inevitable. On Sunday in Tampa Bay, his Buccaneers almost did it again.

Instead, the Los Angeles Rams endured a late comeback to kick a field goal in the final second to secure a 30-27 win.

The defending Super Bowl champions played host to the Rams in the NFC divisional round on Sunday, looking to avenge a pair of losses to the one team they've played but yet to beat since Brady joined the Bucs in 2020.

That’s right: It’s actually these Rams - which just happened for a third time - beating the 44-year-old quarterback as a Buc that is seemingly inevitable.

The Rams are now a game away from the Super Bowl, with Cooper Kupp catching a deep ball from QB Matthew Stafford in the final minute to set up the upset win.”

Said Brady before the game of the Rams: “It’s a very talented football team, one of the great teams in the NFL. ... It's going to be a very, very difficult game for us.''

He was right.

The Bucs are now 29-10, including 5-1 in the playoffs, since Brady's arrival - a brilliant mark, but for one day against Stafford (who just got the first two postseason wins of his 13-year career) not good enough.

JAN 22 JULIO’S TITANS FINAL The Houston Texans’ rival in the AFC South, the Tennessee Titans, entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the conference.

On Saturday, the crew featuring former Atlanta star Julio Jones, coming off its well-earned bye, played host to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Final score: Bengals 19, Titans 16 ... at the buzzer.

Jones was good for six catches for 62 yards in his first season with the Titans after asking and getting a trade from Atlanta before the 2021 year.

A tipped Ryan Tannehill interception with 20 seconds left set up the Bengals to kick the game-winning 52-yard field goal.

And yes, Falcons fans surely found themselves conflicted here. To wit ...

The Bengals, having pulled off this upset, now await Sunday's Bills-Chiefs results and will play the winner of that game in next Sunday's AFC Championship Game for the right to advance to the Super Bowl.


The New York Giants have fired Joe Judge after two seasons in the Big Apple. Following high expectations and a lucrative offseason of spending in free agency, New York finished with a 4-13 record and last in the NFC East.

In two season, Judge, 40 posted a 10-23 record. In his first year with the franchise, the former New England Patriots special teams coordinator impressed, finishing second in the NFC East with a 6-10 record.

The Giants initially elected to keep Judge in large part due to the trend of firing coaches early. Both Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur were fired after two seasons. New York has not posted a winning record since 2015.

The Giants will also be looking for a new general manager after Dave Gettleman announced he would retire.


In a shocker, the Miami Dolphins have fired head coach Brian Flores following a win over the New England Patriots Sunday. Miami finished the 2021 season with a 9-8 record after starting the year off 1-7.

Flores, 40, spent the last seasons at the helm for the Dolphins, posting a 24-25 record. Last season, Miami finished 10-6, but failed to make the playoffs. The Dolphins were expected to be large players this offseason in the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, and Watson was reportedly attracted to Flores.

Does that make this smart? Dumb? Fair? Unfair?

In the end, ownership gets to pick a guy it can work with. Flores is deemed to not be that guy. We can't imagine that Miami would be foolish enough to botch the Watson connection unless it has the next, right guy planned.


The Chicago Bears have fired both head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. The news was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Nagy, 43, won the NFL's Coach of the Year award after his first season in 2018, when he led the Bears to a 12-4 record and reached the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Following a hot start, he couldn't sustain that success over the ensuing three seasons.

Nagy finished his four-year run in Chicago with a 34-31 record. With three different quarterbacks in 2021, the Bears stumbled to a 6-11 record, finishing third in the NFC North.

Pace, 44, was hired as the Bears GM in 2015. He is perhaps best known for his infamous 2017 selection of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 selection over names like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson.


The Minnesota Vikings have fired head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman following the 2021 season. The news was first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Zimmer, 65, served as the Vikings coach since 2014. During his eight-year run, Minnesota posted a 71-56-1 record, making the postseason three times with an appearance in the NFC Championship in 2018.

Since the 2018 season, the Vikings have failed to win the NFC North. Zimmer has posted a 33-31-1 record with only two winning seasons. Minnesota finished 8-9 in 2021 despite high expectations following last year's NFL free agency and the NFL draft.

Spielman, 59, was hired as the team's GM back in 2012. Prior to his tenure in the front office, Spielman served as Minnesota's Vice president of player personnel from 2006-11.

JAN 9: TEXANS AND McDANIELS? sources have indicated that the Houston organization is leaning toward retaining head coach David Culley. But at the same time, an NFL source has told us to keep an eye on Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to the Texans should the club's deep examination of the work of Culley lead to a change. Full story here .


The Denver Broncos are parting ways with Vic Fangio following three seasons. The Broncos finished 7-10 in 2021 with a 28-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Fangio, 63, has been regarded as a top-tier defensive coordinator during the past two decades before being hired in 2019. Taking over for Vance Joseph, Fangio finished with a 19-30 record. Denver's best season under his direction was back in 2019 with a 7-9 record.

"This morning, George and I informed Vic of the decision to part ways with him as head coach of the Denver Broncos," President and CEO Joe Ellis said in a statement. "For the last three seasons, Vic put his heart and soul into coaching the Broncos. I want to thank Coach Fangio for giving his maximum effort to our organization since the day he was hired."

The firing of Fangio now makes Denver the third open position this offseason. Both the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars have begun their searches after the resignation of Jon Gruden and firing of Urban Meyer.

The Jags search, by the way, will include a visit with former Texans boss Bill OBrien. (See below.)

Fangio will be one of the more sought-after coordinators this offseason after his success with the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, Houston Texans and other teams.

JAN 8: RHULE'S REIGN CONTINUES The Carolina Panthers will retain Matt Rhule as head coach for the 2022 season. In two years with the Queen City franchise, Rhule has posted a 10-22 heading into Sunday's season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rhule's first job this offseason will be to find the Panthers' next offensive coordinator. The team fired Joe Brady during its bye week. Brady, who is best known for his time with Joe Burrow during the 2019 national championship season run with LSU, never wanted to commit to the run game, which was deemed a problem by Rhule.

One name in play: Jay Gruden.

Panthers owner David Tepper gave Rhule a seven-year, $62 million contract following the firing of Ron Rivera. In addition, Tepper committed to paying $6 million to buy out Rhule's deal at Baylor.

JAN 8: QUINN IN? NFL sources tell that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be a "top candidate'' in Denver as Fangio moves on. That full story here. Oh, and Dallas offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is going to get more interviews as well.

JAN 7: BOB BACK? Sources tell us that the Jaguars are serious about including Bill O'Brien in their search for a new head coach to replace the disgraced Urban Meyer. O'Brien is the offensive coordinator at Alabama, with the title game on Monday night, and will interview with the Jags following that game. More info here.

Did Falcons have a successful rebuild season? (; 2:00)

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