After 16 years on the job, Sean Payton Tuesday announced his decision to step away from the New Orleans Saints—and coaching in general. However, he made it clear that “retirement is not the right word.”

The 58-year-old added that he doesn’t plan to coach another team in 2022, adding, “That’s not where my heart is right now.” Plus, he has three years remaining on his contract, so the Saints would have to be compensated to relinquish his contract.

He didn’t rule out a return to coaching in the future, but he noted that he’s interested in pursuing a TV analyst job.

“I don’t know what’s next—and it kind of feels good,” Payton said during press conference. “But, man, I felt like it was time … But not with any regret. There’s some excitement, like, ‘All right, what’s next?’”

The now-former coach mentioned that he’d been considering this move since training camp before deciding over the last couple of weeks. The team brass tried to persuade him to return, to no avail.

“It really is a bittersweet day. I feel like he deserves this,” said team owner Gayle Benson. “I think we’re gonna do a great job in choosing another person that’s going to be able to lead us the way that Sean did.”

The Saints—who finished an injury-plagued 2021 campaign with a 9-8 record and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years—now become the ninth coach-less NFL team.

Payton departs as the winningest coach in Saints history and one of the NFL’s all-time great offensive minds. The Saints signed QB Drew Brees two months after Payton’s hire in 2006, and they led the team to its first Super Bowl victory in 2009. He’s tied for 21st in NFL history with 152 career victories and is 9-8 in the postseason.

He began his NFL career as a quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1997 to 1998; became a QB coach and offensive coordinator with the New York Giants from 1999 to 2002; and then was assistant head coach/passing game coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003 to 2005.

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