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Report: Carolina Panthers eyeing Sean Payton if season goes south (Update)

This is going to be a long, long season for a certain set of NFL head coaches.

This is going to be a long, long season for a certain set of NFL head coaches.

With four months still until Week 1 of an 18-week season, we have another report linking Sean Payton to an NFL team. This one's from Front Office Sports, who writes that the Panthers are eyeing their longtime NFC South rival if Matt Rhule does not guide the team to the playoffs in his third season on the job.

That reports adds Carolina to Dallas and Miami on the list of teams to whom Payton has been preemptively linked.

A large part of this is Payton's own doing. Never has a coach resigned from a job and been so open about his eventual return to the game.

“I don’t like the word retirement,” he after leaving the Saints back in January. “I still have a vision for doing things in football. And I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don’t think it’s this year, I think maybe in the future. That’s not where my heart is right now.”

Patyon's mentor, Bill Parcells, took two sabbaticals from coaching. He left the New York Giants after winning Super Bowl XXV in the 1990 season, sat out 1991 and '92, and then joined the New England Patriots in 1993. Parcells skipped straight to the New York Jets after four seasons in New England and, after leaving the Jets in 1999, took three seasons off before taking the Dallas Cowboys job in 2003. He left coaching for good in 2006, returning to the Jets as general manager and ultimately retired from everyday life of the NFL in 2010 at age 69. Parcells coached his last game at 65.

Payton, a youthful 58, was an original member of Parcells' Dallas staff as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach. The pair worked together for three seasons until Payton took the Saints job in 2006. He went 152-89 in 15 seasons, winning seven division championships and the franchise's only Super Bowl. 

For his part, Rhule is 10-23 in two seasons in Carolina, winning five games in both of his two seasons. The team took a big swing in trading for former No. 3 pick Sam Darnold from the Jets, but that move is considered a bust thus far. The club drafted Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral in the third round of last month's draft. 

“I want to thank Matt for the real progress he’s made toward winning this season. I want to compliment him on assembling a new staff that brings a lot more experience than we had with the old staff,” Panthers owner David Tepper said during the draft weekend, his first comments since the end of the 2021 season. “I believe in Matt. He has my full support.”

If Carolina does indeed move on for Payton or someone else, Rhule would not have to wait long for his next job offer. After quick and dramatic turnarounds at Temple and Baylor, he would instantly become the top available target in the college market for the 2022-23 cycle, should he so choose.

As always, stay tuned for The Scoop for the latest.  

PM Update: Here's a quote today from Rhule.

“With regards to that report, first I heard of it was Dave called me and told me that it was going to come out. They had called him, that there was nothing to it. I know Dave Tepper well enough to believe he wouldn’t be talking to another coach right now. He came to my house two-and-a-half years ago and told me this is a five-year rebuild. That’s what he said to me. He convinced me then to come be a part of it and build it with him. We’re not where we want to be. I don’t think it’s gonna take five years, I don’t want it to take five years, but those are the words he said to me.”