New Orleans Saints fans were rocked to their core with the sudden news of Sean Payton’s retirement news. There were rumblings from NFL insider Jay Glazer that Payton may have been mulling a possibility. Where there is smoke, there certainly was fire as less than 24 hours later the Saints were holding a press conference confirming the news. The Saints now are tasked with replacing the winningest coach in franchise history who, along with Drew Brees, ushered in the golden era of Saints football. The Saints won’t be the only team this offseason looking to fill a coaching vacancy, as of this writing 9 teams find themselves in this predicament. Some opportunities are better than others and I think New Orleans is a top destination. Here are my Top 3 head coaching destinations.
The coach coming into Minnesota can rest assured that he may be there a while. Ownership has a history with giving coaches a chance to succeed before deciding to pull the plug. In the last 30 years, the Vikings have only had 5 coaches during that span. Comparatively, take a team like the Cleveland Browns who have had 13 in the same time period and you can see why the Vikings job is one of the more stable ones in the NFL. The Vikings also have some offensive firepower on their side led by Kirk Cousins who quietly had maybe his best season of his career as he threw for 4,221 yards, 33 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions in 16 games (he missed a game due to Covid). Tagging alongside him is 3-time Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, and one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. What will need some work is on the defensive side of the ball as they were in the bottom half of the league in most defensive metrics. Add to the fact they have the 4th lowest amount of cap space and upper management will have to be creative to address this side of the ball. They do have 8 draft picks, including the 12th pick, in this year’s draft so expect them to use most of those on the defensive side. Still, with the uncertainty in Green Bay regarding Aaron Rodgers and the Packers being in an even worse cap situation than the Vikings, Minnesota may be primed and ready for a new head coach to snatch the NFC North crown next season.
This has less to do with South Beach and more to do with the Dolphins cap situation heading into next season. Miami tops the league with a projected $67.58 million in cap space and a roster that will be largely intact after finishing the season 9-8. In fact, out of team’s current free agents that played last season only one, Mike Gesicki, played in more than 70% of the snaps so the possibilities are endless with what the team can add to an already experienced roster. One possible addition has been rumored to be Quarterback as speculation has surfaced that the Dolphins may be in the market to trade for Deshaun Watson. Pending his personal litigation, adding a top tier QB like Watson with money to add even more weapons would certainly be appealing to a head coach. Even if the Watson deal fizzles, current QB Tua Tagovailoa has had his moments and with more experience for the young quarterback expectations are he will only get better and better. Yes, the sudden firing of Brian Flores may be unsettling for the next coach coming in but having an NFL coaching position is something that only you and 31 other people can stake claim too. What better place to do that but in Miami? Oh yeah and no state tax.
1. New Orleans Saints
Yes, call me a homer. Say I bleed black and gold to a fault. You may be right in this but objectively speaking I think the Saints are a top destination for a head coach. The cupboard will certainly not be bare for the next head coach coming into town. Yes, there is uncertainty at the Quarterback position, but the new coach will have a major say in choosing who he wants. They will be inheriting an elite defense from a personnel standpoint, All Pro offensive talent in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara will be on board, and the Saints have one of the best scouting teams in the NFL so impactful draft picks are usually made by the team. That last point is a critical one as the Saints once again find themselves behind the 8-ball when it comes to the salary cap. They are again dead last in cap space heading into next season with difficult decisions to make with potentially offering contracts to left tackle Terron Armstead and safety Marcus Williams. The team has been here before, and GM Mickey Loomis has always had a certain mastery of using the cap rules to his discretion to help the team out. There is little doubt he will be able to do the same thing this time around in order to field a competitive product on the field. That product has been the best in franchise history in the last 15 years, so the culture of winning is present in that building. Ownership expects to win, the players expect to win, and the fans expect to win. That kind of confidence can go a long way and the next coach will know the expectations from the very beginning. Anything mediocre and below average will force the fans to be all over him. Just ask Eli Apple.
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