Which player, coach or front-office executive in the NFC South is on the hottest seat this season? Our division reporters give their picks.
Jenna Laine, Bucs reporter: Given how many times he has already been on the hot seat, it's easy to point to Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera after a 6-10 season, but he's just one year removed from a trip to the Super Bowl. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has to have the hottest seat. The Saints have gone 7-9 in each of the past three seasons; they fired five assistant coaches, including assistant head coach Joe Vitt, and traded away one of their young offensive stars in Brandin Cooks. They're running out of options, and the clock is ticking with Drew Brees not getting any younger.
Vaughn McClure, Falcons reporter: Payton. There were discussions about his future after last season, with talk of Payton even being traded to another team. Instead, Payton fired five of his assistant coaches in the hopes that some new blood would improve the current team.
David Newton, Panthers reporter: Payton. Yes, he led the Saints to a Super Bowl victory after the 2009 season, but what has he done lately? That would be three straight 7-9 records with arguably the best quarterback in the division. The only thing worse than New Orleans' salary-cap situation is its defense, which has been near the bottom of the league throughout this hapless run. There are no signs that the unit will show improvement in 2017. If the Saints don't make the playoffs -- and it's doubtful they will -- the time will come to move on from the man who has served as head coach since 2006.
Mike Triplett, Saints reporter: Payton and Saints general manager Mickey Loomis. I'm hesitant to list these guys as "on the hot seat" because I think they are safer and more valued internally than people probably realize from the outside. But let's face it, who else am I going to pick in this division? The Saints have been stuck in a rut for three straight years. Even Payton and Loomis would have to agree that the franchise can't afford to maintain the status quo if it doesn't finally make a playoff run this year. The Saints could also consider moving on from Brees -- who is heading into the last year of his contract -- if they decide to go for a total rebuild, although I think that would be nuts since they don't have an heir apparent in place yet. Out of everyone mentioned, Loomis' job is the safest; he is owner Tom Benson's most trusted executive and oversees the personnel wings of not only the Saints but also the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans (in a much smaller capacity). However, the Saints could consider bringing in a fresh voice if their struggles during free agency continue. Loomis, meanwhile, could make the transition from GM to executive vice president or another comparable role. As for Payton, it's hard to imagine the Saints firing their Super Bowl-winning coach, barring a total collapse. But the two could mutually decide to part ways after other teams have kicked the tires on him in recent years.