METAIRIE, La. -- New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson acknowledged Monday that coach Sean Payton's status remains uncertain for the 2022 season when she told local reporters, "I don't think any of us know, but he'll let us know soon enough."
NFL Network reported Sunday that Payton had not yet committed to returning to coaching the Saints in 2022. Sources confirmed to ESPN that he has made no definitive declaration -- though he was expected to return to work this week along with the rest of the Saints' coaching staff after a vacation last week.
Payton, 58, is under contract through 2024, which means a trade would have to be worked out for him to coach another team. However multiple outlets, including ESPN, have reported that television networks have shown considerable interest in Payton if he decides to retire from coaching.
Benson, who was speaking at a Mardi Gras-related event, responded to a question about Payton's status by saying, "We don't know. You know, who knows? We'll find out soon enough, I guess."
The organization doesn't appear to be pressing Payton for an immediate commitment, allowing him time to decompress after a grueling year.
The Saints missed the playoffs for the first time in five seasons with a 9-8 record in 2021. But in many ways it ranked among Payton's most impressive coaching jobs considering quarterback Drew Brees' retirement; a roster that was depleted by major injuries, salary-cap cuts and COVID-19 issues; and a hurricane evacuation to Dallas for the first month of the season.
In Week 18, Payton acknowledged how trying the season was.
"This stretch has been, I don't want to say exhausting, but it's been one of those where you just get on to the [next task]. Nothing surprises you," Payton said. "When you go all the way back to the start of the season, it feels like 2½ years ago we were evacuating to Dallas during the hurricane. I mean, it doesn't feel like that's part of this season.
"I'm trying to think of a good way to describe it. Like, there's a certain bar or temperament for news that you normally have. And then when it keeps coming and coming and coming via text or in meetings, then pretty soon that bar gets raised because you just keep getting hitting in the side of the head. And at some point you've got to smile and then bow up a little bit and get ready for the challenge still."
If Payton moves on, the Saints would likely consider both defensive coordinator Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. as potential replacements -- though they would certainly explore options outside of the building as well.
Payton is tied for 21st in NFL history with 152 career victories, according to Pro Football Reference. His career record is 152-89 (.631 winning percentage), not including his season-long suspension in 2012 because of the league's bounty investigation. Payton is 9-8 in the postseason, including the only Super Bowl victory in franchise history in 2010.
Payton has also made his mark as one of the league's all-time great offensive minds. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Payton and the Saints rank first in NFL history in both points scored (27.6 per game) and yards gained (391.2 per game) among all coach-team combos with at least five seasons together.
Payton's longevity is a rarity in today's NFL. Only the New England Patriots' Bill Belichick has been with his team longer. Also, Payton had four seasons of 11-plus wins in his second decade with the Saints. Only three other coaches have done that in the Super Bowl era: Belichick (nine), Tom Landry (eight) and Don Shula (six).