Sean Payton watch: What would it take to acquire the former Saints coach?

Michael Irvin takes issue with Texans firing scapegoat Lovie Smith (2:37)

Michael Irvin reacts to the firing of Lovie Smith and the mess that is the Texans' organization. (2:37)

NEW ORLEANS -- Former New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will likely be one of the hottest names on the market now that the regular season has ended.

Payton retired Jan. 26, 2022, and has worked as an NFL analyst for Fox this season.

The Denver Broncos became one of the first teams to pursue Payton, something he said in an interview on Fox prior to Sunday's games. Payton, who had a 152-89 record in 15 seasons in New Orleans, said he could not officially interview anywhere until Jan. 17 although he has already had contact with Denver's ownership.

"Any team that would want to inquire or speak with me can do so, they just need permission from the Saints," Payton said. "And then down the road, if that's something that materializes into anything else, then there would be compensation required, much like a player trade.

"Denver's the first team, and I was able to have a conversation with their owner, and that's kind of the protocol. So it would go [to the] team [and then] the Saints."

Payton, 59, did not answer if any teams would be automatically eliminated from being a landing spot, instead pointing out that there have been intradivision coaching trades in the past.

He also did not say whether a good quarterback would be the sticking point, saying the relationship between the coach, ownership and front office was more important. However, he has talked about Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson recently, discussing how he would address and fix some of Wilson's struggles during a recent interview on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd."

"It's really about the triangular relationship -- ownership, front office, head coach," Payton said. "When we went to New Orleans ... the quarterback was unsettled at that time. So I think ownership and the functionality of the front office is most important."

The Broncos have fired two coaches within the past year. Vic Fangio was fired Jan. 9, 2022, after a 7-10 finish, and Nathaniel Hackett was fired Dec. 26 following a 4-11 start to this season.

Payton, who got his first head-coaching job in 2006 with the Saints, said from the beginning that his retirement probably wouldn't be forever. He told Cowherd that he'd sent Saints general manager Mickey Loomis a text about trading for Saints quarterback/tight end Taysom Hill in a "year or two."

"I still have a vision for doing things in football," Payton said the day he stepped down. "I'll be honest with you, that might be coaching again, at some point. I do not think it is this year, I think maybe in the future, but that's not where my heart is right now."

Payton's return to coaching is more complicated than simply jumping back into the game. The Saints hold his rights and would receive compensation if another team wanted to hire him. That means an agreement that makes Payton, his new team and the Saints happy. The Saints will want to do right by Payton, but it'll have to be for the right price.

Which NFL teams are looking for a coach?

Houston Texans coach Lovie Smith became the first postseason firing Sunday night, joining Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich and Denver Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Cardinals fired coach Kliff Kingsbury on Monday and announced general manager Steve Keim is stepping away from his position.

How good was Payton during his tenure with the Saints?

In Payton's time with the Saints, he led the team to the fourth-best winning percentage in the NFL (.631). Only the New England Patriots (.743), Green Bay Packers (.647) and Pittsburgh Steelers (.643) ranked higher over his 15 seasons.

Payton led the Saints to the franchise's only Super Bowl victory in 2009 and went 9-8 in playoff games. The Saints were 1-5 in the playoffs prior to Payton's arrival, with the win coming in 2000. They finished 7-10 this season and missed the playoffs.

How long do the Saints hold his rights?

Payton signed a five-year contract extension in September 2019, so the Saints hold the rights to Payton through the end of the 2024 season.

What would it take to acquire Payton?

The Saints would likely try to start any conversion at a first-round pick. The idea that they could get a first-rounder back for Payton was likely part of their reasoning in moving up in the 2022 draft, a trade that sent their 2023 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Would Payton come back to New Orleans?

It seems unlikely Payton would end up back in New Orleans. During his retirement news conference last year, he specifically was asked about the idea of returning after a year off. He responded with an endorsement of current Saints coach Dennis Allen as a candidate for the job.

While it has been a rough year for Allen, it seems more likely he will see a second season after generating positive momentum and winning three of four games to end the season.

What's the precedent for trading for a coach?

Here's seven examples of coaching trades within the past 30 years:

Bill Parcells (1997): Parcells left the Patriots after four seasons because of disputes about the amount of personnel control he got there. The New York Jets attempted to circumvent by sending compensation to New England by hiring Bill Belichick as their coach and putting Parcells in an "advisory" role. Parcells would become the coach in 1998 under this deal.

The Patriots said they had the rights to Parcells through the 1997 season. Arguments between the Patriots and Jets lasted six days before NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue brokered a deal between the two sides. The Patriots wanted a 1997 first-round pick but instead got a 1999 first-round pick, 1998 second-round pick and 1997 second- and third-rounders.

The Jets also donated $300,000 to charity in exchange for the rights to hire Parcells.

Mike Holmgren (1999): Holmgren resigned from the Packers after the 1998 season in exchange for an eight-year contract and a general manager/coach role with the Seattle Seahawks.

The 50-year-old Holmgren had one year left on his contract with the Packers. The Seahawks sent Green Bay a second-round pick as compensation.

Bill Belichick (2000): Belichick was traded from the Jets to the Patriots in 2000. This occurred after Parcells stepped down as coach following the 1999 season and elected to promote Belichick to the job from his defensive coordinator position. Belichick abruptly resigned the next day (Jan. 4, 2000). A deal was worked out Jan. 27 that allowed the Patriots to hire Belichick.

The Jets received the No. 16 pick in the 2000 NFL draft, along with 2001 fourth-round and seventh-round picks. The Patriots got Belichick, a 2001 fifth-round pick and a 2002 seventh-round pick.

Jon Gruden (2002): The Raiders received a 2002 first-round pick, 2002 second-round pick, 2003 first-round pick and 2004 second-round pick. They also received $8 million from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for Gruden, payable over three years.

Gruden had one year left on his contract with the Raiders. He was 38 years old with a 40-28 record in four seasons and had already made it known he did not plan to stay in Oakland after his contract expired.

The Buccaneers also negotiated with San Francisco 49ers regarding coach Steve Mariucci, who had two years left on his deal. The 49ers were offered a 2002 first-round pick, 2002 third-round pick and second- and third-round picks in 2003.

Herm Edwards (2006): The Jets received a 2006 fourth-round pick from the Kansas City Chiefs for Edwards. Edwards had three winning seasons with three playoff appearances in five years with the Jets but finished 4-12 in 2005.

Bruce Arians (2019): Arians announced he would retire from coaching following the 2017 season with one more deal left on his contract with the Arizona Cardinals. Arians, who went 50-32-1 in Arizona, spent one season out of football and doing TV appearances for CBS.

The NFL initially said no compensation was required for Arians' rights, but the Cardinals argued they still held them. The Buccaneers ended up sending 2019 sixth- and seventh-round picks to Arizona for Arians.

How did the trades work out?

Gruden trade: Gruden won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay that season and coached there for seven seasons. He finished with a record of 57-55 and went 0-2 in his two other trips to the playoffs.

Parcells trade: Parcells made it to the AFC Championship Game within two seasons and resigned after three seasons with a 29-19 record.

Holmgren trade: Holmgren took the Seahawks to the playoffs seven times, including Super Bowl XL, which he lost. He resigned after a 4-12 record in 2008, finishing with an 86-74 record overall.

Belichick trade: Belichick won a Super Bowl within two seasons, the first of six, and is still coaching in New England. His record with the Patriots is 262-108, and he is 30-12 in the playoffs.

Arians trade: Arians won a Super Bowl within two seasons in Tampa and stepped down after three seasons and two playoff appearances. He finished 31-18 in his time with the Bucs and went 5-1 in the postseason.