New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton stepping away after 16 years with franchise

What made Sean Payton one of the NFL's greatest coaches (0:53)

Jeff Saturday talked about Sean Payton and his significance to the game of football. (0:54)

2:07 PM ET

After 16 years as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton decided Tuesday to step down.

Since he has three years remaining on his contract, the Saints would have to agree to trade compensation if he left.

However, he did not rule out a return to coaching in the future. He said that he is interested in a TV analyst job, but that he and his agent have not spoken with any media outlets yet.

During an emotional 90-minute news conference at the team's practice facility, the coach said he didn't know what his next move would be. Not with any regrets. There is some excitement, like, "All right, what's next?"

Before he confirmed how he felt over the past two weeks, he explained that he had been considering this departure all the way back to training camp. He said that team president Dennis Lauscha tried to talk him out of it. He thanked Benson for encouraging him to take a break for two weeks before making a final decision.

It is a sad day. The team will conduct a thorough search for a replacement for Payton, according to Benson, who said the team will do a great job.

The Saints are looking for a new head coach. The Saints just finished their fifth consecutive winning season and aren't necessarily looking for an upgrade, so Dennis Allen and Pete Carmichael are two obvious candidates for a promotion.

Allen was mentioned by name while explaining that he and the Saints never discussed any sort of arrangement where he might possibly come back after a one-year hiatus.

"In fairness to Dennis, who is a great candidate in the building, or any other coach that possibly would be hired, there is no half-in in this game," said Payton, who also stressed that he thinks the team is still.

He said that they talk about leaving a place better than when they got there.

He searched the internet for tips on how to not cry during a news conference. He presented Benson with a piece of king cake, saying it was his version of TV character Ted Lasso.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards was one of many people who saluted Payton on social media.

That's my HC! At the end of the day if Seans stepping away he has a master plan. Nothing but love for you Sean if this is it for you as my Hc then I thank you for drafting me, building phenomenal teams like '11 '18-21 first off the top of my head. 11 yrs my coach, forever RESPECT

— cameron jordan (@camjordan94) January 25, 2022

Thank you, Coach Payton, for 16 incredible years leading our @Saints through good times and bad. You came to New Orleans at a time when spirits were broken and hope seemed lost, but you gave the city and fans something to rally behind and be proud of. #lagov

— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) January 25, 2022

You became our coach after the biggest natural disaster in U.S. history hit our stateYou forever changed the culture of our organization, bringing us to unbelievable heights

Our gratitude for the impact you have made on our state, city, & team is immeasurable#ThankYouSean 🙏

— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) January 25, 2022

One of the best offensive minds in the history of the NFL, and one of the winningest coaches in Saints history, was coached by Payton. The first Super Bowl victory in franchise history was achieved by the New Orleans Saints in 2009, after they signed quarterback Drew Brees.

According to Pro Football Reference data, Payton is tied for 21st in the history of the NFL with over 150 victories. His career record includes his season-long suspension in 2012. In the playoffs, he is 9-8.

The average points scored by the Saints and all coach-team combinations with at least five seasons together is first in the history of the NFL.

Although the Saints narrowly missed the playoffs in 2021, they still had one of the best coaching jobs in the league. The Saints had to overcome retirement, an unexpected salary-cap plummet, a month-long Hurricane evacuee to Dallas and a NFL-record 58 starters used.

The challenging season was not the reason for his departure. He joked that he blamed being a little too out of shape and poor angles on his press conferences for looking exhausted this season.

From 1997 to 1998 he was a quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles and from 1999 to 2002 he was a quarterbacks coach with the New York Giants.

It is rare in today's NFL for a coach to stay in New Orleans for so long. The only person to have been with the New England team longer is Bill Belichick. In his second decade with the Saints, he had four seasons of 11-plus wins. In the Super Bowl era, only three other coaches have done that.