Long-serving New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton announced Tuesday he is stepping down after 15 seasons with the franchise.
Payton, 58, leaves the club after a rocky 9-8 season that saw the Saints fail to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Payton said at a news conference he was leaving the Saints after struggling to find the “heart” to continue coaching.
“I don’t like the word ‘retirement,’” Payton said.
“I still have a vision for doing things in football. And I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again. But that’s not where my heart is right now.”
Payton took over as Saints head coach in 2006, and rapidly turned the franchise into a force after a dismal 3-13 record in 2005.
Working closely with quarterback Drew Brees, Payton forged one of the best offences in the NFL, and led the team to a Super Bowl win in the 2009 season, beating Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts 31-17.
Payton’s career with New Orleans was touched by scandal though.
In 2012, the NFL ruled that the team had run a bounty system offering payments to Saints players who deliberately injured opponents.
Payton was alleged to have helped cover-up the existence of the scheme.
As a result, Payton was suspended for the entirety of the 2012 season – the first time in NFL history a head coach had been suspended for any reason.
Despite the scandal, Payton was welcomed back in New Orleans following his suspension, resuming as head coach in 2013.