New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton thinks NFL teams are making a mistake if they’re only focusing on hiring the next trendy offensive mind as head coach.
In an interview with the NFL Network, Payton said he concerned about several aspects of the recent head coach hiring processes around the NFL. Despite being one of the best offensive coaches in the NFL himself, Payton feels like the seeming determination of some to find the next offensive savant ready to become a head coach could lead to many mistakes in who teams hire to run their teams.
“The thing that can be disappointing though is when you talk to someone and they give you the profile (of the coach) and then I’ll say ‘well you’re not interested in a young Bill Belichick or a young Tony Dungy?'” Payton said.
“They get so pigeonholed into – cause this is cyclical, right, – and ultimately you would say if we did a little history, successful head coaches probably come from the east and the west and north and south. They probably come of both color and they probably come on defense and on offense. And they’re good leaders, they’re great leaders. And so if you say well I just want the one that coaches quarterbacks and they’re on offense, well then you’re going to end up with a smaller pool and you’ll probably have less of a chance to be right because already of eight hired there’s going to be three that survive three years.”
There were eight head coaches hired this offseason by NFL teams. Six of those coaches come from offensive backgrounds while only two, Vic Fangio and Brian Flores, have defensive roots. The running joke of the hiring cycle of “if you ever met Sean McVay, you too could be an NFL head coach” was based in a degree of reality. The Arizona Cardinals initially referred to Kliff Kingsbury as a friend of the Los Angeles Rams head coach in their article announcing the hire. Matt LaFleur and Zac Taylor have direct ties to McVay and were hired by the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively. Rams assistant Shane Waldron was also a candidate for the Bengals job.
But Payton believes the search for the next Sean McVay may lead to some large mistakes among coaching hires.
“There are a handful of coaches that I know that if I was a G.M. who I would be interested in hiring,” Payton said. “I think more and more it’s season-by-season and ‘I want Alvin Kamara.’ Well, you can’t have him. You can go draft 10 more running backs and be 0 for 10 trying to find him or (Sean) McVay.
“And so I see a lot of mistakes made in that process I feel like this long in and so we’re excited to play those teams.”
While Payton is absolutely correct to assert that top defensive coaches should not be overlooked as head coaching candidates, there have been a number of successful hires in recent years coming from the hot offensive coach. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia) and Matt Nagy (Chicago) parlayed success with the Chiefs into winning head coaching jobs. Frank Reich (Indianapolis) helped get the Colts back to the playoffs after winning a Super Bowl on Pederson’s staff. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco) could easily make a leap in his third year if Jimmy Garoppolo can stay healthy. Plus, the hiring of McVay by the Rams was also a roaring success. But teams should absolutely be just as open to the next Belichick or Dungy as they are to the next McVay. If they’re only looking for McVay, they won’t find Belichick or Dungy.