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Saints’ Sean Payton Hasn’t committed to returning next season

Could the Sean Payton era in New Orleans be over?

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports that sources say the head coach — who has three years left on his contract — has not committed to returning to coach for another season in New Orleans.

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Rapoport said Payton has not yet informed the organization that he will definitely return, and the many attempts by NFL.com to reach the head coach have gone unreturned.

In this Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, second from left, watches players warm up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Jacksonville, Fla. 

In this Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, file photo, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, second from left, watches players warm up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Jacksonville, Fla. 
(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

Rapoport reports that Payton has been on vacation for more than a week and could be using the time to decide if he wants to return or step away for a year but has also gone dark on several people close to him.

“It would be highly unlikely for Payton to coach another team in 2022, sources say,” per Rapoport. “Rather, this would be a mini-retirement to recharge for a year after a season several people close to him described as incredibly challenging and difficult.”

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This would mark the end of the Payton-era with the Saints and if he did decide to return to coaching, and Rapoport said it’s expected to be with another organization.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on as players stretch during NFL football practice in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton looks on as players stretch during NFL football practice in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

Payton was hired as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2006 and has since established himself as one of the NFL’s most successful coaches. He’s led the team to eight playoff berths, six NFC South titles and in 2009 captured the franchise’s first World Championship with a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

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It’s not an unprecedented move, though. In 2017, after five years with the Arizona Cardinals, Bruce Arians retired and came out of retirement in 2019 to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Rapoport said the injury battles New Orleans faced were “trying and extremely taxing for Payton,” which necessitated some time away to consider his next move.

In this Feb. 7, 2010, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the team's NFL Super Bowl 44 football game in Miami, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this Feb. 7, 2010, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the team’s NFL Super Bowl 44 football game in Miami, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Payton is still under contract through the 2024 season as one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL, and he would be walking away from at least $45 million if he decides to not return to the team.

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