While the jury seems out as to whether or not the Chicago Bears will retain general manager Ryan Pace, the overall consensus is that head coach Matt Nagy will be gone when the end of the regular season rolls around.
Nagy’s offense has been stagnant for three years now, and the Bears are currently averaging the fewest passing yards per game of any team in the NFL (169.8 ypg), the lowest total any team has put up since 2018.
In his weekly mailbag column for Sports Illustrated, NFL insider Albert Breer was asked if he felt Ohio State coach Ryan Day would want to replace Nagy as the Bears’ coach, where he would have a reunion with rookie quarterback Justin Fields. Breer noted that while he thinks Day will coach in the league eventually, he thinks Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is someone to watch. He also mentioned another jaw-dropping possibility: current New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
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Breer: Bears Could Take ‘Big Swing’ on Sean Payton
After just two playoff appearances (and no postseason wins) since Pace signed on as GM in 2015, Chicago is desperate to be a contender again, and Nagy’s not cutting it. Breer seems to think change is imminent in Chicago, and it’s notable he mentions McDaniels.
“I think Josh McDaniels is one worth keeping your eye on, someone with a high-end résumé in quarterback development, and a coach who took a very hard look at Fields predraft last year,” Breer wrote about the Bears’ potential coaching search on December 1, before dropping this bomb:
“Or maybe the McCaskey family will take a big swing at someone like Sean Payton, who worked with GM Ryan Pace in New Orleans and is from Chicago.”
Record scratch. This is certainly speculation on Breer’s part, but he picked Payton of all people. Why? It makes a tad more sense when you consider his connection to Pace.
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Would Sean Payton Leave New Orleans for Chicago?
The logical answer is that Payton is just fine where he is in NOLA, thank you very much. Payton has been in New Orleans since 2006, and he has expressed no desire to coach another team. He has taken the Saints to three NFC Championships (in 2006, 2009 and 2018), and he won Super Bowl XLIV. In his tenure with the team, New Orleans has made nine playoff appearances and won seven NFC South titles.
Would the Bears love to have a guy like Payton? Absolutely. The question is, would he want to start over in Illinois, where he grew up?
Payton and the Saints agreed to a five-year contract extension through 2026, and he makes close to $13 million per year, so the Bears would have to shell out some major ducats if they went this route.
Is it possible Payton would want to move on and prove he can win another Super Bowl with a new and different team? Sure — technically, it’s possible.
It is worth pondering his connection to Pace. The Bears’ GM launched his career in New Orleans in 2001, and he worked with Payton from 2006-2014, serving as director of professional scouting and director of player personnel. Could their connection lure Payton to the Windy City? Again, it’s possible, but it’s the longest of the long shots.
Perhaps the best selling point for the Bears is their rookie quarterback, who is in desperate need of a coach who can bring out the best in him. Payton could absolutely be that guy, and with the quarterback position a big ol’ question mark in New Orleans right now, working with Fields may be an attractive option. It’s a pipe dream, but if the Bears do part with Nagy — and all signs are pointing that way — it wouldn’t hurt to gauge Payton’s interest in coming home to coach. They could do a lot worse.