Bears Named ‘Top Destination’ for Future Hall of Fame Coach in 2023

Sean Payton

Getty Former Saints head coach Sean Payton watches a play unfold on the field.

Few expect much from the Chicago Bears this coming season.

After a 6-11 finish in 2021, the team cleaned house, firing ex-general manger Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. They hired Ryan Poles as their new GM, and Poles in turn selected ex-Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus to fill Nagy’s shoes. Together, they inherited a bloated salary cap and a questionable roster, and as a result, have made minimal moves this offseason.

With second-year quarterback Justin Fields learning his second offensive scheme in as many years and most oddsmakers predicting Chicago’s win total won’t surpass 6.5, things are looking bleak for Bears Nation heading into the 2022 season.

One analyst thinks things could get so bad for the Bears that they could fire Eberflus after just one year — and replace him with Sean Payton.

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Payton Admitted He’ll Likely Return to Coaching

Payton, who is a shoo-in to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, stepped down as head coach of the New Orleans Saints after the conclusion of the 2021 season, and while his focus will be on broadcasting — at least during the 2022 season — the former coach already admitted he’ll likely head back to the NFL at some point.

“Ultimately, do I think I’ll get back in? Sure,” Payton told USA Today on July 19. “There’s no way to predict who that club might be. Usually, there are about six openings every year. If there’s a right fit somewhere, that ultimately will depend on several factors.”

Could that right fit be in Chicago? His ties to the city are significant.

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Payton Has Strong Ties to Illinois

Payton has a career record of 152 wins and 89 losses, also going 9-8 in the postseason as a head coach. He led the Saints to a victory in Super Bowl 44 in 2010.

While leading the Saints, he had just four losing seasons during his tenure from 2006 to 2021, and he led the team to seven first place finishes in the NFC South division to go with nine playoff appearances in that span.

Raised in Naperville, Illinois, Payton played college ball at Eastern Illinois, and he also played for the Bears for a lone season in 1987. It’s not outrageous to suggest Payton, 58, would be interested in coaching the Bears. Fields is a young QB with potential, and the team is one of the most storied franchises in the NFL.

CBS Sports Pegs Bears as Top Destination for Payton in 2023

Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports wrote on July 20 that Chicago is a “top destination” for Payton next year. Here’s his rationale:

New coach Matt Eberflus isn’t necessarily set up to succeed in 2022, with young QB Justin Fields saddled with an iffy O-line and weapons. If the results are predictably ugly, new GM Ryan Poles, coming from the Chiefs, could certainly talk himself into a quick swap for an offensive mind, especially with almost $100 million in projected cap space to utilize in 2023. Who better to help spend the money and assemble a real arsenal (with or without Fields) than Payton? Chicago is well known to the coach, who grew up, went to college and played professionally in and around Windy City.

While any team would be lucky to have Payton calling the shots, it’s highly unlikely the Bears — namely Poles — would part ways with Eberflus after just one year. In fact, the Bears have never fired a head coach after just one season, per Pro Football Reference. Thus, the whole Payton-to-Chicago idea is a definite pipe dream.

In the meantime, Payton is set to appear as an analyst on Fox NFL Sunday in 2022. Beyond that is anyone’s guess.

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17 days ago

Jerry Jones is first in line to get Payton. He’s just bidding his time. Eberflus will most likely be successful therefore making it unlikely that Sean will end up in Chicago. We had our chance to land Payton before Eberflus was picked, and we failed. That was our window of opportunity. Payton is close, and good friends with Pace. If the latter had stayed, and Nagy gone, we might have gotten Payton. So don’t pin much of your hope on Payton as a Bear Coach soon. Maybe if Eberflus is determined to be a failure after his current contract expires, and Payton is still available then maybe we’ll get a chance.

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