CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) – The Carolina Panthers, who currently have an interim head coach after firing Matt Rhule midseason, are on a short list to interview former New Orleans Saints — and division rival — head coach Sean Payton.
Payton, who stepped away from coaching after 2021, confirmed on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” that he will interview for the vacancies with the Panthers, Houston Texans and Denver Broncos, so far. Payton is officially eligible to begin interviews on Tuesday, despite reports of him finishing his interview with Houston on Monday night.
However, the hiring process for Payton isn’t as easy as it seems.
Payton is still under contract with the Saints through 2024. This means the hiring team still has to reach a deal with New Orleans in order to officially hire the Super Bowl-winning coach.
Carolina (7-10) finished 6-6 under current interim head coach Steve Wilks.
Wilks even won an improbable division game, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in his second game. The Panthers held the eventual NFC South winners to three points despite a new coach and trading away veteran running back Christian McCaffrey.
However, Carolina also dropped games it should have won under Wilks.
The Panthers lost at the end of October with an undisciplined overtime loss in Atlanta. They also only put up three points against an injured Baltimore Ravens team in mid-November in the heat of the playoff push.
After picking up key wins against the Denver Broncos, (a surprise win) Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, Carolina gave away the division to Tampa Bay on New Year’s Day — despite coming in with the better roster.
Tampa Bay won the NFC South with an 8-9 record.
A good chunk of the Panthers’ struggles came from the quarterback position. The team flipped through Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker. And I’m not too sure it has found its answer yet.
But, on ‘The Herd’, Payton said that was OK.
“Payton called ownership stability ‘critical’ while also acknowledging that these teams most likely have issues at quarterback, which is why they are in the head coaching market,” Sports Illustrated reported.
For clarity, Denver’s quarterback trade for Russell Wilson has so far turned disastrous. The Super Bowl-winning signal-caller had the lowest completion percentage of his career (60.5 percent), touchdowns (16), two shy of the most in a single season in his career (11) and the lowest quarterback rating of his career (37).
Finally, Houston mostly stuck with second-year quarterback Davis Mills.
Mills was drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and was Houston’s first pick that year. He was drafted amid the drama of Deshaun Watson, but hasn’t particularly broken through. But in fairness, the Texans, who finished with the second-worst record in the NFL, doesn’t have much of a roster to work with.
Mills played in all but two games in 2022-23, and compiled a 17:15 touchdown to interception ratio. He also finished with a 33.3 QBR, as well as a 61-percent completion percentage.
Carolina will interview Payton on Friday.