American Football Wiki
Sean Payton
Sean Payton after New Orleans Saints's Super Bowl XLIV win]]
Denver Broncos
Head Coach
Personal information
Date of birth: December 29 1963 (1963-12-29) (age 60)
Place of birth: San Mateo, California
Career information
College: Eastern Illinois
Career history
 As player:
Chicago Bruisers (AFL)
Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL)
Chicago Bears
Leicester Panthers (BAFANL)
 As coach:

Career highlights and awards
Eastern Illinois Hall of Fame (2000)
NFL Coach of the Year (2006)
(1X) Super Bowl Champion
Head coaching record
Postseason 9–8 (.529)
Career record 169–105–0 (.617)
Super Bowl wins 2009 Super Bowl XLIV
Championships won 2009 NFC Championship
Stats at

Patrick Sean Payton (born December 29, 1963) is an American football coach who is the head coach of the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL) and a former quarterback. Previously, he served as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints from 2006 to 2021, leading the franchise to its first Super Bowl victory during the 2009 season.

Payton was a quarterback at Naperville Central High School and Eastern Illinois University and played professionally in 1987 with the Chicago Bears and 1988 overseas in Britain for the Leicester Panthers.

He began his coaching career as offensive assistant for San Diego State University and had several assistant coaching positions on college and NFL teams before being named as the tenth full-time coach in Saints history in 2006. Payton has always been known for his offensive prowess, having scored more points (2,804) and gained more yards (40,158) than any other team in a coach's first 100 games in NFL history. Payton had the second-longest NFL single-team tenure among active head coaches, behind New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has coached the Patriots since the 2000 season.

Under Payton's leadership, the Saints made the 2006 NFL playoffs after a 3–13 season in 2005 and advanced to their first NFC Championship appearance in franchise history. Because of this effort, Payton won the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award. Following the 2009 season, the Saints won their first Super Bowl championship in franchise history. In 16 seasons with the Saints as head coach, Payton helped guide the team to three NFC Championship games (2006, 2009, and 2018), a victory in Super Bowl XLIV, and nine total playoff berths with seven division titles, making him the most successful coach in Saints franchise history.

On March 21, 2012, Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 NFL season, originally set to take effect April 1, 2012, as a result of his alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal, under which "bounties" were allegedly paid for contact that would "knock out" targeted players on opposing teams. Payton has denied that any program encouraging Saints players to injure opposing players ever existed, even though the NFL claims their evidence proves otherwise.[1] Assistant coach Joe Vitt stated "We had a pay to perform program, just like many NFL teams do, but there was never a bounty program, we didn't ever encourage a pay-to-injure program. That's just not true. We never crossed the line." Payton filed an appeal of his suspension with the league the Friday before it was set to take effect. On April 9, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (the same individual who handed down the suspension) denied his appeal; his suspension began on April 16, and was reinstated in January 2013.[2]

Early life[]

Payton was born in San Mateo, California and raised in Naperville, Illinois by parents Thomas and Jeanne Payton.[3] Payton's parents were originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania; Thomas worked in the insurance industry.[4] Sean Payton lived in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania during his grade school and middle school years (1970 to 1978).[3] Sean attended Naperville Central High School in Naperville, IL, starting as quarterback his senior year before graduating in 1982. Winning a football scholarship, Payton had a successful career playing quarterback at Eastern Illinois University, leading the Panthers to an 11–2 record and the quarter-finals of the Division I-AA Playoffs in 1986; while at EIU, he became a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.[5][6] Under coach Al Molde, Payton's Eastern Illinois teams were known as "Eastern Airlines" due to their prolific passing attack that frequently topped 300 yards per game (and had 509 passing yards in one game, still a school record).[7]

Playing career[]

Although he was not drafted in the 1987 NFL Draft, Payton tried out for the Kansas City Chiefs for one day. In 1987, he played quarterback for the Chicago Bruisers and Pittsburgh Gladiators during the inaugural season of the Arena Football League, before his rights were sold for $1,000.00 to the Ottawa Rough Riders of the CFL. He was also a member of the Chicago Bears squad of strikebreaking replacement players, known as the "Spare Bears", during the 1987 NFL players strike.[8] In 3 games he completed 8 of 23 passes (34.8%), for 79 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT, a passer rating of 7.3. He was also sacked 7 times for 47 yards and had one rush attempt for 28 yards. Coincidentally, his one interception came against the New Orleans Saints, the team he would later go on to coach to a Super Bowl.

In 1988, he played for the Leicester Panthers of the semi-professional UK Budweiser National League. Payton landed the starting quarterback role for the Panthers. Payton led the Panthers to a touchdown on their first possession. That same season saw the Panthers go to the Quarterfinals of the British League, eventually losing to the London Olympians after Payton had returned early to the US to take up a coaching position.[9]

Coaching career[]

Early coaching career[]

Payton began his coaching career in 1988 as an offensive assistant at San Diego State. He made a series of assistant coaching positions at Indiana State, Miami (OH) (quarterbacks coach), Illinois, and again at San Diego State (running backs coach), before landing a job as the quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997.[10]

Philadelphia Eagles (Quarterbacks Coach)[]

From 1997 to 1998, Sean Payton was quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and worked with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Callahan. In 1998, Gruden and Callahan left for the Oakland Raiders, and Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes and Payton were fired.[11] The Eagles' quarterbacks passed for 4,009 yards in 1997.[12]

New York Giants (Assistant Coach)[]

In 1999 Sean Payton was hired as the quarterback coach for the New York Giants and was promoted to the role of offensive coordinator in 2000. Under his guidance the Giants would go on to represent the NFC in Super Bowl XXXV.[13] During this time he was known to lock himself in the stadium and sleep on the couches while studying plays on off-days.

At around 6:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001, the New York Giants' flight from Denver, where the Giants played the Denver Broncos for the first Monday Night Football game of 2001, landed at the gate of Newark Liberty International Airport next to United Airlines Flight 93, the flight that was hijacked and eventually crashed in rural Pennsylvania. Payton recalls this moment in his autobiography Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life.[14] During the 2002 season, after several poor showings by the Giants' offense, Payton's role in play-calling was taken over by then head coach Jim Fassel. Under Fassel the offense improved and propelled the team to a wild-card playoff berth. While Payton was still ostensibly in charge of the offense, his role in the team was clearly diminished and had he not been hired away by the Dallas Cowboys, he likely would have been fired.

Dallas Cowboys (Assistant Coach)[]

Payton joined Bill Parcells and the Cowboys as assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach in 2003, where he helped coach Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, and Drew Bledsoe to 3,000-yard seasons.

In 2005, he was promoted by Parcells to assistant head coach/passing game coordinator.

New Orleans Saints (Head Coach)[]

File:Saints Victory Parade Canal St. Sean Payton.jpg

Payton in the Saints Victory Parade on Canal Street, New Orleans after the Super Bowl XLIV win.

Payton received his first head coaching job in 2006 with the New Orleans Saints. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in the 2005 season the Saints had finished with a 3–13 record, ranking as the second worst team in the league. However, Payton turned the struggling team around, and, with newly acquired free agent quarterback Drew Brees, led them to their first playoff appearance in six years. The team had one of the league’s most productive offenses, ranking first in passing,[15] and fifth in points scored.[16] The Saints won the NFC South with a 10–6 record, had a first round playoff bye and notched only the second playoff win in franchise history, giving them a berth in the NFC Championship Game against the top-seeded Chicago Bears. The Saints out-gained the Bears in total yards of offense, but lost the game by the lopsided score of 39–14. Receiving 44 out of 50 votes from a panel of sports journalists and broadcasters, Payton won the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award in January 2007.[17]

In the 2007 season, the Saints tried to improve upon their 10–6 record from the previous season. They and the Pittsburgh Steelers opened the NFL preseason, playing the Hall of Fame Game on August 5, 2007. The Saints were 3–2 in the pre-season. The Saints also had the honor of opening the season against the defending champion Indianapolis Colts. The Saints finished the 2007 season 7–9.

In 2009 Payton aggressively coached the Saints to their most successful season, with a 13–3 regular season, and a 31–17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV--the first professional world championship for the city of New Orleans.

In June 2010 Payton published a book (written with journalist Ellis Henican) entitled Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life.[18] The book opened at number 8 on the non-fiction bestseller list of The New York Times.[19] Payton described the concept of Home Team: "I didn't want to write another winning-on-the-field book or about modern-day leadership...I wanted to write a book about the stories, ones that you sit around and tell your friends."[20]

On October 16, 2011, while coaching against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Payton broke his tibia and tore his MCL in a collision with tight end Jimmy Graham's helmet after Graham was tackled on the sideline.

Bounty scandal[]

On March 2, 2012, the NFL alleged that from 2009 to 2011, the Saints implemented a bounty program which rewarded players for deliberately attempting to knock opposing players out of games. The slush fund was reportedly administered by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who joined the team in 2009. An extensive league investigation, the proof of which has never been made public, found that Payton was complicit in the scheme. Payton reportedly even went as far as to orchestrate a cover-up when the league first investigated it in the 2009-10 offseason. Other indications were that since the NFL hierarchy believed that this Bounty program existed that any comments to the contrary were considered to be a "cover-up". When informed that the league was investigating reports of a bounty program, Payton met with Williams and assistant head coach Joe Vitt and told them, "Let's make sure our ducks are in a row."[21] "To get one's ducks in a row essentially means to ensure all of the small details or elements are accounted for and in their proper positions." Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; invalid names, e.g. too many

According to a league memo, the NFL reopened its investigation late in the 2011 season. Just before the Saints' playoff game against the Detroit Lions, league officials alerted Saints owner Tom Benson that they had found irrefutable evidence of the Saints' bounty program.[22][23] When general manager Mickey Loomis informed Payton that the league had reopened its investigation, Payton failed to shut the alleged program down.[21]

On March 22, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season, effective April 1, 2012. Payton is the first head coach in modern NFL history to be suspended for any reason. Goodell was particularly angered that Payton and other Saints officials had lied to him about the scheme. For instance, during its 2012 investigation, the league uncovered an email that Michael Ornstein, the agent for former Saints running back Reggie Bush, had sent to Payton. In reality, the Ornstein email wasn’t directly sent to Payton, instead it came to team spokesman Greg Bensel, who then forwarded it to the coaching staff with this message: “email from Orny (he asked that I send it) the dude is in prison so I told him I would.” [24] The email stated "put me down for $5000 on "Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers".[23] "It's a running joke going for three years," Ornstein said. "Ornstein's email is just another example of the speciousness of the quote-unquote evidence that Commissioner (Roger) Goodell claims to have to support his erroneous accusations against Jonathan and the other players," lawyer Peter Ginsberg said. "As more of the evidence is revealed in the media, it is becoming more and more apparent how irresponsible the NFL's actions have been." [25] When confronted with the email, Payton initially claimed he never read it, but subsequently admitted that he had.[22][26] In an interview with ESPN's Adam Schefter, Goodell implied that Payton would have faced significant punishment even if he'd been more forthcoming. In Goodell's view, Payton's contractual obligation to supervise his assistants meant that, at the very least, he should have known about the scheme and shut it down immediately.[27] In the league's announcement of sanctions against the Saints, Payton was faulted for violating a provision of the league constitution that requires coaches to inform their owners about team operations, as well as to "avoid actions that undermine or damage the club's reputation or operating success."[21]

On March 30, Payton lodged a formal appeal of his suspension. Goodell held an expedited hearing on the matter and was expected to render a decision in "days, not weeks," according to ESPN's Schefter. Payton will also use the hearing as a chance to get clarification on the terms of his ban.[28] Goodell turned the appeal down on April 9, meaning that Payton's suspension is set to begin on April 16.[29] He will remain suspended until the end of Super Bowl XLVII, which will be held in New Orleans. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Payton will forfeit $5.8 million of his $7.1 million salary.[30] He will be barred from even casual contact with anyone in the NFL; such contact must be reported to NFL executive Ray Anderson.[31]

Soon after the suspension was announced, Payton began discussions with his mentor, Parcells, about serving as interim coach for the 2012 season.[32]

Head coaching record[]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
NO 2006 10 6 0 .625 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Chicago Bears in NFC Championship Game.
NO 2007 7 9 0 .438 3rd in NFC South - - - -
NO 2008 8 8 0 .500 4th in NFC South - - - -
NO 2009 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC South 3 0 1.000 Super Bowl XLIV Champions
NO 2010 11 5 0 .688 2nd in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Wild-Card Game.
NO 2011 13 3 0 .813 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game.
NO Total 62 34 0 .646 5 3 .625
Total 62 34 0 .646 5 3 .625

Coaching tree[]

NFL head coaches under whom Sean Payton has served:

Assistant coaches under Sean Payton who became NFL or college head coaches:

Personal life[]

Sean Payton is married to Beth Shuey and has two children, daughter Meghan (born 1996) and son Connor (born 1999).[33] While coaching at Indiana State, Payton met Shuey, a graduate of the university.[34] Payton is an Irish Catholic.[35] Payton and his family moved to a home in Mandeville, Louisiana when he became the Saints' head coach[36]; however, the home, like many built on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, later turned out to be constructed with defective Chinese drywall, and Payton eventually became a named plaintiff in a widely-reported class action lawsuit against the manufacturer, Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin Co. Ltd.[37] In the wake of the issues with their home in Mandeville, the Paytons decided to move the family back to the Dallas area in 2011, when they purchased a home in the Vacquero Club, an upscale golf community in Westlake that is home to several PGA Tour professionals, as well as the Jonas Brothers.[38] Rumors swirled over the 2011 Super Bowl weekend that the move would coincide with Payton returning to the Cowboys as the General Manager or in some other executive capacity, but these turned out to be groundless.[39] Payton maintains a residence in the New Orleans area during the season, while his family resides full-time in Westlake, which he says is only a 90 minute trip via a privately chartered flight.[38]

In January 2012, Payton received the Silver Anniversary Award in recognition of his myriad athletic and professional accomplishments from the NCAA.[40]

On June 14, 2012, Payton filed for divorce from Beth Payton, his wife of nearly 20 years.[41]


  • Payton, Sean (2010), Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life, New York, New York, U.S.: New American Library, Template:ISBN 


  1. NFL suspends Saints coach Payton for one year without pay.
  2. [1]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Grotz, Bob. "Payton had Super coach beginnings in Delco", Delaware County Daily Times, February 11, 2010. Retrieved on October 22, 2010. 
  4. Template:Harvnb
  5. Template:Harvnb
  6. Significant Sigs. Sigma Chi Fraternity. Retrieved on October 22, 2010.
  7. "Saints' Payton has big fan at Gustavus", Star Tribune, January 26, 2010. Retrieved on October 22, 2010. 
  8. Template:Harvnb
  9. Gridiron, Cfinn. "Gridirion: Ex-Leicester Panthers star Sean Payton eyes Super Bowl glory", Leicester Mercury, February 6, 2010. Retrieved on October 22, 2010. 
  10. Template:Harvnb
  11. Template:Harvnb
  12. 1997 NFL Standings, Stats and Awards. Retrieved on October 22, 2010.
  13. Template:Harvnb
  14. Template:Harvnb
  15. Yahoo! Sports, Sortable Stats - Team Stats - Passing, Retrieved on July 24, 2007.
  16. Yahoo! Sports, Sortable Stats – Team Stats- Total, Retrieved on July 24, 2007.
  17. Payton revives city, Saints on way to Coach of the Year. Associated Press. Retrieved on October 22, 2010.
  18. Sean Payton and Ellis Henican, Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life (Penguin Group USA, 2010), ISBN 978-0-451-23261-8.
  19. "Payton's book debuts among top ten bestsellers",, July 11, 2010.
  20. Hoppes, Lynn (June 30, 2010). Sean Payton weaves great tales in book. ESPN. Retrieved on September 15, 2011.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Official NFL announcement of penalties against Saints
  22. 22.0 22.1 King, Peter. "Way out of Bounds", Sports Illustrated, 2012-03-12. 
  23. 23.0 23.1 National Football League (2012-03-02). Full NFL statement on bounty investigation. Retrieved on 2012-03-05.
  26. "NFL hammers Saints for bounties", ESPN, 2012-03-21. 
  27. Goodell talks punishments. ESPN (2012-03-21).
  28. "Source: Sean Payton to file appeal", ESPN, 2012-03-30. 
  29. "NFL denies Saints' appeals", ESPN, 2012-04-09. 
  30. Mortensen, Chris. "Sources: Sean Payton to lose $5.8M", ESPN, 2012-03-23. 
  31. "Sean Payton told to call if he talks", ESPN. 
  32. Clayton, John. "Bill Parcells met with Saints", ESPN, 2012-03-28. 
  33. Template:Harvnb
  34. Template:Harvnb
  35. Template:Harvnb
  36. Karen Taylor Gist, "For New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton, Chinese drywall crisis kicks off custom home redesign", Times-Picayune, September 4, 2010.
  37. Rebecca Mowbray, "New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton is lead plaintiff in Chinese drywall suit", Times-Picayune, December 10, 2009.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Sean Payton and Family Moving to Dallas - Canal Street Chronicles. Canal Street Chronicles (February 7, 2011). Retrieved on Dec. 12, 2011.
  41. Sean Payton files for divorce from wife of nearly 20 years. USA TODAY (July 2, 2012). Retrieved on July 3, 2012.

External links[]