Editor's Note: The NFL playoffs are here & NBC Sports EDGE Plus is giving you a special offer. Get 15% off an EDGE Plus annual subscription throughout the playoffs when you use promo code PLAYOFF15. Get every tool for every game at one low price. It’s easier than ever to play & wager with confidence when you have NBC Sports EDGE Plus. Click here to learn more!
And then there were four. Less than a handful of franchises – the Chiefs, Bengals, Rams, and 49ers – remain in the 2022 NFL Playoffs. The conference championship games are set for this week to determine who will play in the Super Bowl on February 13. All eyes are on those four squads, but curiously enough, some of the most interesting news from around the league on Tuesday involved teams who are no longer alive in the playoff race. The offseason is underway – and, for some teams, pretty far underway – for 28 teams, which means coaching and front office changes, player news, and more. Let's touch on everything that happened around the league yesterday.
Saints Coach Sean Payton Stepping Away
Saints coach Sean Payton announced on Tuesday that he is stepping away from his position as the leader of the New Orleans franchise. Reportedly, he met with his assistants yesterday to reminisce about all that they accomplished, and the news became public shortly thereafter. It's fairly out of the blue for someone as successful as Payton, but it's not as shocking once you dig a little deeper. The Saints are in a brutal position cap-wise, and while they've always been one of the best teams in the NFL at maneuvering cap loopholes every season, that does likely keep them from securing the top-flight quarterback they need to compete for a Super Bowl title.
Payton is just 58 years old and admitted he may coach again "at some point." If he does make a comeback, he'd immediately be the top option for any franchise with a vacancy. Payton has been arguably the most successful coach in recent memory behind Bill Belichick (of course, others like Andy Reid and Mike Tomlin are elite shot-callers too, but the point remains that Payton has been one of the best over the past decade-plus). If he comes back, it would likely be for a picture-perfect opening rather than just any old team who fires their coach, and speculation will be plentiful next year if any team with a talented roster starts to falter. In the meantime, it's a drastic change for the Saints, who now have a big question mark at both head coach and quarterback.
The Aaron Rodgers Saga Picks Back Up
The Aaron Rodgers saga understandably quieted down during the Packers' season considering it looked like the NFC's top-seeded team was humming along, but whispers are picking up again now that Green Bay was upset in the divisional round. Rodgers' future as a Packer was always going to be a hot topic this summer given how tumultuous the last offseason was, and an early playoff exit will only add fuel to the fire. Rodgers said that it would be "disrespectful to the [Packers] organization" to stretch his decision-making process beyond free agency, so it seems that we will have an answer sometime leading up to mid-March when teams are able to start signing new players.
NFL reporter Jordan Schultz reported that Rodgers and star Packers WR Davante Adams could be interested in teaming up for the Broncos. Denver was one of the teams Rodgers was tied to most frequently last offseason, so it's no surprise that those rumors are picking up again. It's easy to see why the Broncos would be an attractive landing spot for the likely NFL MVP: They have an elite defense and strong young weapons such as Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, and Javonte Williams. The downside for Rodgers would be that he'd have to compete with some of the best gunslingers in the game in Patrick Mahomes (in the same division!), Justin Herbert (also same division), and Josh Allen if he goes to an AFC team. On the other hand, sticking in the NFC would lend a simpler path. It's also worth noting that one shouldn't weigh these reports too heavily until more national insiders start implying that Rodgers and Adams could want to team up in Denver, but this report is interesting enough that it's at least worth mentioning. Above all, there's no doubt that Rodgers' decision will dominate offseason NFL news for at least the next few months.
Bears Hire Ryan Poles as General Manager
The Bears hired Ryan Poles as their general manager on Tuesday. Poles has worked his way through the ranks with the Chiefs, and his final gig before this move was Assistant Director of Player Personnel. He was also a finalist for the general manager vacancies for the Giants and Vikings, and he has been renowned around the league for his work as Brett Veach's second-hand man. It's a solid hiring for the Bears and a well-earned promotion for the 36-year-old Poles.
The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported that Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is the "leader in the clubhouse" for the Giants' head coaching vacancy. Daboll has engineered a huge turnaround on offense for the Bills over the past few seasons, and it's easy to see why New York would like him given what he has done with Josh Allen (although Allen is likely the exception to the rule in terms of quarterback development).
Daboll is also well-liked by the Dolphins, who made the surprising decision to fire coach Brian Flores despite back-to-back seasons above .500. Regardless of where Daboll ends up, it seems likely that Buffalo will need a new offensive coordinator for 2022.
Pro Football Network reports that sources believe Bucs OC Byron Leftwich will ultimately be the Jaguars' next head coach. Both Tampa Bay coordinators are in demand after two consecutive marvelous seasons. The Jaguars could pair the offensive-minded Leftwich with Trevor Lawrence, who still has a long leash as Jacksonville's quarterback of the future despite a disappointing rookie season.
The Raiders requested an interview with Bucs DC Todd Bowles.