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Sean Payton on leaving New Orleans Saints: 'I felt like this was time'

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After reports of his departure first surfaced earlier Tuesday, Sean Payton officially announced he is stepping down as head coach of the New Orleans Saints during an afternoon press conference where he thanked the team and its fanbase.

Payton, the most winningest coach in franchise history, coached the team to its first and only Super Bowl win during the 2009-2010 season.

Much of the press conference teetered between the then and now: the then in 2006, when Payton took his first head coaching job with the Saints a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the community, and the now following a season that disappointingly ended with a Drew Brees departure, injuries and COVID-19 challenges.

“I just felt like this season was challenging for everyone, but man I felt like this was time,” Payton said. “I headed into training season feeling like it might be, but you don't tell anyone that.”

Payton also used the press conference to thank a long list of those involved in his Saints career: Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, past and present players and the Benson family. Gayle Benson, who owns the Saints and Pelicans, was present at the press conference and received a King Cake from Payton.

He also thanked the fanbase and the city of New Orleans, recalling the moment when he drove down an empty I-10 to take the job in a city destroyed by one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

“I don't think any of us when we started understood the dynamics of this and what took place post-Katrina,” Payton said. “This fanbase has been amazing. It’s not a wine and cheese crowd — people make decisions to buy season tickets that go into their budget.”

As for what’s next for Payton, he said he doesn’t have any plans just yet, though working in sports media — or even coaching again — could be something he considers in the future.

Missed the press conference? You can watch the full video here.

After the announcement was made, reactions from Louisianans began pouring in on social media. We gathered tweets from Saints fans, players and Louisiana leaders below who said their goodbyes to Payton.

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