Sean Payton rumors pick up steam, and, more importantly, credibility

Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sideline in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sideline in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 38-32. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

I’ve been a firm denier of the recent reports that Sean Payton has wanderlust. And I still think it would be somewhat disastrous for a rebuilding team with a closing window. But I may have been a bit naive about the possibility.

I stand by my incredulity about Jason La Canfora and Ian Rapoport. Both are national journalists, without much direct knowledge of the inner works in New Orleans. And both have a tendency to speculate. So long as they’re the only two people reporting on Sean Payton, I’m going to have my share of doubts.

But now, Saints reporters Mike Triplett and Larry Holder have joined their ranks. Larry Holder reported that Mikey Loomis is open the possibility of a trade for Head Coach Sean Payton. And Mike Triplett, in perhaps the most convincing revelation on the subject, reported that Sean Payton is meeting with Loomis to discuss his future.

There are two angles to this story.

One, that Payton apparently is interested in coaching elsewhere.

Similar reports came out of the Saints camp at the end of last year. In the end, Sean Payton signed a five-year extension to become the highest paid HC in the league. It’s possible that last year’s speculation was simply a bargaining chip to earn him that title. This year, though, it’s hard to see any hidden agenda besides wanderlust.

But don’t get that confused with the other angle on the story: the Saints, by all accounts and according to all reports, don’t want Payton to leave.

They’ll entertain offers, as I see mostly as a token of goodwill to Payton. But as Triplett reports, the front office is happy with the team’s progress this year, and are very content with their current HC. There’s no call to get Payton out of town, despite the growing unrest among fans.

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And I’m inclined to agree with the FO’s position. Yes, three years in a row at 7-9 is not a pretty sight. Three straight playoff absences. But every indication is that this team is trending in the right direction. And Payton’s departure would, in many ways, derail the progress.

Payton remains one of the most dominating and creative offensive minds in the league. There are plenty of talented OCs available, not to mention recently fired Chip Kelly. But at this point, none have the track record or consistency that Payton’s shown over the course of his New Orleans tenure.

Many fans are nurturing hopes that, in Payton’s absence, OC Pete Carmichael could keep the offense afloat. After all, he called the plays through the early part of the season, and the team looked just fine. But to think that Carmichael is the same caliber of an offensive mind as Payton is a mistake. He’s not. He’s good, and if Payton does leave I pray that Carmichael stays on as OC. But the offense will take a hit.

One last thing to consider: even if Payton wants to leave, he might not garner the value that Loomis wants.

The Rams have emerged as a frontrunner in the Sean Payton hunt. They are a very appealing option for Payton: a booming market, a dominant defense (for once in Payton’s career), and a young QB to mold in Jared Goff.

The problem with the Rams is simple: teams are only allowed to trade picks, cash, and other staff members for coaches. Not players. And the Rams gave away most of their upcoming draft picks to trade up for said Jared Goff. So it’s unclear what they could offer Loomis to pry away Payton.

To add to the unlikelihood, the Rams are reportedly very interested in a number of coordinator candidates, as Nick Underhill reported. Including both Patriots coordinators. (Dammit, Patriots, always stacked.) That futher undermines the possibility that the Rams would be willing to depart with some valuable picks to take a candidate who is, at this time, just one of many.

A few other teams have head coaching vacancies, but it remains to be seen if any of them are good options for Payton. The Broncos would be a great option for Payton, obviously. But would they be willing to part with picks? Besides that, you only have the 49ers, the Chargers, the Jaguars, and the Bills.

Payton’s been reportedly interested in the Chargers in the past, and given the instability of that FO is entirely possible that they are silly enough to give away some high draft picks. But that same instability might scare Payton away from the team.

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Anyway, we’ll have to wait and see, at this point. It’s going to be a long week.