Sean Payton will coach the Saints in 2017, and beyond

Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton with quarterback Drew Brees (9) before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton with quarterback Drew Brees (9) before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports /

Just yesterday I wrote about the increased credibility of the reports that Sean Payton wanted out of New Orleans. Well, turns out “increased credibility” still means, in this case, incredible.

Yesterday evening, Sean Payton, in his weekly bit on WWL, told radio host Bobby Herbert that he “absolutely” has no interest in coaching anywhere but New Orleans in 2017.

Payton went on to say that he “definitely” plans to be back as the Saints’ Head Coach next season. “And shoot,” he said, “I’ve got four more years on a contract here, and I plan on honoring that.”

These comments came after a series of reports—from credible sources, mind you, like Mike Tripplet and Larry Holder—cited meetings that Payton planned to have with GM Mickey Loomis about the HC’s future in New Orleans. These reports made much more serious for fans and writers the possibility that Payton’s reported wanderlust was real. These reports, made originaly by Ian Rapoport and Jason La Canfora, cited Payton’s interest in coaching elsewhere, particularly with the Rams.

Well, big surprise, it turns out that Rapoport and La Canfora wrote bogus, speculative rumor pieces. We didn’t fall for them at first. But in the end, backed up by more believable writers, they got to us. Shame.

I hope that Payton’s explicit rejection of the rumors will stop the speculation. But I know it won’t. So I hope that each of you take solace in the fact that we can now know, to a substantial degree of certainty, that Payton wants to be here. These rumors are nothing but rumors.

As to the trending topic of why Payton refuses to address these issues in his postgame interviews and conference calls, I think there’s something to the issue. But not much.

Yes, Payton could difinitevely say: Look, I don’t want to get into the habit of addressing these rumors, because I’ll be expected to address them whenever the come up. But just this once, I’ll say it clearly. I’m not going anywhere.

But when you look at it, he’s not far off from that. In a recent conference call, after patently disagreeing with the Holder and Tripplet reports about his and Mickey’s meeting—they did meet, but they do so after every game, and this instance was no different—he went on to say: “But if I’m going to answer questions to a report like that that’s inaccurate, then we only just feed or turn the rumor mill, and I won’t. And that’s just the way it is, and you know what? That’s tough.” Could he be more explicit? Yes. But he gets the point across. The media can read it however they like, but Payton shouldn’t stoop to answering these questions if he thinks it’ll obligate him to answer similarly in the future.

Coaching 2017 and beyond

Well, some of you might say, just because Payton wants to be here to the end of his contract doesn’t mean he will. Many writers are calling 2017 a “make-or-break” year.

And in many ways, that’s correct. With Drew Brees’ window closing fast, the team will need to make substantial strides next year if they want to contend for a Super Bowl once more with Brees under center.

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Brees recently sounded non-commital about his return to New Orleans after the 2017 free agency. While that’s worrying, I have no doubts that he will want to stay if the team shows that it can take that next step. He’s been saying it for years now, just wait until next year. Well, I don’t think he’ll want to say it again. That’s not to say that the Saints will need to make the Super Bowl next year. But they’ll need to make the playoffs if they want to convince Brees to stay.

Sean Payton, on the other hand, I expect to be back, playoffs or not. And not just because he’s claimed that he’ll want to be here for the end of his contract. After all, these things go both ways: if the Saints fail to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year, will Loomis and owner Tom Benson want Payton back at the helm?

The answer, barring some catastrophic break down of the offense or Payton’s unlikely losing control of the locker room, is yes. These two have the utmost faith in Payton, that much is clear. And I, for one, am with them.

Payton’s made a number of poor personnel decisions, but he remains an outstanding coach and motivator. And based on this year, he’s improving his personnel decisions. After all, you learn from your mistakes. And between Junior Gallete, Brandon Browner, C.J. Spiller, Jairus Byrd, etc. Payton has plenty to learn from. I believe he’s gotten over the hump.

Next: Accepting the painful: The 2016 Saints.

He’ll need to make plenty of good moves in this offseason if this roster is to compete for the playoffs. But I have faith. And for better or worse, so does the Saints front office.