One of the four teams that interviewed former Saints coach Sean Payton recently went in a different direction, with the Panthers hiring Frank Reich. That leaves three teams in the current cycles that could hire him — the Texans, Cardinals, and Broncos. So where will he land?
Momentum gradually has been building this week toward Payton staying at Fox for another year. That doesn’t mean things won’t turn around, but there are complications.
First, the Saints want real value for Payton. More than a mid-to-late first-round pick, as reported last week. No other candidate in the current cycle comes with that obligation.
Second, Payton wants to be paid commensurately with other top coaches. The price now exceeds $20 million. And skilled, accomplished coaches are worth every penny.
Third, Payton is believed to want a certain amount of authority over the roster. All teams considering him have General Managers in place who might want to lose a portion of their authority to the coach, especially with other coaching options that wouldn’t undermine the G.M.
Adding to the current sense of confusion as to Payton comes from Thursday’s random report from Mark Maske of the Washington Post that Payton has concerns about a potential power struggle with an unnamed member of ownership. Many assumed that Maske was referring to limited partner Condoleeza Rice.
Regardless of who it is, owners are the rock and coaches are the scissors. There are no power struggles. Ownership has the power. And Payton has denied the report.
Then there’s the question of where the report came from, and whether someone may have been trying to torpedo Payton’s candidacy in Denver, and maybe elsewhere. Hard feelings still linger between 345 Park Avenue and Payton over the bounty scandal. Would it be crazy to think that Maske, who routinely reports on league matters, was told my someone at corporate headquarters about Payton’s supposed misgivings, regardless of whether he actually has any?
The clock continues to tick. And Payton will be part of Fox’s coverage of the NFC Championship on Sunday. More news is likely coming soon. In theory, it could come at any time.