I love coaching rumors, especially when they involve a coach leaving for Job B while still under contract with Job A. Lucky for me in search of an off-season column, the latest coaching rumor involves Sean Patton of the New Orleans Saints.
Payton, according to NFL rumor mongers, supposedly will replace Cowboys coach Jason Garrett in Dallas after the 2019 season. That is assuming the Cowboys underachieve under Garrett’s stewardship next season and owner/general manager Jerry Jones pulls the plug. The rumor gains traction because Jones has decided to let Garrett coach out the final year of his contract with no talk of an extension, and Payton has a history with Jones in Big D since his days as an impetuous assistant from 2003-’05 under Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.
Payton, 55, is under contract in New Orleans through the 2020 season and pocketing $9 million annually. Furthermore, the rumor contends, Payton would be inclined to leave the Saints if the 2019 season truly marks the end of quarterback Drew Brees’ brilliant Hall of Fame worthy career.
Payton in Big D is not new gossip. I remember in February of 2011 addressing this very topic with Payton after news surfaced that his family was leaving their home in Mandeville and taking up full-time residence in the Dallas area. Back then, Payton supposedly was joining the Cowboys’ front office, rumors he adamantly denied to me and others.
Unfortunately, it turned out the family split was the beginning of the end of Payton’s 20-year marriage to Beth Shuey Payton. The Paytons filed for divorce in June 2012.
Now, as back then, Payton pooh-poohs the Saints-to-Cowboys rumors.
“It seems like these rumors come up every odd-number year, doesn’t it?’‘ he told WWL. “The plan is to remain in New Orleans. Hey, I’ve got fleur-de-lis tattoos that can’t be erased.’‘
Look, Payton’s casual flick of the wrist of this latest Sean-to-Dallas rumor has no influence on what I’m about to say. Plans change and unlike diamonds, tattoos aren’t forever.
In my opinion, Payton is king of his empire in New Orleans with few organizational checks and balances. He’s making money hand over fist and answers to a relatively congenial local media. If Payton wants to stay coaching in New Orleans after No. 9 retires, he will, and I suspect he won’t give owner Gayle Marie Benson a hometown discount.
I don’t believe Payton plans to coach beyond the age of 60, and if he elects to join the Cowboys or ESPN or CBS or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I wish him and his fleur-de-lis tattoos safe travels.