Sean Payton has said multiple times that he’d like to stay with the Saints. The Saints haven’t said anything, yet.
Plenty will be determined on Monday, when Payton meets with G.M. Mickey Loomis. Once joined at the hip (Payton’s latest contract was rejected by the league office because it provided that Payton could walk away if Loomis was no longer there), there’s a sense that the two men are starting to drift apart.
But speculation of a full-blown war would be off the mark. Loomis has transitioned into a bigger role under owner Tom Benson, with responsibilities both for the Saints and for the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. Payton quite possibly has reached the end of his shelf life in New Orleans; indeed, if he waits another year (and if next year doesn’t go well), he possibly wouldn’t be as high on the “A” list as he’d be this year.
If Loomis and Payton decide that Payton should explore other opportunities, here’s how it would work. Another team would contact the Saints and work out compensation, in the event Payton is hired. Once a tentative deal is reached, that team would have the green light to try to work out a contract with Payton.
As a practical matter, Payton will surely know which team will calling, and he’ll know which team he wants to coach. The compensation is likely already being kicked around, especially with Jay Glazer floating a second-round pick as the price tag earlier in the day.
The primary options could be the 49ers and the Colts, with the Giants as a long shot and the Cowboys as an even longer shot. Sure, the Cowboys have said coach Jason Garrett is safe, but Jerry Jones has a habit of supporting someone right until he decides that he no longer does. If Payton will be leaving New Orleans, Jones may not want to miss the chance to snag him.
The one team to strike from the list of potential Payton suitors is the Dolphins. Per a league source, the Dolphins will not be pursuing Payton.
From Payton’s perspective, the best place to go will be a place with a great quarterback in place. His decade with the Saints has been fueled by the presence of Drew Brees. The thinking is that Payton would love to coach the Giants; the question is whether the Giants would want to pair Payton with Eli Manning for the balance of Manning’s career.
There’s also a chance that, if Payton leaves, he could attract Drew Brees to Payton’s new place of employment. That would entail Payton going to a team like the 49ers, where it would be easy to flip the switch to a new contract.