Stephen Jones calls rumors of past efforts to reach out to Sean Payton “untrue”

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As the Cowboys continue to careen toward the potential canning of coach Jason Garrett, some believe that they’ll eventually make a phone call to the Saints about possibly hiring Sean Payton.

On Sunday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL said that the Cowboys, “last year after the season, through back channels, nothing officials, the Cowboys made it known that they would be interested in Sean Payton, if he was interested in them.” Rapoport said that Payton used the interest to leverage a contract extension with the Saints, which while announced during the season was actually struck (per Rapoport) during the offseason.

Rapoport added that the Cowboys won’t be interested in Payton this time around, if they fire Garrett.

Cowboys COO Stephen Jones was asked about the situation during a Monday visit with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

“[It’s] just untrue and obviously don’t comment on rumors like that,” Jones said. “Obviously our focus right now is on beating the Eagles and certainly everybody knows what we think of Jason. If anything, we’ve been criticized to a fault for what we do think of him and he just did a great job of getting this team back on track yesterday. And we’re focused on beating the Eagles.”

The effort to gauge Payton’s interest through back channels, while not “official,” definitely amounts to tampering, if the league were inclined to investigate and punish tampering. It also suggests an intent to violate the spirit of the Rooney Rule, since the Cowboys would have (if Payton had wanted the job) fired Garrett specifically to hire Payton, interviewing at least minority candidate along the way.

Those realities make it a bit stunning that the league-owned media outlet would put that out there. And no one should be stunned if the Cowboys express interest via back channels in Payton again, if/when the Cowboys fire Garrett.

Yes, Payton is under contract with the Saints, well into the future. But if the Saints are willing to accept compensation from the Cowboys for Payton, if Payton wants to make the jump (perhaps after winning a second Super Bowl trophy in New Orleans he would), and if the Cowboys still want him (why in the hell wouldn’t they?), it can happen.