Sorry, Panthers. You apparently didn’t make the cut, again.
The team that tried (twice) and failed (twice) to get quarterback Deshaun Watson previously was linked to former Saints coach Sean Payton for 2023. The team’s official response was something less than a full-throated denial.
Regardless, Payton widely is believed to be destined to return to coaching in 2023. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, citing an unnamed source close to Payton, lists the Dolphins, Chargers, and Cowboys as teams that could draw Payton’s interest in 2023.
The source added the catch-all “among other teams,” so there may still be hope for the Panthers and other potentially interested teams.
The main factors for Payton are, per Jackson: (1) warm weather; (2) a roster that can contend; and (3) control over personnel decisions.
The Cowboys already are on the short list to pursue Payton, despite the ongoing efforts of owner Jerry Jones to put the kibosh on the subject. (As reported in Playmakers, the Cowboys nearly hired Payton in 2019.)
The other two teams are surprising. Although the source told Jackson that Payton would never lobby for a job that’s already filled, Jason Garrett serve as head coach of the Cowboys when the pieces were put in place behind the scenes for the Cowboys to hire Payton. So even if he wouldn’t “lobby,” he also wouldn’t slam the door in the face of an owner who is interested in hiring him, regardless of whether that owner currently has a coach under contract.
Jackson, given his beat, focuses on the Dolphins. Despite the fact that the story was grossly underreported (in large part because reporters working for ESPN and NFL Network flatly ignored it), the Dolphins’ clandestine pursuit of Payton and quarterback Tom Brady was one of the biggest developments of the offseason. Jackson doesn’t slam the door on the possibility of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross rekindling his interest in Payton, if the team disappoints under first-year coach Mike McDaniel.
If would be awkward to say the least, and it would be expensive. But if Ross wants Brady and if Brady wants Payton, buying out McDaniel’s contract becomes part of the cost of doing business.
And that’s the thing to remember. Brady will be a free agent in 2023. The Payton-Brady partnership could still happen in Miami next year. Frankly, McDaniel doesn’t deserve to be saddled with that speculation before he ever coaches a single game. Anyone who pays any attention to the NFL knows that anything can happen, however.
If not Payton-Brady, it could be Payton-Herbert. Or Payton-Prescott. Wherever Payton goes (and he likely will be coaching somewhere in 2023), he’ll want to be in a place that has a quarterback, because that will be the most important factor in Payton’s effort to become the first coach in league history to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises.