It’s being reported as news that Sean Payton wants $20 million to $25 million per year as part of his next coaching job. But it’s really not news. It’s a given.
Once it became obvious last year that Payton to the Dolphins was a behind-the-scenes done deal that became derailed by the Brian Flores lawsuit, it was reported that the Dolphins would have paid him $100 million, on either a five-year or four-year deal. Which would have resulted in an average of $20 million or $25 million per year.
It would have been interesting to see whether Payton would have reduced his expectations to coach the Chargers, given the presence of quarterback Justin Herbert. But that one isn’t happening, unless Payton sits out 2023 and the Chargers make a change in 2024.
Sitting out 2023 would be very expensive to Payton, if someone is ready to pay him $20 million to $25 million per year right now.
While that sounds like a lot, here’s the item we posted on December 1, 2021: “The full extent of coaching pay isn’t widely known, because plenty of teams used related businesses to funnel extra cash to top coaches. Since there’s no salary cap, no internal rules are being broken. The practice would become relevant only if, for example, entry-level coaches ever tried to claim in court that the 32 separate businesses that make up the NFL are colluding to hold down the wages paid to head coaches.”
Some believe collusion happens when it comes to coaching pay. If the full extent of coaching salaries were available over the past 50 years, chances are that the rate at which coaching pay has increases would be far less than the rate at which player pay and total revenue have mushroomed.
There’s no salary cap for coaches. There’s also no salary floor, no spending minimum. NFL teams have generally done a good job of avoiding bidding wars for coaches, with most teams willing to hold the line — like the Giants did three years ago when the Panthers overspent for Matt Rhule.
It could get interesting this year, if the Broncos and Panthers end up in a tug of war for Payton. They are the wealthiest two ownership groups, and the Wal-Mart mega-billionaires who bought the Denver franchise have far more cash that Panthers owner David Tepper and his $17 billion net worth.
Our guess? The Broncos, sensitive to the fact that they’re the newest members of Club Oligarch, won’t blow the curve so quickly. That would make Tepper the most likely to be the one to bridge the gap between what the best coaches earn and what the best players make by paying Payton more than $20 million per year.
Tepper paid more than $20 million combined for quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield in 2022. Dollar for dollar, that cash would be much better invested in an accomplished coach like Sean Payton.