IRVING, Texas – Sean Payton’s reinstatement this week from a season-long suspension marked the absolute end of any rumors or speculation he could be heading elsewhere.
Dallas was one of the locations many thought he could potentially end up, but according to Payton, he had no other place in mind outside New Orleans.
“There was no way I was going to another team,” Payton said Wednesday between the North and South Senior Bowl practices. “The issue was a minor technicality, because a minor clause, you guys had it right, there was a clause in there that wasn’t approved.”
Speculation immediately began after the season about the possibility of Payton coaching again with the Cowboys, where he’d worked on the staff for head coach Bill Parcells from 2003-05. After a second consecutive 8-8 finish, it wouldn’t seem out of the question for the Cowboys to try to haul in the Super Bowl winning coach, whose family lives in the Dallas area.
All of those rumors were officially quashed when Payton worked out an extension and was reinstated. He said the finalization of a deal had gone much quicker in prior contracts he’d agreed upon with Saints owner Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis, but his situation with the league complicated the process.
The Saints head coach said he never tried to use any speculation that he might have or could have gone elsewhere as leverage when working out a deal. He said he appreciated and understood all the speculation, but he feels like he’s “got the best job” because of his relationship with the front office and the vision of the team.
“We understand what we’re looking to do and how we’re looking to do it, and there’s great respect and a friendship element that exists between Mickey and I that I don’t regret at all,” Payton said.
The frustration built for Payton as he watched his team struggle in the early going in 2012. He said most of that frustration stemmed from not being able to talk to anyone on the team, rather than the poor results on the field.
One person Payton was able to confide in during his time off was Parcells, who warned him not to assume he’ll automatically turn the Saints back into a playoff contender and win 11, 12 or 13 games after his reinstatement.
Payton knows he has a long way to go to get the Saints back on track, but right now he just seems happy he could work out a deal with his former team. The finalization of his reinstatement and contract extension assured he wouldn’t be joining the Cowboys any time soon.
“This was clearly the team I was returning to,” Payton said. “This was uniquely different. I’d say this, when we started in ’06 post-Katrina, it felt a little bit like a business startup. There were a lot of things that were different. The team had been relocated. We were getting back to Metairie. There was just too much invested in the people in the building, and once again, when you start trying to – not just in our industry, but any industry – when you start trying to identify what makes a job good … it’s when you’re working with the right people.”