Looking At A Payton Saint

offense, the Cowboys finished with 5,202 yards, their single-season most since 1998 (5,450). Know what? The Cowboys managed more than 5,100 yards of offense the previous two seasons, too, operating with a marginal quarterback and a 40-year-old quarterback. They totaled 5,161 in 2003 and then 5,197 in 2004. 

That means three consecutive years with at least 5,100 yards of offense, and to match that, you have to go back to 1991-95, the high being 5,824 in 1995 - fifth most in club history since the record is 5,968 set in 1979, nine more yards than the Cowboys gained in both 1979 (Staubach) and 1983 (White). And to think Staubach retired after the 1979 season and Tom Landry decided to start Gary Hogeboom instead of White in 1984. 

So if this history means anything, Payton has done something right here during his three years helping to oversee the offense. And he has done something right with quarterbacks, if you figure he also revived the career of Kerry Collins while with the New York Giants. 

This had to mean something to the Saints, who soured on starter Aaron Brooks this season, and more importantly, who have the second pick in the 2006 draft. Can you say Matt Leinart or possibly Vince Young? 

Plus, Payton, who also had drawn some late interest from Buffalo, is a high-energy guy. Lord knows the head coach of the New Orleans Saints is going to need high energy, and not just because the team went 3-13 this season. The entire city has so much to overcome, and knowing how much those people down there love their Saints, a turnaround would sure aid their everyday morale. 

This job is a big one, and will take someone who knows more than just football. Charisma is needed, and Payton has that, although most of you would be hard-pressed to agree with me since Parcells keeps his assistant coaches off-limits to the public, er, media, sorry. He also has the necessary confidence in himself. 

"Sean has what I call the "it" factor," Carolina head coach John Fox told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Fox knows a little something about Payton. The two crossed paths three seasons with the Giants (1999-2001), including the Giants' Super Bowl season in 2000 when Fox was the defensive coordinator and Payton was the offensive coordinator. 

Sort of that same "it" factor former Cowboys linebacker Jack Del Rio seduced Jacksonville with during his interview for the head coaching job back in 2003. 

The Cowboys now will wish him luck, but then probably not too much since they must face the Saints at Texas Stadium come the 2006 season. And then go about looking for another assistant head coach/offensive coordinator/passing-game coordinator - whatever title Parcells decides to give the guy. 

Bill has his little list by his side. 

Norv is out, so forget about that. There are offensive head coaches still out of work, guys such as Mike Sherman and Mike Martz, but they don't seem to fit Parcells' taste in offense. There are some coordinators likely out of work, too, guys such as Tom Clements, Mike Heimerdinger, Al Saunders and Ted Tollner, all of whom are on staffs with head coaching turnover. And Parcells always could promote Tony Sparano, his running-game coordinator/offensive line coach. 

But here is a name to tuck away: Chris Palmer, the offensive coordinator who was fired in Houston early this season. Remember, he's got two years of head coaching experience (Cleveland, 1999-2000). And Parcells himself hired Palmer in 1993 with New England, first as his receivers coach and then promoted him to quarterbacks coach in 1996, the year the Patriots went to the Super Bowl. That means he's worked closely with, uh, Bledsoe. 

Parcells likely first bumped into Palmer in 1984, when he began a two-year stay with the USFL's New Jersey Generals, who were using Giants Stadium. And when he left there, get this, he spent two seasons as the head coach of New Haven, where Tony Sparano was his offensive line coach, and then brought Sparano with him to Boston University when he became the head coach there. 

In fact, Palmer was responsible for breaking Sparano into the NFL, hiring him in Cleveland as first his quality control coach in 1999 and then promoting him to offensive line coach in

MICK SHOTS

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