The multiyear contract extension the Saints announced for Sean Payton in September 2011 was voided by the NFL, making the suspended head coach a free agent after this season and casting questions on how long he will remain in New Orleans, according to league sources.
Though Payton's free agency status has not yet been made official, it is certainly worth speculating what will happen to him if he indeed tests the market.
Payton was an assistant under Bill Parcells in Dallas from 2003 through 2005, and it's no secret that current Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has done a lackluster job since stepping in for Wade Phillips in 2010. Put two and two together, and the Cowboys could certainly be in the mix for Payton.
That said, it would be surprising if Payton made the move to Dallas. For one, the guy has enjoyed a lot of success with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints—including a Super Bowl victory in 2010.
In addition, per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports:
Sean Payton told me he "absolutely plans on staying with the Saints. I obviously love working with Mickey (Loomis) ... tmi.me/yQsTa—Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) November 4, 2012
To break it all down, let's check out the Cowboys and Saints and consider which franchise is a better fit for Payton if he indeed becomes a free agent.
One appealing aspect of Dallas is the total level of talent on both sides. Tony Romo's offense includes playmakers like Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, as well as one of pro football's top-tier tight ends in Jason Witten. When healthy, DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones offer the team a talented two-back tandem.
Defensively, Rob Ryan's crew sports the NFL's best pass-rusher in DeMarcus Ware and a solid secondary led by Brandon Carr.
There's so much individual talent on Dallas that it's almost incomprehensible that Garrett has not gotten this team to another level. That is where Payton can really turn the Cowboys' fortunes around, as he is a more proven coach.
The lone downside is Jerry Jones. Jimmy Johnson lasted longer than any other head coach under Jones, and he was only around for five season. Parcells only stuck around for four. Longevity is key for any coach looking for his next gig, and Payton may not want to join a franchise where his future is far from secure.
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees is the major selling point for the Saints. Any time a coach can reunite with his quarterback, that chemistry cannot be matched. Brees is carrying the Big Easy so far in 2012, and we can only imagine the success if Payton were on the sidelines.
From a personnel standpoint, the Cowboys arguably offer more, since the defense alone is exponentially better than New Orleans'. In turn, Payton would not see opponents racking up so many yards and points.
Nonetheless, the Saints still bring as much explosiveness as Dallas if not more. Brees is obviously more consistent than Romo and the receiving weapons are quite reliable. No, New Orleans does not possess the ground-game potential like the Cowboys.
Then again, New Orleans doesn't run the ball and play-action is still relevant because of Brees' talent. Oh yeah, and there's no guy named Jerry Jones.
Which Is Better For Payton?
New Orleans is better for Payton, without question. Regardless of whatever comes to light throughout the course of the 2012 season, it would be shocking if he didn't wind back up with the Saints.
The Saints were Payton's first head-coaching job, and he has amassed a 5-3 postseason record in the Big Easy. He only had to suffer through one losing season in 2007, and New Orleans actually made it to the NFC title game in 2006—his first year at the helm.
Between 2009 and 2011, the Saints had a regular season record of 37-11 and won two NFC South division titles in that span. Provided Brees keeps the losses at bay as 2012 progresses, 2013 and beyond will hold even greater promise.
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