The New Orleans Saints continue to feel the ripple effect of the bounty case. After former head coach Sean Payton's long-term contract was voided by the NFL over the weekend, speculation has been running wild about his status as a free agent after the 2012 season is completed and his suspension is over.
The Dallas Cowboys are the best fit for Payton should he choose the free-agent path.
It's been a rough few months for football in New Orleans. News of losing Payton has to hurt. Coupled with the injuries to key players and 2-5 record heading into Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, this is a year the team will try to wipe from the record book.
New Orleans' poor start will only continue to pour fuel on the Payton return, but with his options now open, there is officially no way to pencil him in to roam the Superdome sidelines on the opening weekend of 2013
The contract that was voided originally would have placed him with Tom Benson and New Orleans until 2015. Now, he'll be looking for work upon completion of this season, even if that work is to remain in New Orleans.
His current team faces a bit of a conundrum. Even with his expressed desire to return in 2013, there's no guarantees from a financial stature or depending upon the direction this team chooses to go to get out of this bounty scandal shadow.
When looking at all the pieces, Dallas makes the most sense for the one-time Super Bowl winning head coach.
From 2003-2005, he worked under Bill Parcells for the Dallas offense, becoming one of the hottest commodities at the head coaching position. New Orleans grabbed him to start the 2006 season and immediately helped Drew Brees and the Saints to the playoffs after the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
He has a relationship with both owner/GM Jerry Jones and current QB Tony Romo. His estranged wife and children still live in Texas, and he is currently working with his son's sixth grade football team, per a report by CBS's Mike Fisher.
To make things more interesting, Dallas media is turning up the heat on current Cowboy coach Jason Garrett. Just 16-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach, Garrett failed to win again in Week 9, as the Cowboys came up short on the road against the Atlanta Falcons.
ESPN Dallas' Jean-Jacques Taylor sees the need to let Garrett go, especially now that Jones has a legitimate coaching option in Payton. But Jones, always content with what he's put on the field despite the results, has denied all speculation so far.
"It's just totally, not anything to do with the Cowboys or our team at all," Jerry said of Payton's contract status. "I put those kinds of things, are beyond me."
Others in a position of knowledge also suggest that Garrett being fired is pure nonsense. One of those writers is Cowboys columnist Jeff Sullivan.
Going to say this once: Sean Payton is not coaching the Cowboys next season, as in 0.0 percent. Jason Garrett will 100 percent be back.— Jeff Sullivan (@SullyBaldHead) November 4, 2012
Additionally, Jones continues to give Garrett more room for error than any other coach in the NFL. He has just a .500 record in what has to be one of America's most demanding franchises, yet Jones' comments after a loss that dropped his team to 3-5 beg to differ. Here's what he had to say, per ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins.
"Oh, I have a lot of faith in Jason," Jones said. "I think Jason's future is ahead of him. I know how hard he works. I like his philosophy, so I've got a lot of faith, a lot of confidence. One of the brightest spots I see is our head coaching and our coaching in the future."
Jones is an eccentric man. But for him to believe that the head coaching has a bright future is beyond even him. (Or the other him.)
The Cowboys offense hasn't been able to win games late. The defense can't stop people when it counts. On multiple occasions, the clock management has been poor, and he's still having problems with Dez Bryant.
Winning is the only thing that will fix the problem at head coach for the Cowboys. The rotating door will continue to function until this team can turn it around with a deep playoff run. Even then, the coach will likely be on year-to-year hot seat watch.
So it goes with America's Team.
Sean Payton has one of the best shots to succeed in that system. His familiarity with the roster, the holdover players from the early 2000s and the no-nonsense attitude of a city like New Orleans will all be traits many other head coaches can't boast.
The relationship between he and Jones will also be important, though I doubt Jerry could convince anyone he'll take a back seat any time soon. If Jerry was to lure Payton away from New Orleans, he would have to both completely lose credibility by firing Garrett and then offering Payton enough money to relocate.
It's a long shot for Dallas. But with the team at a pedestrian 3-5 and an improbable win streak the only thing from keeping the Cowboys from going another year without a postseason berth, it's time to start thinking outside the box.
If Jones has a chance to turn his back on Garrett and go after Sean Payton, he should do it.
If that doesn't work, maybe we'll finally see the league's first head coach/general manager/owner. Admit it; you've seen stranger in the Jerry Jones era.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team.
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