Sean Payton had barely stepped away from the New Orleans Saints before the rumors started swirling that the legendary coach could be headed to the Dallas Cowboys. Despite plenty of rumors, Payton shot down the speculation that the Cowboys had contacted him about potentially coaching the team next season.
During a January 27 interview on the Dan Patrick Show, Payton was asked if any teams had reached out about having a potential interest in switching sidelines. Payton shot down the idea before admitting two teams had reached out through back channels but added that the franchises would have to communicate with the Saints since he is still technically under contract.
“Not one [team]…well, they would have to reach out to the Saints,” Payton explained. “And look, you know this, you can have a back door [communication], ‘Hey, would you have any interest?’ That’s happened maybe with a couple clubs, but I’m not looking at that path right now. At some point, I don’t think I’m finished coaching, but I was excited to get two or three calls and texts from people in the television industry.”
Patrick speculated that the two teams were the Cowboys and Bears, but Payton denied that these were the two organizations.
Here is a look at Payton discussing his life since he stepped away from football.
ALL the latest Dallas Cowboys news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Cowboys newsletter here!
Payton’s Shadow Looms Over McCarthy, Says Analyst
ESPN’s Todd Archer noted that “Payton’s shadow will loom over Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy.” Archer suggested that the one way to quiet some of the speculation if for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to publicly squelch the rumors and officially back McCarthy, something he declined to do during his most recent January 21 interview on Dallas’ 105.3 the Fan.
“You don’t have to connect many dots to see Payton coaching the Cowboys, which is something Jones has thought long and hard about numerous times since losing Payton to New Orleans in 2006,” Archer explained on January 25.
“If Jones is going to be fundamentally fair to Mike McCarthy, he needs to make a trade for Payton — since the Saints still own his contractual rights — or come out and say McCarthy is his coach. That won’t end speculation, of course. But at least it squelches some of the talk between now and when the regular season starts.”
The Cowboys Nearly Traded for Payton in 2019: Report
The Cowboys may not have contacted Payton (yet), but the rumors are gaining steam because the team has been linked to the veteran coach in the past. Not only is Payton a former Cowboys assistant, but Jones nearly traded for the coach in 2019, per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. The NFL insider recounted the story in an excerpt from his new book “Playmakers: How the NFL Really Works (And Doesn’t).”
“It was a delicate situation, for various reasons,” Florio wrote about the 2019 negotiations between the Cowboys, Saints and Payton. “First, the Cowboys had a coach. Jones wouldn’t have fired Garrett unless he knew he could have gotten Payton. Second, league rules (specifically, the Rooney Rule) require a diverse and inclusive search. Third, Jones had to ultimately know that, after going through the motions of a search, he’d be able to get Payton.
“So a deal was worked out, behind the scenes. The Saints would have allowed the Cowboys to hire Payton. The Cowboys would have compensated the Saints for the rights to Payton’s contract. And Payton would have signed a new contract with the Cowboys.”
Ultimately, the Saints got cold feet on the deal, and the Cowboys stuck with Jason Garrett. One year later, the Cowboys opted not to bring back Garrett and hired McCarthy. Even if Payton holds fast on sitting out this season, fans can expect the rumors to heat up even more if the Cowboys struggle in 2022.
Follow Jonathan Adams (@JonDAdams) on Twitter for all the latest NFL rumors and Cowboys news!