Here are the facts: Payton's reported contract extension last year never happened. The NFL didn't allow it because of a contract provision that would allow Payton to leave if general manager Mickey Loomis left town. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday night in Atlanta the ball is in the Saints and Payton's court. Nothing is settled. It's not even certain if Payton's contract will run through 2013.
Payton said he "plans" to coach in New Orleans next year, but we can't say that for sure right now. The biggest eyebrow raiser here is that the news came out at all. That doesn't happen by accident. The Saints clearly weren't happy that the story leaked. SI.com's Peter King sums it up well: "The fact that the story got out tells me a few things. It's no lock that Payton will stay a Saint; if it were, he'd have agreed to a rewritten deal by now."
The other big note here: Glazer reported Payton would become the highest-paid coach in the NFL. That's sending a message to the Saints and possible suitors. King writes that Payton would be an attractive candidate in quite a few places. But he zeroes in on the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
"If Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie fires Andy Reid at the end of the season, Payton, who coached quarterbacks in Philly in 1997 and '98, would be intriguing to him, and I believe Lurie would try hard to get him," King writes. "It's a Lurie kind of move, trying to head off Dallas at the pass and take the kind of jump with a playoff-ready team that would give them a chance to break out of their recent malaise."
This entire conversation is a little mind-blowing, but that's what happens when two NFC East "powers" combine for a 6-9 record this season. Jason Garrett and Andy Reid have half a season to change this script, but Payton is in the best position of all.
Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.