The first domino has fallen. The New Orleans Saints locked up Sean Payton on Friday, just days before what should be one of the most frenzied weeks of coaching upheaval in NFL history.
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Fox Sports insider and NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported that Payton received a five-year deal. Financial terms weren't yet available, but they surely rival or exceed what any NFL head coach makes. The deal was a no-brainer for both sides.
Reports surfaced throughout the season that Payton could have been interested in the Dallas Cowboys' head-coaching job. Considering the presence of Tony Romo, Payton's close relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Payton's home in the Dallas area, the concept had merit. But when Glazer reported last week that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's job was safe, Payton's only other real option was taken off the market. Payton reportedly was going to keep his "options open" if he became a free agent, but what job could top New Orleans?
The Saints have one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Drew Brees. They have a phalanx of skill-position talent that fits Payton's scheme and knows it well. All the pieces are in place for continued success. Payton only would have been tempted to leave town for an absolute dream job. We don't see that job available on the market. Despite all the drama of the last year in New Orleans, the Saints and Payton know how lucky they are to have found each other.
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We never expected Payton to truly shop his services, but the removal of the biggest potential name from the head-coaching market underscores the lack of known quantities that will be available. There will be a lot of jobs available, and not a lot of big names or "known quantities" available to fill them.
That's not such a bad thing. Guys like Mike McCarthy, Mike Tomlin, Andy Reid, John Harbaugh and even Payton were relative unknowns before they got their chance. This feels like a time when a lot of young, cheap assistants will get their chances. Teams will have to take a leap of faith, like the Saints did on Payton in 2006.