Sean Payton

This Date In Transactions History: Saints Extend HC Sean Payton

On this date in 2019, Sean Payton got a significant pay bump and commitment from the New Orleans Saints. On September 15, 2019, the head coach inked a new five-year deal with the organization.

Payton, a former QB-turned-coach, spent a few years as Giants offensive coordinator and Cowboys assistant head coach before securing the head coaching job in New Orleans in 2006. Payton’s first three years at the helm left a bit to be desired; the Saints had only one playoff appearance and went 25-23 between the three campaigns. However, the Saints finally broke through in 2009, winning 13 games en route to a Super Bowl championship.

The Saints remained a contender through 2013 (although Payton wasn’t with them in 2012 thanks to a suspension). While the team underwhelmed and went 7-9 each season between 2014 and 2016, Payton and the team managed to rehabilitate their image and rejoin the class of the NFC. The Saints won 24 games between 2017 and 2018, leading to Payton’s extension in 2019.

While Payton’s previous deal paid him around $9MM per season, this new extension was estimated to be worth up to a whopping $13MM annually, making the Saints leader one of the highest-paid head coaches in professional sports history. Payton’s deal was originally set to end following the 2020 season, but the extension (which ripped up the final year of the former deal) kept the head coach in New Orleans through at least 2024.

Perhaps more importantly, the extension kept Payton away from one of the Saints’ NFC foes. Since Payton joined the Saints, the Cowboys made multiple attempts to recruit the coach back to Dallas. Even then, the extension didn’t do much to stop them; the Cowboys reportedly reached out to Payton about their head coaching vacancy in 2019 (which VP Stephen Jones later denied).

While the Saints have been unable to return to the Super Bowl, Payton has still managed to keep the organization relevant. After inking his extension, the head coach guided his team to a 13-3 record in 2019 and a 12-4 record in 2020. There’s some uncertainty about the organization’s ability to compete in the post-Drew Brees era. However, thanks in part to the extension signed on this date in 2019, the Saints brass can rest easy knowing that they have one organizational pillar signed long term.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Saints, Michael Thomas Working To Resolve Issues

Continuing his downward trajectory from last season, Michael Thomas is expected to miss a chunk of the Saints’ 2021 campaign due to a late-offseason ankle surgery. The All-Pro wide receiver then sent out a tweet seemingly aimed at the Saints’ reaction to his medical decision, adding smoke to this simmering situation.

But cooler heads may prevail here. Thomas and Sean Payton met recently to discuss comments each made about this situation, according to Yahoo.com’s Charles Robinson. Prior to Thomas’ tweet, Payton said he would have preferred his top wideout undergo surgery earlier this year in order to be ready for the season. The issue of Thomas ignoring Saints calls this offseason surely came up as well.

Both parties do not want this situation to escalate further, Robinson adds. This would be good news for the Saints, who are moving from one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history to a far less certain option under center. A Thomas trade would carry a significant dead-money charge as well.

Although other teams have moved past dead-money bloodbaths to separate from players — as in the cases of the Steelers (Antonio Brown), Rams (Jared Goff) and Eagles (Carson Wentz) — the Saints have depended on Thomas as their top target for years. They moved on from Emmanuel Sanders this offseason and do not have much behind Thomas in the way of reliable weaponry. Separating from the two-time All-Pro would leave Jameis Winston and/or Taysom Hill at an extreme disadvantage upon taking over for Drew Brees.

Thomas’ trade value has plummeted as well. Since he shattered the NFL single-season reception record, with 149 in 2019, the Ohio State product has run into injury issues on multiple fronts and was suspended for a game for fighting with teammate Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. The past year has affected Thomas’ standing around the league, with two GMs expressing to Robinson a belief the receiver’s trade value has fallen to the point no first-round pick could be attached in a deal without protections. Another GM, however, added that a healthy Thomas would bring back a package of a first-round pick and change, which would be similar to the haul Stefon Diggs fetched last year. Since Thomas is not currently healthy, this is a moot point.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Zach Strief To Join Saints’ Coaching Staff

After playing 12 seasons with the Saints, Zach Strief will return to the organization as a coach. The Saints are hiring Strief as their assistant offensive line coach, according to WWL Radio.

Strief has worked with WWL as a play-by-play announcer in New Orleans since retiring in 2018, but he will join Sean Payton‘s staff. Previous Saints assistant O-line coach Brendan Nugent is expected to take another position on staff, Mike Triplett of ESPN.com tweets.

Part of Payton’s first Saints draft class, as a seventh-round pick in 2006, Strief only played in New Orleans during his NFL career. After serving as a fill-in starter early in his career, Strief became a full-timer at right tackle in the 2010s. He spent six-plus seasons as the Saints’ regular right tackle, with knee injuries in 2017 ending that run.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sean Payton Cleared From COVID-19

Sean Payton revealed March 19 he tested positive for COVID-19. The longtime Saints coach received good news nearly two weeks later. Doctors have cleared Payton of the coronavirus, he announced Wednesday.

The 56-year-old coach said he was cleared six days ago. Payton represented the NFL’s first scare related to this virus, which has paused the sports world and altered the way of life in hundreds of countries. Payton was tested March 16 and said (via Jarrett Bell of USA Today) his symptoms reached their worst point around two weeks ago.

You fatigue real easy,” Payton said of this period. “I’d be up moving around, doing something, then you’d want to lay down again. That lasted three or four days. By the time I got the test results back I had begun feeling better. I had my appetite back.”

When Payton was diagnosed, the U.S. had confirmed less than 12,000 coronavirus cases. As of Wednesday afternoon, that number has climbed past 211,000. It is unlikely Payton’s positive test will be the only one to affect the NFL, but this obviously represents good news.

The 15th-year New Orleans coach took time away from football responsibilities but returned to work (remotely) Monday. The Saints are building their draft board and will hold their war room at a New Orleans bar, Larry Holder of The Athletic tweets.

Despite the dire revised COVID-19 predictions released by the White House on Tuesday, the NFL still plans to go ahead with the draft as planned — though, the event will unfold in a far different fashion — and as of now is planning to begin the regular season on time with fans in stadiums. OTAs and minicamp remain on hold but are unlikely to commence this year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sean Payton Tests Positive For Coronavirus

Saints head coach Sean Payton has tested positive for coronavirus (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter). Payton is the first NFL figure, that we know of, to test positive for COVID-19. Unfortunately, given the rapid spread of the virus, he might not be the last.

The longtime coach did not feel well Sunday and took a coronavirus test Monday, Schefter reports. He did not receive the results until Thursday afternoon. Payton said he has no fever or cough, per Schefter, but is resting at home.

Payton says that he is going public with his diagnosis in order to stress the importance of taking proper precautions against the virus. He wants people to stay inside, behave responsibly, and follow government protocols as the world looks to keep a lid on the pandemic.

This is not just about social distancing,” Payton told ESPN. “It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.

I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have. I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”

Payton, 56, is set to enter his 14th season as the Saints’ head coach. A Super Bowl-winning head coach, Payton ranks fifth among active NFL HCs with 131 wins and 27th all time. He has overseen eight of the Saints’ nine playoff victories.

As the NBA, NHL and college basketball halted their seasons — with March Madness being canceled — the NFL opted to proceed with free agency. The league went against several anonymous executives’ wishes on that front. The NFL has, however, nixed pre-draft visits and shut down team facilities. Free agents are not allowed to visit teams. Payton’s positive test may serve as an ominous sign for the league, which has also postponed OTAs.

As of midday Thursday, the United States has seen nearly 12,000 coronavirus cases. That number has multiplied steadily over the past several days. Those days have doubled as some of the strangest in the history of American sports.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Sean Payton Expects Delayed Start To Offseason

In an interview with Britney Eurton at Oaklawn Park (a horseracing track), Saints head coach Sean Payton expressed skepticism that the new league year would begin as scheduled given the current status of COVID-19. “Most immediately the start of our league year… that’s going to be, I think, pushed back.” Payton currently serves on the NFL’s competition committee and is one of the most highly respected coaches in the league.

ESPN’s Dianna Russini asked Payton to clarify his comments and reported that Payton reiterated “‘he is not sure, but thinks it will be delayed.'” While that is obviously far from any official word from the league, the fact that one of the top decision makers in one of the league’s most successful organizations is publically expecting a delay does not bode well for the calendar to continue following business as usual.

Payton’s comments do conflict with some earlier reports that suggested the league still planned to start free agency as planned while delaying other offseason events that involved more travel and in-person interaction (like the draft).

A delay would move everyone into unprecedented territory and it’s unclear how any delays would impact free agents, players currently under contract, and draft prospects, but the league is clearly bracing (much like the rest of the world) for circumstances we have never seen before.

Cowboys Deny Reaching Out To Sean Payton

The Cowboys have long been connected to Saints head coach Sean Payton and those rumblings have picked up once again this season, along with speculation about Jason Garrett‘s job security. A recent report indicated that the Cowboys expressed interest in Payton through backchannels last offseason, but VP Stephen Jones flatly denied that in an interview on Monday. 

That’s just untrue,” Jones said. “Obviously we don’t comment on rumors like that. Obviously our focus right now is beating the Eagles. Certainly, everyone knows what we think of Jason. I do think we’ve been criticized to a fault for what we do think of him. He just did a great job getting this team back on track yesterday and we’re focused on beating the Eagles.”

The Cowboys kept their playoff hopes alive with an emphatic 44-21 win over the Rams, bringing them back to the .500 mark. With a win over the Eagles on Sunday, the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East and punch their ticket to the postseason. A loss, meanwhile, would put them on the ropes and place the Eagles in the driver’s seat – an Eagles win on Sunday coupled with a Week 17 victory over the lowly Giants would allow the bird to fly away with the divisional crown.

Sunday’s game will be critical to the Cowboys’ 2019 season and could dictate the future of Garrett. While the Cowboys sweat things out, Payton’s Saints will march their way into the playoffs behind yet another NFC South title – and, possibly, a first round bye.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Rumors: Rhule, Meyer, Jets

Despite reports connecting the Cowboys to Lincoln Riley and Urban Meyer, team owner Jerry Jones on Saturday downplayed the notion that he would pursue a college coach this offseason. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says Jones remains interested in Riley, and he is also paying close attention to Baylor head coach Matt Rhule.

Rhule was a hot name on the NFL head coaching circuit last year and reportedly could have had the Jets’ job if he agreed to certain appointments to his coaching staff. He signed an eight-year extension with Baylor in September, but pro teams are still interested in him. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network shot down recent speculation that the Cowboys would pursue Sean Payton, but he says Dallas made it known through back channels last offseason it was interested in the Saints’ HC, which helped Payton land his extension with New Orleans in September (video link).

Now for more from the league’s east divisions:

  • The Cowboys may not be the only team interested in Meyer. As JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington tweets, Meyer is at FedEx field for the Redskins‘ contest against the Eagles today, and Washington would love to land Meyer as its next HC. Meyer, of course, served as Dwayne Haskins‘ head coach at Ohio State, but it seems like the Redskins don’t really meet Meyer’s criteria for coming out of retirement.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com expects the Jets to overhaul 50% of their roster this offseason, and he unsurprisingly names Brian Winters and Quincy Enunwa as two of the big-name players who could be cut. He also says that, if New York retains Le’Veon Bell, it should bring in another RB with the speed to run outside the tackles.
  • Though the Patriots just cut kicker Josh Gable two days after adding him to the practice squad, head coach Bill Belichick suggested that Gable could be back in 2020 as possible competition for Stephen Gostkowski, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says Patriots D-line coach Bret Bielema, a former collegiate head coach with Wisconsin and Arkansas, is generating interest from college teams. Bielema is said to be open to such an opportunity if the right one presents itself.
  • The NFL’s decision on the Patriots‘ punishment for Spygate 2.0 is expected shortly.

NFC East Notes: Manning, Redskins, Cowboys

Giants QB Eli Manning said back in April that he wants to continue playing in 2020, and as Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com writes, the soon-to-be 39-year-old has not deviated from that stance. Manning, who was benched in favor of rookie Daniel Jones following New York’s Week 2 loss to Buffalo, is slated to start for the Giants on Monday night due to Jones’ ankle injury. And, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, Jones’ injury could force him to miss 2-4 weeks, so Manning could end up finishing out the season for Big Blue.

Manning’s contract with the Giants expires at the end of the year, and he knows he will need to go elsewhere if he wants to continue playing. However, he doesn’t want to just collect a paycheck, he wants to start, and he wants to start for a team that has at least some chance of cracking the postseason. Given that the 2020 QB market could be unusually strong, Manning may have a tough time finding such an opportunity, though his odds of doing so would improve dramatically if he plays well down the stretch.

Now for more from the NFC East:

  • The Redskins will be looking for a new HC this offseason, and Albert Breer of SI.com says several high-profile candidates have told Washington they will not go there if the structure of the organization does not change. It’s unclear exactly what that means, though head of football operations Bruce Allen would definitely scare away some candidates if he remains. Redskins owner Dan Snyder is considering parting ways with Allen, and he may have to do even more to attract the type of big-name coach that he is looking for.
  • The Cowboys have real interest in Urban Meyer as their next head coach, and Jon Machota of The Athletic offers a list of candidates that Dallas should take a look at. Meyer is at the top of the list, and despite the fact that the Saints just gave Sean Payton a healthy extension, Machota expects Jerry Jones to “try anything possible” to bring Payton to Dallas. Machota also names the recently-fired Ron Rivera as a possibility, though Rivera will surely attract plenty of interest from other clubs in need of an HC.
  • Redskins RB Derrius Guice is believed to have suffered an MCL sprain during Sunday’s loss to the Packers, and he may be done for the season.
  • Giants DL Leonard Williams believes he should be paid “top-tier money,” and if he doesn’t get it from New York, he is prepared to test the open market in 2020.