Sean Payton

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.

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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.

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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.

NFC South Notes: Payton, Brees, Quinn

The extension that Saints head coach Sean Payton signed last month is a whopper. Payton was making $9MM per year under his previous contract, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes that the offensive guru will now be pulling down around $13MM per season. That deal is one of the largest among coaches of North American professional sports, and it obviously will put an end to speculation concerning Payton’s long-term future in the Big Easy.

Now for more from the NFC South, starting with the other face of the Saints:

  • Drew Brees is throwing a football again, as shown on a video that the Saints star posted on Instagram. Brees managed to avoid a trip to the IR, and last week we learned that he is making progress in his recovery from thumb surgery. New Orleans is 2-0 with Brees’ backup, Teddy Bridgewater, at the helm, and the club will try to make that 3-0 against Tampa Bay this afternoon. Previous reports suggested that Brees could return for the club’s November 10 matchup with the Falcons.
  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is on the hot seat, and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk says an Atlanta loss to the Texans today could expedite Quinn’s ouster. After all, a loss would drop the team to 1-4, and with difficult games against the Rams and Seahawks following the Falcons’ matchup with the Cardinals next week, Atlanta could be looking at a 2-6 record after the first half of the season. Atlanta has three former head coaches on its staff — offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, and receivers coach Raheem Morris — and owner Arthur Blank may be thinking about putting one of them in charge to finish out the season if Quinn can’t right the ship immediately.
  • Greg Auman of The Athletic observes that the Buccaneers could be in line for a third-round compensatory pick to offset the loss of Kwon Alexander in free agency and a fourth-rounder to offset the loss of Adam Humphries. As it currently stands, Tampa Bay signed enough outside free agents to negate those compensatory picks, but given that some of those free agents are underperforming (or barely playing), the Bucs could cut them loose prior to Week 9 to put themselves back on track for the compensatory selections. That means that Deone Bucannon, Breshad Perriman, and Bradley Pinion could all be in danger of being cut.

Saints, Sean Payton Agree To Extension

The Saints and head coach Sean Payton have agreed to a five-year extension, according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Prior to the new deal, Payton was in Year Four of a five-year, $45MM deal. 

The financial terms of the new deal are not yet known, but it’s likely that Payton has received a bump over his previous $9MM/year salary. The 55-year-old coach will now be tied to the Saints past the age of 60, lining him up to retire in New Orleans.

In recent years, several teams have made overtures towards Payton, including the Cowboys, where Payton previously cut his teeth. As the Saints’ head coach, Payton has coached his way to a 119-74 overall record, including one Super Bowl ring.

This year, he’s aiming for more jewelry in his 13th season on the sidelines for the Saints.

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Saints, Sean Payton Agree To Five-Year Extension

The Saints and head coach Sean Payton have agreed to a five-year extension, per Jay Glazer of FOX Sports (Twitter link). Payton was already under contract through 2020, and it sounds as though his extension will replace the final year of his prior deal. Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports that Payton will now be under club control through 2024 (Twitter link).

Although salaries for coaches are generally not officially disclosed, Payton was already believed to be one of the highest-paid coaches in the game, with multiple sources suggesting he was pulling down an annual income of about $9MM. It could be that his new contract will also increase his compensation.

And for good reason. Payton has compiled a 119-74 regular season record since he was hired in 2006, and though he has had the distinct privilege of working with Drew Brees since that time, he has developed some elite offensive units during his tenure. He is the winningest HC in franchise history, and he coached the Saints to their only Lombardi Trophy in 2009. Like Brees, Payton came to New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so Saints fans are especially fond of him.

After three straight 7-9 finishes from 2014-16, Payton has righted the ship with back-to-back division titles. Though Saints fans don’t need to be reminded, his club came within a missed PI call of advancing to Super Bowl LIII last season.

The Saints have captured five NFC South titles during Payton’s tenure and have qualified for the playoffs seven times. This extension should also quiet the Payton-to-Dallas rumors that have persisted for some time.

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Sean Payton Downplays Cowboys Rumors

It has been long speculated that the Cowboys will target Saints head coach Sean Payton as a replacement for Jason Garrett. Payton, of course, has heard the chatter, but he’s doing his best to downplay the rumors. 

I’m in my 13th year. I don’t know how to answer it,” Payton said (via Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune). “I feel like it’s every other year; it’s on the odd number years, so 2019 it comes up and then we’ll hear it in 2021…I’ve got fleur-de-lis tattoos that can’t be erased!

Payton is right – the Cowboys speculation will probably continue, unless Garrett manages to guide the Cowboys to a Super Bowl victory in the near future. And, even though 40-year-old quarterback Drew Brees hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, his retirement may not be too far off. When that happens, some believe that Payton will follow him out the door.

Still, Payton didn’t blink when asked if he plans on staying in New Orleans.

That’s clearly the plan,” said Payton.

Last year, the Saints finished out with a 13-3 record for the third time under Payton’s watch. The Saints managed to top the Eagles in their Divisional Round showdown but fell to the Rams in a controversial NFC Championship Game loss.

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Latest On Saints, Bridgewater, Tannehill

The Saints have been linked to both Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Tannehill as they search for a backup quarterback, and we have updates on both situations.

Bridgewater is reportedly deciding between deals from both New Orleans and Miami, but he may have concerns about head coach Sean Payton‘s longevity with the Saints. Payton has long been linked to a potential opening with the Cowboys, and Bridgewater may not be interested in re-signing with New Orleans if Payton isn’t going to be around, per Clarence Hill of the Star Telegram (Twitter link).

Meanwhile, Tannehill has been floated as a potential replacement if Bridgewater doesn’t re-sign with the Saints, but that may not be likely. A source tells Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (Twitter link) there’s “no way” Tannehill lands in New Orleans. New Orleans assistant general manager Jeff Ireland originally drafted Tannehill in Miami.

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