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Payton Should Not Be Involved in Saints’ Coaching Hire
COMMENTARY | Sean Payton has been suspended by the NFL for his role in Bountygate.
The ruling by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he cannot serve as head coach of the New Orleans Saints for one year. The Saints need to find a replacement coach to run the team in his absence.
Payton may be planning to appeal the ruling - Goodell has given him until April 2 to do so - but once he is suspended he should not be involved in any decision-making that will impact the team on the field this season. That includes naming his own successor.
That decision should be up to owner Tom Benson and soon-to-be suspended Mickey Loomis. The league won't impose Loomis's suspension until the start of the regular season, which means that Loomis will be able to run the team's draft and oversee its roster makeup through training camp. He will also be able to play a role in the hiring of the team's temporary head coach.
Payton should not be involved in the process. There have been reports that he has contacted his former mentor Bill Parcells since the suspension was announced. If Payton is talking to Parcells about how to handle a year away from the game, that would be fair and reasonable. If Payton is talking to Parcells about coming back and taking over his team for a year, that would be wrong and unseemly. Payton should not be involved in that decision.
It's not that Parcells couldn't come out of retirement one more time and do a competent job. In some ways, it might be ideal to bring Parcells in and give him a finite period of time to coach the team. Parcells, 71, often grows weary when he is in one place for too long. But a specific beginning and end point might allow him to stay fresh. That is a decision that Benson and Loomis should make on their own.
It's not simply a matter of making an offer to Parcells and having him put his signature on a contract. Goodell said at the owners' meeting in Palm Beach, Fla. that the Rooney Rule would need to be applied in this case and the Saints would have to interview a minority candidate. There's also the matter of current Saints assistant coaches. This is a near-impossible situation for those men. If the Saints were to go outside the organization and find a new candidate, those assistants would have to swallow a certain degree of resentment. If the Saints were to tap an assistant like new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, he would have to give up those duties once Payton returned and that might be quite difficult to do. Spagnuolo was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2009 through the end of the 2011 season when the team let him go.
Benson and Loomis are facing a difficult hiring decision. It should be only theirs to make - and Payton should not have anything to do with it. He forfeited that right with his role in Bountygate.
Steve Silverman has covered sports for more than 30 years. His work has been published by ESPN The Magazine, NFL.com, Pro Football Weekly, CBSChicago.com, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald. He has also written four sports-related books, including "Who's Better, Who's Best in Football?"
Chicago Tribune - Apologetic Payton thanks Saints, Benson for support
Fox Sports—Payton to meet with Parcells today
Pro Football Reference - Steve Spagnuolo
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