For interview purposes, NFL is treating Sean Payton as if he’s still working for the Saints

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The report that the Broncos have received permission to interview former Saints coach Sean Payton came with a confusing, and unexplained, caveat. No one can conduct an in-person interview of Payton until January 17.

The way it was couched in the initial reporting — “the NFL ruled that any in-person interview with Payton cannot be conducted until at least January 17″ — suggested that there was some sort of brouhaha, controversy, and/or rigmarole that placed the issue on the desk of the Commissioner, with January 17 being a date pulled out of thin air to resolve some disagreement. To the contrary, the league applied its current rules regarding in-person interviews of coaches currently employed by other teams.

The rule prohibits in-person interviews of coaches employed by other teams until the wild-card round concludes. It concludes this year on January 16. Thus, coaches currently employed by other teams can be interviewed in person on January 17.

This also means that the league concluded Payton would be treated as a coach currently employed by the Saints. Which makes sense, given that the Broncos would have to compensate the Saints, if Payton eventually is hired.

The fact that the NFL regards Payton as still being employed by the Saints creates an interesting wrinkle. If the Saints drive too hard of a bargain when it comes to compensation to be made by a team that Payton decides he wants to coach, Payton holds the ultimate trump card. He could say to the Saints, “Fine. I’ll be back to work tomorrow. What time should I show up?”

It surely won’t come to that, given Payton’s close friendship with G.M. Mickey Loomis. But it underscores the unusual nature of this situation. Payton’s contractual rights are held by the Saints, but he’s not actually working for the Saints. If the Saints make it too hard for Payton to work for another team, then why not go back to work for the Saints, get “fired,” and walk away free and clear?

Again, it won’t come to that. But that makes it more likely that a fair, win-win solution will emerge, once Payton finds his next team.

For interview purposes, NFL is treating Sean Payton as if he’s still working for the Saints originally appeared on Pro Football Talk