Sean Payton rules out coaching Cowboys, if taken at his word

·6 min read

There’s been no more recent, hit-home example that while someone might sincerely mean something they say when they say it, factors can change minds. Money is the primary culprit of such wishy-washiness. When Texas native and longtime Eagle offensive lineman Jason Peters represented the bird brains, sorry, the team with birds stenciled on each of their head gears, he wasn’t complimentary of the Cowboys. In fact, he called them an arrogant organization as recently as November 2018. That arrogance was later warmly referred to as swagger once he was donning the star instead of an avian logo.

So it’s in that light, directly shining on the personnel dealings of the Cowboys’ organization, that former Saints head coach Sean Payton’s recent statements must be inspected. Payton indicated he is eyeing a return to the coaching ranks in 2023, but the conditions he set forward would absolutely eliminate Dallas from any list of teams he’d consider, even if the job currently held by Mike McCarthy did become available.

The history

There’s never been a shortage of links between Payton and a potential gig in Dallas. The former Bill Parcells’ assistant was out the building when The Tuna left the organization, already building his resume in New Orleans. Payton spent 16 years as the man in New Orleans after three seasons as assistant coach in Dallas.

Throughout those 16 years, Payton has often been linked to returning to Dallas and it’s always seemed to precede a new, bigger contract to remain the coach of the Saints. His, like the agents of several players, has always been able to leverage the possibility of heading to Dallas to exact more financial compensation from the preferred employer. Payton keeping his Texas property has only helped fuel the flames he’d want to return one day.

Comparing McCarthy to Payton

As Payton has continued to be linked to Dallas, a natural comparison between his resume and that of McCarthy emerged. While McCarthy was let go in Green Bay after the relationship between he and Aaron Rodgers deteriorated, Payton walked away from the Saints of his own volition. When that occurred this past offseason, on the heels of Dallas’ early playoff exit, the comparisons popped up again. Here, David Howman of Blogging The Boys crystalized just how similar their resumes were despite the perception of Payton being a better option.

The Dolphins situation

During the offseason, the speculation was rampant that teams were aware Payton planned to step down from the Saints. The continuous connection between he and the Cowboys led many to believe it was Dallas who was trying to gauge whether he would come on to be their coach, replacing McCarthy.

Dallas denied it, and the team that emerged as the primary suitor were the Miami Dolphins, who were punished by the league for trying to lure he and Tom Brady as a package deal.

The aftermath

Payton ended up joining Fox Sports as an analyst for the 2022 season. His coaching career is still technically in the hands of the Saints, as any team interested in hiring him will have to work out some level of compensation to his former employers. However even with the new gig, Payton has indicated he’s interested in returning to the league as a head coach.

But if his words are to be believed, it’s hard to see the Cowboys as that destination.

What he said

Payton recently joined the New Orleans.Football podcast and said he would be interested in returning to coaching in the very near future. Under what conditions? He laid out the criteria, as transcribed by ESPN.

“The most important element is functional ownership [and] front office … because there’s a handful of teams that aren’t, and those teams, regardless of what takes place, they can win on Sunday but they have trouble winning long term,” he said. “The opportunity to win consistently and the willingness to build the correct culture and all those things.”

The analysis

If Cowboys fans are being honest with themselves, Dallas is the exact team Payton is described here. Functional ownership and front office… welp. The Jones family enjoys being in the spotlight and being the fact of the franchise where other ownership groups prefer to just make their money in the background. While Will McClay (director of player personnel) has done an excellent job navigating the draft, the Cowboys have only sparingly used the other two tools of talent acquisition (free agency and the trade market).

The most important takeaway though is what Payton said next:

“regardless of what takes place, they can win on Sunday but they have trouble winning long term.”

That’s Dallas, ladies and gentlemen.

Dallas hasn’t made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since right after Payton left, in 2006 and 2007. That was under two different head coaches; the final season of Parcells and the first season under Wade Phillips.

Since 2007 they’ve made the playoffs in five seasons and missed out entirely in nine seasons. They’ve never won more than a single playoff game in any of those years.

“The opportunity to win consistently and the willingness to build the correct culture and all those things.”

The culture in Dallas is defined by the Joneses. It’s a culture where the owner will publicly fawn over the possibility of a quarterback controversy should his backup perform well, when saying less would suffice. Jerry Jones couldn’t seemingly let the reigns go for more than a few years when Parcells had a my-way-or-highway approach and it would be foolish to think that Payton is unaware of those issues.

So when he says things as he did in this interview, it doesn’t have to mean he was speaking directly about the Cowboys; but it also doesn’t mean they don’t fit the description.

The caveat

Regardless of that, though, people do change their mind. When the right situation comes along, when the right amount of new evidence is presented, people can and often do switch their stance. Peters is one example, but there are countless others.

So despite Payton’s description of the teams he wouldn’t want to lead fitting Dallas, never say never.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire