Sean Payton says it was the right time to leave competition committee

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The NFL competition committee was shaken up this week with a few longtime members stepping down and others taking their place, and one of the departures included New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who said Friday that it was “the right time” for him to exit the influential group.

Still, Payton had time for a parting shot before changing the subject, adding: “I’ll leave it at that so I don’t get fined.”

It makes sense for Payton to distance himself from the competition committee. Made up of active team owners, head coaches, general managers, and personnel executives around the NFL, they’re also the ones responsible for the new and very unpopular emphasis on the taunting rule, which has resulted in more unsolicited airtime for the league’s referees and some game-changing decisions in emotional, high-stakes situations.

Maybe Payton was not as eager to embrace the change in emphasis as his peers, which results in a 15-yard penalty and potential fine for each instance. Earlier this season he likened the rule’s inconsistent usage across the league to other fouls, saying, “It’s kind of like roughing the passer, I don’t think all 17 crews are on the same page,” but he has otherwise declined to take a public stance on the issue. Whatever his reasons, he clearly feels strongly about his decision to step down.

For the curious, Payton was one of three executives to leave the committee along with Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy and Broncos president of football operations John Elway. They were replaced by Titans coach Mike Vrabel, Colts coach Frank Reich, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier, as well as Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn.

They now join a group that includes Falcons president Rich McKay (also the committee chairman), Cowboys executive vice president/CEO Stephen Jones, Giants owner John Mara, Ravens executive vice president Ozzie Newsome, Washington coach Ron Rivera, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.