Sean Payton is still trying to figure out his next move, and has reached out to former NFL coach Bill Parcells for advice.
The Saints coach has been suspended for a year by the NFL for his role in New Orleans’ bounty program, effective this Sunday.
Parcells said on Monday he has spoken to Payton about how to handle the season — but nothing more. Asked if anyone in the Saints organization had talked to him about coaching the team in 2012, he said, “No.”
The coach who led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories was in Florida for spring training and spoke before the Mets’ game against the Cardinals.
Back in New Orleans, it is still unclear who will be on the sidelines next year.
The Saints have yet to announce their coaching plans, and Payton’s agent, Donald Yee, said “no decisions have been made about an appeal” by his client.
“Sean fully supports the league’s player safety goals,” Yee said. “Given this, he probably won’t address the entire league” when he arrives at the NFL owners meetings in Florida.
Saints spokesman Greg Bensel said Payton was expected to speak later this week at the meetings. NFC coaches are scheduled to meet the media Wednesday morning.
If Payton does address the media, it will be the first time he has done so since the suspension. He has issued two written statements apologizing for the bounty system.
The latest came Friday, when Payton took “full responsibility” for the program that operated for three years under his watch.
The fallout has rocked the Saints organization.
General manager Mickey Loomis, who will serve an eight-game suspension for the system that paid Saints players for big hits on targeted players. Former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been suspended indefinitely.
As for Payton, while his short-term role with the team remains somewhat in doubt, his long-term future with the club still appears secure.
In his latest written apology, Payton thanked team owner Tom Benson, his players and Saints fans “for their overwhelming support.”
Benson continues to back both Loomis and Payton, a person familiar with the situation has told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the Saints have made no announcements about Payton’s future.
Meanwhile, new lines of black-and-gold T-shirts which read: “Free Sean Payton,” and “Free Payton,” have hit stores. They are reminiscent of the “Free Edwin Edwards” T-shirts that came out after the popular former governor was convicted in a federal gambling corruption probe.
Players, too, have expressed support for their embattled coach. Starting right tackle Zach Strief has said the Saints owe it to Payton to live up to the standards he has set and win in his honor.
“This season is going to take on an us-versus-the-world mentality,” Strief said last week. “This team is going to come together closer than it has ever been and I think that we all feel like we have something to prove. We’re going to do our best to make this situation into a positive one.”
Should the Saints decide against going outside of the organization to find an interim coach, there are several candidates among current assistants to fill that role. They include offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
Spagnuolo is a former head coach, while Carmichael, who called the Saints’ offensive plays for much of last season, and Kromer, who has overseen one of the top offensive lines in the league, both have drawn interest in the past year from other teams looking for head coaching candidates.