There’s a carnival taking place.
Whether it’s full of carnage or comfort remains has not been determined, but the carousal is going to have to spin itself out before anyone knows which direction to head.
And spinning it is. Nobody still seems to have an idea of what Sean Payton intends to do in the next few days. The New Orleans Saints coach was reported to have interest in San Francisco early Monday morning. And by the afternoon, those same people thought the New York Giants were the best fit. At some point, between those two, the Philadelphia Eagles were also said to be a job that might interest him.
That’s a convenient trifecta because it probably wouldn’t be difficult to find a flight going from one coast to another with a transfer in Philadelphia, but there’s been no first-hand indication Payton is interested in those cities or if he still feels like New Orleans is the best fit for him.
There’s a chance Payton doesn’t even know what he wants yet. His players certainly don’t have any idea if they’ll have a new head coach next season.
“I’ve been here awhile this morning to get my physical and all of that stuff, but mainly just seeing the guys and hanging in the locker room a little bit,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “The last time for a while, but again I have voiced this for the last few weeks: I am very hopeful that we are all going to be here, and we’re going to prepare ourselves to make a run at it for the next few years.”
Does defensive end Cam Jordan have a better feel for the situation?
“I know you asked Drew, and he’s probably closer to the answer than I am,” Jordan said.
So the answer, or at least the one being shared, is that there is no answer — or at least not one that has been made known to players. According to various reports, Payton did not address his future with his players while conducting exit interviews Monday morning.
He also did not share those intentions with the media. Though it was never listed on the itinerary distributed to the media, Payton was expected to conduct his final news conference of the year after meeting with his players. He will instead speak with reporters Wednesday afternoon.
Payton was also expected to meet with General Manager Mickey Loomis about his future at some point Monday. That is standard operating procedure at the conclusion of each season, but this meeting takes on greater importance since Payton’s plans are still being ironed out and extend beyond the typical scope of discussion.
There’s still as much of a possibility that Payton stays as that he goes. If the parties decide to split up, the big question would be what the Saints can expect to receive as compensation for letting him out of his contract.
The NFL Network and Fox Sports both reported the expected asking price will be a second-round pick. This didn’t sit well with many fans on social media who would like a larger bounty for Payton, who is considered one of the better coaches in the league, despite the struggles of the past two seasons.
It remains entirely possible the Saints will be able to shake down a team for better compensation. One way this could happen is if multiple teams get involved and drive the price up. It’s also possible that both reports are wrong and New Orleans is seeking much more.
But whatever it is, the package will likely come well short of what the fan base is expecting.
Those expectations were created by the haul the Oakland Raiders received from Tampa Bay in the 2002 trade for Jon Gruden. For letting Gruden out of his contract, Oakland received two first-round picks and two second-round picks as part of the package.
That trade, however, came after Gruden led Oakland to a conference title game, and Tampa Bay was in desperate need of a coach after being rebuffed by others. In many regards, it’s the outlier of coaching trades. It’s not the standard, much like the Ricky Williams trade isn’t the standard of draft trades.
More often, the compensation is much lower. Bill Belichick was worth a first-round pick when he left the New York Jets to join the Patriots after one day on the job in 2000. Marty Schottenheimer was worth two third-rounders when he left Kansas City for Washington in 2001, and Mike Holmgren was worth a second-round pick when he was traded from the Packers to the Seahawks in 1999.
Those deals, and many others with much lower compensation, are more in line with what can be expected. The hope of getting a major package of picks is also much more unlikely in today’s game since teams value draft picks more than ever.
It shouldn’t take long for this situation to play itself out.
Teams with openings are already lining up interviews. If Payton doesn’t reveal his intentions Wednesday, then there will certainly be a leak at some point if he starts meeting with other teams.