Sean Payton has been in this position before.
Over and over again. Five games into the regular season, Payton is the subject of coaching rumors once again, this time after an ESPN report Sunday that the Miami Dolphins and Indianapolis Colts are among a group of teams that will inquire about Payton’s availability after the season.
Payton, who batted down similar reports about a potential move last season, said his feelings on New Orleans haven’t changed.
“I don’t know what else to say,” Payton said. “I love it here, I’m close to my children. I bought, just built a brand-new house here. You get tired of answering the questions, and yet, I understand you asking. And I’ll say what I’ve said before: This is where I see myself, and I’ve said that now for however many years.”
Any move for Payton would require a new team to compensate the Saints in some way.
Payton is under contract for more than $8 million per year in New Orleans through the 2017 season.
But the Saints coach also said he understands why rumors and theories about the Saints’ future are swirling this early in the season.
“I think that happens when you’re in year 10 and you’re not having success,” Payton said. “There’s well, you know, ‘Is there another job he’d be interested in?’ My point is, if you predicted that every year, at some point, someone’s going to be right, whether you retire or you finish or you’re let go. I think that’s just a little bit the nature of our game right now.”
Beyond the Saints’ struggles the past two seasons, the prevailing theory is that any coach who spends a decade in the same city faces a law of diminishing returns, a challenge to keep things fresh.
Payton, who said he pays close attention to the details and changing things from year to year, also cites the NFL’s constant roster turnover as a built-in method to keep things from going stale.
The current 53-man roster in New Orleans has 22 players in their first year with the Saints.
“Yeah, there are times where I feel like, man, they’ve heard me say this before,” Payton said. “And then if I count how many in the room have really heard it, it’d probably be six or eight, not 48.”
Payton has been through the rumor cycle before. His name has been linked to the Dallas Cowboys more than once, including heavy speculation during his suspension in 2012. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King speculated that Payton might step down last December due to the “wanderlust” his mentor, Bill Parcells, always displayed. Payton’s name has even been mentioned in college circles recently, with reports linking to interest from Michigan and Texas.
“It’s hard after a while. I’m going into my 10th year here, ninth season, and you ignore half of that stuff and obviously dismiss it,” Payton said. “That comes up yearly now, not just every three or four years. That came up, shoot, my second, third, fifth, ninth, pick a year, and you’ve just got to make sure that the players, the coaches understand what the focus is. We talk about it all the time, tuning out the noise and not letting that become a distraction.”
Payton, at this point, would rather focus on how to pull the Saints out of a 1-4 start.
“What’ll happen is, the lead news item will be (these coaching rumors),” Payton said. “And it really shouldn’t be. It really should be more about why aren’t we having success, what do we need to do to improve, but that will sell, and I understand why and how.”