METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Regardless of the allure the Dallas Cowboys or some other franchises might have for a successful coach who commands top dollar, Drew Brees cannot envision Sean Payton coaching anywhere but New Orleans next season.
Brees said he does not believe money is what motivates Payton as much as the pride he takes in what he has built with the Saints, and the desire to parlay his accomplishments in New Orleans into more championships when he is re-instated following his one-season suspension in connection with the NFL's bounty probe.
"I'd be shocked if he wasn't here next year," Brees said after practice on Wednesday. "I have not even thought for a second that he wouldn't be here, honestly. Not even thought for a second."
Payton's contract status has been in doubt, at least publicly, since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed last month that the league had a problem with certain language in Payton's 2011 extension, which would have run through 2015. The clause in question allowed Payton to opt out early if general manager Mickey Loomis left the club for any reason.
Because Payton was a top offensive assistant in Dallas from 2003 to 2005 and has a good relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and because Payton's children live in the Dallas area, there has been widespread speculation that Payton could return to the Cowboys should current coach Jason Garrett be fired after this season.
Payton, suspended from last April through next February's Super Bowl, has not commented on his contract situation, and neither has his agent, Don Yee.
The terms of Payton's suspension also prevent him from talking with any NFL employee — with limited and pre-approved exceptions — and Brees said he has not been able to talk to Payton about next season.
Brees said he would be highly skeptical of any reports of Payton's departure from New Orleans until he hears it from the coach himself, particularly if those reports cite only anonymous "sources."
"We also know how the whole sources thing works, don't we?" Brees said. "Sources can pretty much say whatever you want them to say because you never really have to be accountable for it. Like I said, I'm not worried."
Brees' teammates largely echoed their quarterback's sentiments.
"What everybody thinks is that Sean will be back," Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "For right now, Sean Payton is our head coach. Just like a player has a contract that has to work out, there's going to be negotiations and that whole situation will play out."
This Sunday the Saints play in Dallas, where Garrett has been unable to avoid questions about his own future and the Payton speculation, despite the fact that the Cowboys are riding a five-game winning streak that has placed them firmly in playoff contention after a shaky 3-5 start.
"Certainly, as coaches and individuals, we have to live" with job uncertainty and speculation, Garrett said. "There is always a lot of stuff going on on the periphery."
"Sean is a great coach and good friend of mine. He has done a great job in this league for a long time," Garrett added. "I'm focused on doing my job as well as I can."
If Dallas can beat New Orleans this week and close out with a victory over the Redskins, the Cowboys would finish 10-6 and would be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, which might make it harder to for Jones to justify jettisoning Garrett. Jones has recently expressed confidence in Garrett in any event and credited him with how he has shepherded the team through the recent death of Cowboys practice squad player Jerry Brown in an auto accident.
"He's just a great communicator with his players and his colleagues," Jones said of Garrett. "I've seen in him that in trying circumstances that he can do good things. My hat's off and I give him a lot of credit for how we're playing right now."
Loomis and Saints owner Tom Benson could end the uncertainty by getting Payton locked into a new and perhaps more lucrative extension than the more than $6 million annually Payton would have earned had his 2011 deal gone through. And it remains to be seen whether they'll get a deal done before the league year ends a few weeks after the Super Bowl.
In the meantime, most Saints players said they'd spend their time worried about how to beat Dallas and Carolina in New Orleans' last two games.
"We would love to have Sean back, but that's out of our hands," running back Pierre Thomas said. "That's between Mickey, Mr. Benson, and him. That's not between us. We can't have any say-so in it."
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.