Despite persistent rumors that Sean Payton would leave New Orleans at the end of the season, Payton will remain the head coach of the Saints. On Wednesday, Payton said that he doesn't see himself coaching anywhere but New Orleans.
"This is where I plan on coaching," Payton said. "I don't envision myself ever coaching for any other club."
Payton said that despite all of the reports that were circulating, teams actually did not reach out to his camp directly to discuss coaching vacancies, which would have been a violation of NFL protocol. Teams would have needed to go through the Saints to secure permission to speak to Payton.
The San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins had reportedly expressed interest in considering Payton for their head coaching vacancies, and it seemed possible that the New York Giants might throw their hat in the ring as well.
And in the end, it didn't matter, because Payton said New Orleans is where he wants to be, and he has no intention of ever leaving.
"Here I am and nothing's changing and I plan on finishing my career here," Payton said. "I think Zach Strief said it best last week: I'll be here as long as they'll have me."
The Saints are coming off a disappointing 7-9 finish, wrapping up their second consecutive losing season. Yet Payton was optimistic about their chances of bouncing back next year.
"I'm very clear and very happy and focused and excited about what's to come," Payton said.
New Orleans enjoyed its most successful run in franchise history under Payton, reaching the postseason five times and capturing its first ever championship with a 31-17 win over thein 44. Payton holds the highest winning percentage of any head coach in team history as well.
New Orleans' run of three straight seasons with double-digit wins came crashing to an end in 2012 when Payton was suspended for the entire year due to the Bountygate scandal. The NFL determined Payton knew about the alleged bounty scheme and attempted to cover it up. The four Saints players who were suspended for their supposed role in the scandal had their punishments vacated by former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue.
The Saints bounced back in 2013, going 11-5 with a perfect 8-0 record at home. They advanced to the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs before being eliminated by the Seattle Seahawks, who went on to win the Super Bowl.
With Payton established as the team's head coach heading into 2016, the Saints still face some uncertainty. The club's 88-year-old owner, Tom Benson, has spent the last couple of years mired in a legal battle over whether his children or new wife can gain control over his trust. A trial date for the trust fund has been set for 2016.
Quarterback Drew Brees also has just one year left on his contract, and he carries a cap hit of $30 million for the 2016 season. But Payton said it was "a good assumption" that Brees will be under center for New Orleans next season.
The Saints brought in Brees and Payton prior to the 2006 campaign, and they led the club to a 10-6 record and its first division title in six years. Despite the recent uncertainty about both Brees' and Payton's futures with the team, Brees sounded confident that both would return to New Orleans in 2016.
For now, he was at least right about Payton sticking around.
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