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After his contract was quietly voided, suspended New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton will be the rarest of NFL commodities this offseason — a star free agent coach.Despite Payton’s insistence that he’ll stay in New Orleans, there are already rumblings about other potential teams making a run at him.
The Cowboys are the most obvious suitor since Payton lives in Dallas, the Cowboys are struggling, and Jerry Jones has deep pockets.
But the Eagles, Chargers, and Chiefs are all in the mix as well.
Basically, whether Payton wants to admit it or not, there’s going to be a bidding war.
In a league where good coaches never, ever hit the open market, this is a huge deal.
Even more so than talent, coaching is probably the most significant indicator of success in the NFL. Almost every year we see a new coach turn a bad team into a good team, despite having the same roster as the previous coach.
A good coach — Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, Payton — can elevate a franchise and put it on a track of indefinite success in a way that no player ever could.
So why aren’t coaches sought-after the same way players are?
Right now, NFL head coaches stay with their respective teams until they’re fired or they retire. No coach tries to test the market when they’re contract is up, ever.
In a roundabout way, Payton will be a test case for what happens when a respected, active head coach is available to the highest bidder. No one knows how his free agency will play out, but if it results in him becoming the highest-paid coach in the NFL, it’ll represent a new era for NFL coaching — where hot coaches no longer passively accept whatever contract extension they’re offered, and instead actively try to get the best deal.
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