Palm Beach, Fla. – Sean Payton has regularly sought out advice from his mentor, former head coach Bill Parcells. The Saints head coach, who has been suspended for a year over his role in the team’s prohibited bounty program, may not ask for more than just advice from Parcells.
Payton is set to meet with Parcells today and may ask if he’s interested in coaching the Saints until Payton returns. Payton also said he will know within a few days whether he will appeal his suspension. Regardless of who coaches the team in his absence, Payton said he is “100 percent certain” he will be back as head coach in 2013.
The decision on Payton’s replacement will include input from him, general manager Mickey Loomis, who was suspended for the first eight games of the season, and team owner Tom Benson.
“We've gone through just an early, between Mickey, myself, Mr. Benson, just an early synopsis of what our options would be," Payton said. "We'll continue to do that when we get back to Metairie. Fortunately, we feel like we've got a number of good candidates. The trick then is what it does to affect their roles that they currently have.”
Among the in-house candidates who could coach the team in Payton’s absence: offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer. Parcells is an intriguing choice, though, and the 70-year-old former head coach didn’t completely dismiss the idea in an interview on Monday. Parcells, who said he has turned down two previous opportunities to be a head coach after he stepped down as the Cowboys coach after the 2006 season, said he didn’t want to speculate on what he called a “hypothetical” situation with the Saints. Payton joined Parcells’ staff in Dallas in 2003.
"You're asking me what are his great strengths?" Payton said. "And I would say to you he's a great teacher. Certainly I'm biased, having worked with him. But he's a Hall of Fame head coach. And I would also say there's some things probably set up in the framework of our program that would be exactly how he would have set those things up had he been the head coach here in '06. So there's some carry-over that way."
Payton said this would be the first time he will have missed a season in 39 years of playing and coaching.
“You go through a range of emotions that kind of hit you," Payton said. "You're disappointed. You're disappointed in yourself that it got to this point. I think we're trained as coaches to begin preparation right away. I find myself reflecting on it, and you go through a lot of emotions."
The NFL found that Payton lied to investigators when they tried to establish the existence of a bounty program beginning with the 2009 season, when the Saints on the first Super Bowl in franchise history. A more thorough investigation earlier this year found that the team had an elaborate bounty system in place from 2009-11, in which defensive players were paid for knocking opponents out of games. Specific players, including quarterbacks Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, were targeted by Williams, who left the team after the 2011 season to become the Rams’ defensive coordinator. He will miss the entire 2012 season before being eligible to apply for reinstatement.
Payton said he is still mulling his options about an appeal, but that no final decision has been made. “There is a kind of check list,” he said. “A lot to do here in a short period of time. I think by the end of this month, we’ll make a decision on that.”
Payton has until April 2 to appeal the suspension. Any appeal will be heard by the man who handed down the penalty: Roger Goodell. The NFL commissioner suspended Payton for the entire 2012 season, suspended Williams indefinitely, and also suspended general manager Mickey Loomis eight games. Assistant head coach Joe Vitta, who would have been named head coach in Payton’s absence, was suspended for the first six games of the season.