Why the Colts Didn’t Interview Sean Payton
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New Orleans Saints
The Indianapolis Colts are about as knee-deep as you can be in the search for their next head coach, now totaling interviews with 13 out of 14 candidates (DeMeco Ryans canceled due to the NFC Divisional Round game).
This is without the most notable of coaching names remaining in the search, New Orleans Saints head man Sean Payton. He has been reached out to for possible hire by four teams (Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, and the Houston Texans). With there being five total openings, it was clear that neither Payton nor the Colts had an interest in one another.
Let’s discuss why the Colts will benefit from this decision.
He Would Cost a Fortune
Payton is a true winner, currently sitting at 152 wins, 89 losses, and a 2009 Super Bowl Championship, all with the Saints. This is a very impressive showing, which means the asking price will reflect Payton’s success.
Currently, the Saints are asking for a massive haul. Per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, “Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Saints want a first-round pick and more. Which means another pick, since by rule players can’t be part of the transaction between teams for rights to a coach whose contract has not expired.”
Meaning the Colts would lose two, count them two, picks at the least, but one of those would be a first-rounder, which the Colts couldn’t afford to cough up. Not to mention, Payton is also seeking around $20-25 million per year, per The Advocate’s Jeff Duncan (Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams is currently the highest-paid NFL head coach at between $15 and $18 million a year). With a team in near-full rebuild mode, this wouldn’t be wise.
He Would Potentially Clash with Chris Ballard
Colts general manager Chris Ballard is a pretty easy guy to work with as far as being a GM, usually trusting the process and blending in well with the overall philosophy. However, with a very strong personality, who’s also asking for a lot to come to any team, it may not mesh Payton well with Ballard.
The Colts are interviewing nearly everyone but Payton, meaning that Ballard may not have the biggest fan since he is leading the coaching search. Owner Jim Irsay has tasked Ballard with this and is trusting everything thus far, so it’s not a surprise that he’s shown remote interest in four out of five potential openings, the Colts being omitted.
The Colts Would Surrender Chance at a Future QB in 2023
Similar to the initial point of cost, this one goes far deeper than money, as the Colts would likely surrender their first-round pick (No. 4-overall) to the Saints to get Payton. That means no Will Levis, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson; nobody.
If this deal was made, there would be an immediate uptick in the offensive performance with the pure genius mind of Payton, but with whom at quarterback? There were “no more band-aid” comments littered throughout the 2022 season, and even now, so this would be a move for the Colts that wouldn’t fit their overall vision of setting a rookie up for stardom through a pick in the top four of the draft.
At the finale of it all, Payton is a legendary coach. He took a New Orleans team fresh off of Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and catapulted them to stardom.
With 15 years as an NFL coach and a blistering 63.1 win percentage, it’s abundantly clear that any team who puts Payton at the helm will immediately rise and get better. However, it will cost them a lot in the process.
The Colts can check their name off of that board.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.