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Could Sean Payton still leave this offseason?

This year, for the first time since Jim Haslett stopped sleeping on his couch at his office in Metarie, Saints fans found themselves right smack in the middle the NFL’s offseason coaching soap opera. Sean Payton, arguably the best coach in franchise history (I’m old – I will always allow for a Mora argument), “wanted out” for reasons unknown according to the media, with the now famous “Sunday Splash” reports getting more and more dire as the season wore on.

Saints fans spent the early parts of Black Monday refreshing Twitter for information until the Saints announced Payton wouldn’t speak until Wednesday, then spent two days in a spin cycle of rumors that saw him headed everywhere from San Francisco, the Giants, maybe even the Dolphins. It was brutal. And then, as if the lead up wasn’t bad enough, the Saints actually pushed the conference back an hour and speculation reached a crescendo.

Then, it happened – the big press conference in which Payton sat alone at a table and answered questions for over an hour. We heard from Ian Rappoport before Payton even took the podium – our coach was staying put. But then Payton took the stage and entertained question after question for over an hour and the whole thing was one big “Man, I love this City” love-in. We, as Saints fans, exhaled – a sigh of relief. It was over.

The problem is, for me anyway, is exactly what changed? This occurred to me when I was explaining it to my wife that evening. I told her Sean was staying and woohoo and she asked oh wow, ok, so did he get a new contract with the Saints or something?

No …

Oh. So how is that any different than any of the post-game press conferences?

I probably rolled my eyes at that point. “It’s totally different because … um … well …

See what I’m getting at? There was no new contract announcement. No confirmation via Adam Schefter or Rappoport that Payton was indeed getting more power. Just a 70 minute chat that could be summed up with, “awwww, how could I ever leave you guys?”

Nothing has changed, right? Did I miss something?

It’s the truth; nothing has changed, and I am slowly but surely starting to have concerns at this point. What if Payton’s presser occurred simply to placate the fan base and potentially give Loomis room to operate? The wild speculation online – whether management claims they ignore it and that it’s largely worthless – can certainly affect the way other teams approach making a move like trading for a Super Bowl winning coach (don’t think it matters? There wasn’t a GM around willing to listen to anything but “your entire draft” after Ditka shot his mouth off in 1999).

Am I saying he gets dealt? No, I’m not. I’m sure the asking price is still crazy high and that most teams would stay away. But as I’m watching teams like SF and the NYG go around and around in circles, either losing coaching targets or seemingly disinterested in the market in general, I keep asking myself: Is this really over? What exact reason does any Saints fan have for believing as much? Because Sean Payton had a presser and waxed poetic about the city and guys who played on the saints in 2006 (Pierson Prioleau??)?

My inner Saints fan keeps telling me this was all over Brees. That somewhere along the line Loomis decided he was pulling the plug, Payton talked to uber-mentor Bill Parcells, and Parcells told him, if that happens, you need to get out of Dodge. So that situation unfolds, and it’s a back and forth between he and Mickey Loomis until Loomis finally relents and says fine, but it’s on you.

That scenario I’m fine with. That scenario is the one we need as Saints fans, and should be grateful that Payton is in charge and making sure the right scenario plays out for him and us.

I’m just not sure that’s the case. Frankly, we have no assurances to the contrary (to say nothing of NEXT year). And every day that goes by that the Giants seem ho hum on candidates, or the 49ers get spurned by yet another (Hue Jackson, come on down) … I find myself wondering if this is suddenly going to pop up again, out of nowhere.

Last week, I was combing twitter, waiting for news on Payton’s future.

I’m still combing.

Waiting for a contract extension.

Waiting to hear he’s gained GM powers.

Waiting for something – anything – to convince me that this really is over.

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