Today Adam Scheftner reports that due to a clause in his contract Sean Payton's contract extension signed in September 2011 was void, making him a free agent for this coming off-season.
What made the contract void was clause that stated that in the case where general manager Mickey Loomis was suspended for his role in bountygate, Payton could walk away from the deal. Had it been valid, the extension would have kept Payton in New Orleans until 2015.
But now with the contract void, the question remains, where will Payton be coaching in 2013? The fact that the perennial contender Saint's have struggled so much this season only makes Payton's contributions seem more impressive, and shows how vital he was to their success.
There is of course the possibility that he will return to the Saints, the team that he helped build and to the city he helped bring hope to after Hurricane Katrina. However, he will likely be the most purused head coach since Bill Parcells or Jon Gruden in the early 2000s.
The team that makes most sense right now however, are the Dallas Cowboys. Payton was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys from 2003-2005 before accepting the head coaching job in New Orleans. One of Payton's biggest claims to fame in Dallas was his role in getting Tony Romo.
Though Romo was undrafted he was told throughout the draft by Payton that he would be signed by Dallas if he wasn't picked. When Payton left to New Orleans in 2006 one of his first orders of business was to inquire about trading for Romo, who at that point had not played a single regular season snap for Dallas. Jerry Jones rejected the deal, and the rest they say is history.
But despite Romo's success, the Cowboys have only won one playoff game in his time as the starting quarterback, and there are questions of Jason Garrett's ability to motivate the team, and bring discipline to the team that is one of the most penalized in the league. The the Cowboys have come very close to beating some good teams this year, as it stands they are 3-4 with the road to the playoffs not getting any easier.
Though Jerry Jones has repeatedly proclaimed that Jason Garrett's job is not in jeopardy, he said the same thing about Wade Phillips before firing him midway through the 2010 season after a 1-7 start. While it is unlikely he will fire Garrett midway through the season, if the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs again this year, all bets are off. Jerry Jones has a nack for making a big signing, whether it be a player or coach a la Bill Parcells.
If he believes that a proven winner like Sean Payton is the answer to the Dallas Cowboys post-season woes, he will do whatever it takes to sign him. Payton still has good relations with Jerry Jones and his front office, and recently bought a house in Dallas. If there is any team he's likely to go to besides the Saints, it seems to be the Cowboys.