I know, I know. We’re only two games into Mike McCarthy’s third campaign and I’m already writing about replacing him in the offseason. But such is the nature of this town. Cowboys Nation expects results from their beloved Dallas Cowboys – especially since McCarthy was handed a readymade team back in 2020.
If you remember, McCarthy barely even made it through the winter. After a pretty epic collapse last season that resulted in a first round home playoff loss, Jerry Jones almost cut the cord then. Only after seeing Sean Payton “retire” for a year did he pump the breaks on his decision and strategically kick the can to 2023.
Now we hear reports Sean Payton is, not-so-surprisingly, open to idea of a return to coaching in 2023…provided the situation was right, of course. It’s all according to plan.
Sean Payton is right for the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Cowboys are right for Sean Payton.
Jerry Jones and Sean Payton go way back and they’ve always had a certain fondness for one another. After serving as Dallas’ offensive coordinator under Bill Parcells from 2003-2005, Payton went on to coach the New Orleans Saints for roughly 15 years. He collected a Super Bowl along the way and regularly designed and redesigned some of the more creative and successful offenses in the NFL.
His standing within the league grew to elite levels and it didn’t take long before Payton was seen as “the one that got away” for Jerry Jones’s Cowboys. So when Jerry got the opportunity to trade for Payton back in 2019, he jumped at the chance. It was then when they worked out a deal between Payton (who loves Jerry as well) and the Saints to make him the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
It’s this all-important nugget, that many who question the legitimacy of a Sean Payton-Dallas Cowboys marriage, always seem to forget. A deal between all three parties (Payton, Dallas, and New Orleans) was recently in place.
Only after Anthony Davis (star player for the New Orleans Pelicans) demanded a trade from the same owner (Gayle Benson of the Saints), did the Payton deal get shelved. One star leaving town is bad enough, but two stars is a PR nightmare.
The important takeaway is this – the deal was essentially worked out: trade compensation, salary demands, and boundaries. There’s no way Payton was coming to Dallas if he didn’t have assurances everyone was going to stay in their own lane.
Which brings us to 2022. Payton steps away from the game. Immediately there were links between the Cowboys and Payton and neither side did much to shoot them down. The optics of a seamless move to Dallas wouldn’t have been great for Gayle Benson so it’s understandable Payton grabbed onto a placeholder TV gig for 2022.
It also makes sense why Jerry kept the status quo in his coaching staff, despite his massive displeasure with them just days earlier. He didn’t want to commit to anything new if his top candidate would become available a year later, after all.
Why the Dallas Cowboys in 2023?
A deal was in place once before, so all the usually barriers for something of this magnitude aren’t really an issue today. In 2019, Payton’s stock was arguably at its peak, so it’s unlikely the compensation going back to the Saints has increased between now and then.
Similarly, issues over “control” and compensation were also in place, so it’s unlikely that will be a barrier again (debunking all those “Jerry will never give up the kind of control Payton will require” comments).
The Dallas Cowboys overtly cleared the deck (so to speak) this past offseason. They cut costs and made their roster as fluid as they could for 2023, even if it meant taking a clear step back in 2022. Their inaction in free agency means they will have their full slate of draft picks, plus some compensatory picks, at their disposal.
Retired for a year or not, Sean Payton is still under contract with the Saints. It’s still going to require trade compensation to get him. What will it cost? We don’t know. While both sides (DFW and NO) reported the validity of the 2019 trade, neither side reported the compensation. All we know is it was worked out and it wasn’t too high for the Cowboys.
The speculation side of things…
As you can see, the link between Sean Payton and the Dallas Cowboys is more than just wishful thinking or hearsay. It’s valid. The things discussed above are real and we use them to project what could happen in 2023.
The Dallas Cowboys love Dan Quinn and we think Stephen and Jerry would be pretty happy to have Quinn as the next head coach of the team. So why didn’t they offer him the head coaching job this winter when he was fielding multiple head coaching offers elsewhere? Because they knew Sean Payton would be in play in 2023.
They likely (again, I’m speculating now) told Quinn he’s a top choice and if he sticks around as DC for a year, he very well could be head coach for the Cowboys in just 12 months time. Jerry basically had the prom queen in his sights (Sean Payton) but had the girl next door (Quinn) on the hook just in case (was that a creepy metaphor?).
My belief is this year away from football was 100 percent for optics and that Gayle Benson and Jerry Jones already have a deal in place for this coming winter. Sean Payton’s financials are already worked out and the separation of power is already worked out.
Could someone change their mind along the way? Sure, that’s why I still think Dan Quinn has a better than 50 percent chance of being the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. But do I think Sean Payton is the top choice? No doubt, and that’s been the case since Bill Parcells retired in 2006.
Some question whether Sean Payton is a clear upgrade over Mike McCarthy. To that I offer an emphatic, YES! As I discussed this past winter, while certain bullet points on their respective resumes may look comparable, the impact, intellect, coaching prowess, and overall reputation between the two couldn’t be farther apart.
In other words, teams would line up to hire Sean Payton. I’m not sure a single team would even interview Mike McCarthy after his time here in Dallas. For more on that, check out the article just below (no sense in making the argument again).
Every bit of information has led up to the moment Sean Payton becomes the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Obstacles remain but it’s not as treacherous a path as some make it out to be.