As Bears fans look towards a new head coach, most are proposing unproven names. Not one name that has been generally floated around has been one which we know said coach’s coaching prowess, except for one. New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton.
Now, there is obviously a huge hurdle to leap with Payton, the fact that he is already under contract with an NFL team. However, I believe it may be easier than people think to pry Payton away from the Bayou.
There have been rampant rumors in the past of teams entertaining the possibility of trading for the Saints’ signal caller. The Colts, Rams, 49ers, Chargers, and Dolphins have all been rumored to be wanting to trade for Payton in recent years.
A head coach getting traded isn’t unprecedented in the NFL. Jon Gruden got dealt from Tampa Bay to Oakland in 2002 for two 1st round picks and a 2nd rounder, Herm Edwards was traded to Kansas City for a 4th rounder, and the Seahawks traded a 2nd rounder to Green Bay for Mike Holmgren.
New Orleans is going to have to answer how much they truly value Payton’s tutelage because teams will come calling. If not the Bears, some other team will be chomping at the bit to try and pry away a Super Bowl Champion coach.
Luckily for the Bears, it may not take as much as those previous names. New Orleans has a high-caliber head coaching candidate at offensive coordinator in Pete Carmichael Jr., who is also having his name thrown around for the Bears head coaching job. They could very easily promote him if Payton goes.
None of this answers the true question at hand though: Why would Sean Payton be a good fit in Chicago?
First, and most obviously, he knows the front office. Ryan Pace, who spent over a decade in the Saints front office, knows Payton really well. While he didn’t help the Saints hire Payton, they did both work together for nine years before Pace was hired by the Bears.
Payton also has a pretty good track record in helping groom unproven quarterbacks into NFL stars. When Drew Brees was traded to New Orleans, he was an unproven NFL starter with a ginormous red flag. Now, after the hall-of-fame career he has put together, it feels unnatural to look at Drew Brees in a Chargers uniform.
Giving the young offensive group an experienced leader makes a ton of sense, and Sean Payton is just that. He’s been a coach in the NFL since 1997 and has been in professional football since 1987, so he’s been around the block a few times.
Obviously, he does have a big black stain on his resume with Bountygate in 2011, which he was suspended a whole season for. While this should be something that should be taken into account, it is something which, I believe, is highly unlikely to ever happen again.
Ryan Pace was also in the Saints organization during that time period, so chances are that he knows what actually happened, and what Payton’s involvement was. There have been conflicting reports of how much Payton was involved with Bountygate, but since he was the head coach at the time, he was rightfully held accountable for the whole thing.
On top of Drew Brees, Payton also has some Kerry Collins’ best years in the NFL on his resume, when he coached the (then) young quarterback as the quarterback’s coach for the Giants.
Payton also has a history in Chicago. Payton started his playing career as a backup quarterback with the Chicago Bruisers, an Arena League. He had an impressive 6.3 passer rating, and has a career -16 yards rushing in the AFL. Later that year, he was a backup for the Bears, during the 1987 player’s strike.
All of this seems to come together. The question is going to be the compensation. The Saints are, through the first half of the season, exceeding general expectation. There had been rumblings it may have been time for a chance should the Saints had struggled this season, but those seem to be moot points, barring a sudden collapse.
The Bears do have two 4th-round picks this year, so if the general trend for the value of coaches in a trade continues, they’ll have the compensation to give. However, will Ryan Pace want to trade away a draft pick for a coach?
Normally, I’d say no. But for a coach that he knows with a proven track record? He very well may.