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Will Payton Swipe Some Assistants from Dallas' Cupboard?

The Dallas Morning News reports that new Saints HC Sean Payton has asked permission to bring linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and offensive line coach Tony Sparano to New Orleans to serve as his offensive and defensive coordinators. The Cowboys apparently do not have to grant them leave, even though they would be getting promotions.

Losing both would require some minor revisions to the defensive staff, but some major adjustments on the offensive side of the ball. Dallas would need to find an offensive coordinator and a new line coach if Sparano left. Former Browns HC and Texans' OC Chris Palmer was mentioned in the DMN story as a potential replacement for Payton, having worked with Parcells in New England.

Palmers' greatest days came as Tom Coughlin's OC when both were with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Palmer's offense, led by Mark Brunell, Natrone Means, Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith reached the 1996 AFC title game, where they were defeated by Parcells' and Drew Bledsoe's New England Patriots. Palmer had a reputation for running a complex, aggressive scheme. He became the first head coach of the new Cleveland Browns on the basis of his Jacksonville work but was fired after only a year and a half.

Another well respected coordinator who could provide a package deal should Sparano leave is Chiefs' OC Al Saunders. Saunders was Mike Martz' first in command when both worked under Dick Vermeil in St. Louis. Martz was QB coach and OC while Saunders coached the receivers. When Vermeil moved to Kansas City, Saunders joined him and orchestrated a Chiefs offense that has ranked among the league's best the past few seasons.

Saunders is said to be upset that he was passed over for the Chiefs' job that went to Herman Edwards. Saunders interviewed for the Raiders vacancy and is currently considered the front runner there. However, the Raiders move at a glacial pace and one league source predicted they will again be the last team to hire a head coach.

Saunders is believed to be contemplating some high paying coordinator positions at place like Denver and Detroit in addition to the Oakland job. Jerry Jones has some familiarity with Saunders; Jones interviewed him for the Dallas job that eventually went to Dave Campo. Saunders is doubly attractive because he could lure Chiefs' o-line coach Mike Solari, one of the league's best, to join him.

Saunders ran an aggressive offense which mixed power running with a down the field passing game. His pedigree is with the Sid Gillman/Don Coryell offensive system practiced by coaches such as Joe Gibbs, Martz and Norv Turner.

Update: The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram claims Cowboys QB coach David Lee is another candidate to join Payton in New Orleans.

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