One thing we have become used to with the Dallas Cowboys is a seemingly endless series of distractions. Whether it is players running afoul of the law or just the white-hot spotlight of publicity that constantly glares on America’s Team, it always seems that something is going on that makes things harder than it should be.
Now the Cowboys are facing another big one. Sean Payton’s “retirement” as head coach of the New Orleans Saints is being seen as indirectly linked to Dallas, at the least. He was assistant head coach for the Cowboys under Bill Parcells, which gives him a link to Dallas and the Jones family. There have long been reports that Jerry Jones in particular has coveted Payton to be his head coach. Of course, the big obstacle to that happening was a sixteen-year tenure with the Saints. However, a recent report stated that the Cowboys almost pulled off a trade for Payton in 2019. It is wise to view that with a modicum of skepticism, since there has been no other corroborating statements or information concerning that potential trade.
Still, it was like dumping gasoline on the already existing blaze of speculation concerning Payton and his possible intentions. While he has stated he is not looking to go straight to another coaching job, his statement did not completely rule out the possibility of changing his mind. And the Jones family is not the least bit shy of offering massive monetary incentive when they are after their man.
We discussed all of the ideas from this post on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our videos. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
That does leave a couple of possible obstacles. Most obvious is that the contract Payton is stepping away from runs through 2024, which means that if he does seek a new NFL job before then, whoever hires him will have to negotiate compensation for Saints owner Gayle Benson. That would probably include draft picks, and likely high ones at that. That may give the Jones family pause, since Dallas places extreme value on draft capital.
Still, that might not be enough to dissuade such a deal. If you are certain a candidate is the right man to get your team over the hump, there is no price too high. And over the years there has been a pervasive belief that Payton is that man for Jerry Jones. For now, that looks to be something that has been forestalled for at least a year after reports that McCarthy was assured that he would be the head coach for this coming season. The operative term there is “this,” as in singular. We can fully expect this whole circus to come back in about a year.
There is another possible roadblock, however. Jerry Jones was publicly open about his anger, and he certainly has a certain infatuation with Payton. Others in the organization are not necessarily as emotional about it, as Bryan Broaddus has reported. There has also been some chatter that Stephen Jones seems to have a better relationship with McCarthy than his father, but there is nothing concrete with that assertion.
That high value the team places on draft picks? Stephen is the main force behind that and may not be so eager to part with high value, especially this year when the team is facing some serious roster holes to fill due to the large number of free agents they are faced with. He also is the driver of the team’s tight-fisted ways in free agency. Further, it is expected that Payton would want full control over his roster. That could be a source of friction with Stephen.
In some respects, the younger Jones is the one who actually runs the team day-to-day now. And there is certainly plenty of circumstantial evidence that management in Dallas takes a hand in roster decisions, such as giving the majority of carries to their highly-compensated injured running back over the far less expensive but much more effective and explosive backup. That could certainly be a reason for both sides to put things on pause for a bit as Payton indicates he is doing. The price for acquiring rights from New Orleans will likely go down a bit. Things are always a bit murky with Dallas, because there is not just one voice speaking for management. There are two, and they do not always communicate the same message.
It is just one more way that the dysfunction of the Cowboys organization gets in the way of focusing on the essentials of winning football games. Now this has become a situation where Mike McCarthy has to feel like he is a lame duck coach next season, as most think that is when Dallas would be far more likely to bring Payton in. Will he go hard to prove himself, or is he prone to mail it in for this season? How will the rest of the staff and the roster themselves react? Will McCarthy’s authority be undermined? That latter point seems almost certain.
The roots of this are the way the Jones family constantly meddles in the way their coaches do their jobs, and how both Jerry and Stephen enjoy going before the media to pretty much tell all. Is there any other NFL team where not one but two members of ownership have weekly radio gigs to show how much in control of things they are? I certainly don’t know of any.
The Jones family are celebrity owners who take way too much pleasure in their celebrity. They have built the Cowboys into the most financially successful franchise in all sports. It is far less successful where it matter most, on the field. Even if, as many hope, Sean Payton is in the cards as a future head coach in Dallas, there is no certainty he is able to overcome the myriad problems this team has.