Picture via the AP
The hits just keep on coming for the Saints, and if fans were aggrieved before (and they were), they’ll be apoplectic this morning: Adam Schefter reports that the NFL has voided Sean Payton’s contract extension with New Orleans from last year, making one of the best and most respected coaches in the league a free-agent when he’s allowed to return to pro football after this season. According to Schefter, the decision has inspired “speculation in league circles that he could wind up returning to Dallas,” where Payton was an assistant coach for three years.
In September of last year, the Saints made Sean Payton one of the highest paid coaches in the league with a multiyear contract extension that ran through 2015. Sources told Schefter that the NFL found fault with the contract from the moment of its announcement, and intends to officially reject it (the commissioner must approve all contracts between teams and their employees) because of a clause that provided an out if Saints GM Mickey Loomis was ever suspended by the league—which he was, earlier this year, for eight games—or fired by the team. The league feels such a clause sets a bad precedent, perhaps because teams in the future may end up in situations much like the one the Saints are in now, with their GM and coach suspended at the same time.
So the contract dispute isn’t related to Bountygate in particular, though the tardiness of the league’s decision may have been related to the fact that Payton had been suspended for the season. Try telling Saints fans that the two are unconnected, however, or that the decision is anything but Roger Goodell spitting in their eye. In a city where season-ticket holders filed a class-action lawsuit against the commissioner for “dictatorial, unreasonable, vindictive, and unfounded interference,” there might be a riot if it turns out the NFL opened the door for Payton to flee to Dallas. — Isaac Rauch