The Houston Texans surprised us when they requested permission to speak to Sean Payton about their opening. Of course, the Texans shouldn’t leave any stone unturned in the search for their head coach and they have requested interviews with six other coaches in the days after they fired Lovie Smith. Those seven requests are the most of any team in the NFL. Clearly the process will be different.
Still, Payton represents a surprise because of all of the intrigue attached. Payton is officially under contract with the New Orleans Saints through the 2024 season. That means that a package of draft picks would need to go the other way before they could ink him to a contract. That is if they can convince him to come to Houston. He has interviews scheduled with Denver and Arizona and the Cowboys are always lurking on the horizon.
Before we dive into Payton we must look at the past trades involving coaches to see what type of compensation is likely. Coaching trades don’t happen very often. Teams don’t like surrendering draft capital for non-players, but occasionally it makes sense when the candidate is strong enough.
Past Head Coaching Trades
- Bill Belichick to the New England Patriots— 2000 first, 2001 fourth, 2001 seventh
- Jon Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers— 2002 first, 2003 first, 2004 second
- Herm Edwards to the Kansas City Chiefs— 2006 fourth
- Mike Holmgren to Seattle— 1999 second
- Bill Parcells to New York— 1997 third, 1997 fourth, 1998 second, 1999 first
Three of the five involved at least one first round pick and three of the five included multiple picks. in just about every case, the coach immediately went from one team to another. Payton sat out a season. Who knows how that would ultimately impact the compensation, but it can’t make him more valuable. He sat out for a season. Will he be as sharp as he was before?
The Texans have two first rounders in this draft and two first rounders in the next draft. I’m sure they could do some fancy figuring to include one of those (and only one of those) picks and a middle round selection as well. They do have two third round picks this year, so the top end package would likely be number 12 overall and one of the third round picks this season. If the Texans were lucky they could potentially trade the 2024 pick from the Cleveland Browns, along with a third rounder, and gamble that the Browns would be better with a full season of Deshaun Watson.
The Payton Coaching Record
- 152-89 (.631)
- 2006, 2009 Sporting News Coach of the Year
- Super Bowl XLIV Champion
- Nine seasons with ten or more wins
- Four seasons with 13 victories
- 7-9 worst record (2007, 2014, 2015, 2016)
There is a really nice floor with Payton. Most Texans fans would kill for a 7-9 record right now. There are other coaches that would probably be in more demand. Sean McVay comes to mind. Kyle Shanahan might be another. Yet, in this particular offseason there aren’t any better. The question is ultimately how much better Payton is than everyone else. Is he worth a first and third? That’s ultimately the question. Since, he would be on the offensive-minded side of things we can compare his offensive record in terms of points scored, yards gained, and DVOA. Keep in mind, he was head coach for fifteen seasons (suspended in 2012).
Total Points: 6.47 composite rank, two times tops in the league, nine times in the top five, twelve times in the top ten
Total Yards: 5.40 composite rank, six times tops in the league, ten times in the top five, 13 times in the top ten
DVOA: 7.00 composite rank, zero times tops in the league, seven times in the top five, 12 times in the top ten
So, ultimately what is the difference between Payton and guys like Shane Steichen and Ben Johnson? Simply put, he did this fairly consistently for 15 years. His only bad season came in 2021 when he was working with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill. When Drew Brees was his quarterback he had the offense humming in the top ten. Sure, Brees is a first ballot Hall of Famer, but would he have been without Sean Payton?
The obvious advantage from here is that he would have a hand in choosing the quarterback he would get to work with. Bryce Young has several traits similar to Drew Brees. C.J. Stroud also could fit that bill as well. Either way, a coach with the pedigree of Payton would not only be a godsend for a young quarterback, but Payton might be more qualified to pick one than Nick Caserio.
The Final Verdict
Every form of refuge has its price. The idea that one of those offensive coaches could be the next Sean Payton is certainly tempting. Other than Payton, the oldest coach on their interview request list is 42. It’s a new day in the NFL and if you found that guy you would have that guy and all of your picks for him to play with.
These kinds of deals involve a lot of ifs. We are assuming that Payton actually wants to interview and actively consider Houston as an option. We are assuming that Cal McNair and Nick Caserio like what they here. If we get past those hurdles then we are assuming they are agreeable to the Saints terms. Obviously, there are a lot of moving parts.
So, any answer I give here is predicated on those variables. If Payton wants to be here, they should make it happen. They should come to whatever power structure agreement necessary to make this happen. No other coach on the market brings this kind of cache. No other coach brings this much hope to the city. He wouldn’t completely erase everything, but he’d come pretty damn close.