Sean Pendergast

The Pros and Cons of the Houston Texans Hiring Sean Payton

Sean Payton would be a great hire for the Texans, but does come with some questions.
Sean Payton would be a great hire for the Texans, but does come with some questions. Screen grab from YouTube
The Houston Texans have completed first interviews with eight candidates for their head coaching job. Right now, the number that remain in the mix, at least publicly (since we have no idea if any have been eliminated behind the scenes), is seven, with Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson having taken his name out. He is headed back to Detroit for at least one more season.

The two candidates that seem to have separated themselves from the pack are former Texans linebacker and current San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, and former New Orleans Saints head coach and current FOX studio analyst Sean Payton.

Ryans is the candidate who comes with burgeoning popularity and a fresh set of eyes and ideas, even if he has very little actual coaching experience. He would be an immensely popular selection, and he is likely the one non-Payton candidate who would get the phones ringing again in the Texans' ticket office. Payton comes with a massive resume full of great success, but the most complicated set of circumstance to navigate.

In short, hiring Sean Payton would require a lot of debating, internally and externally. For every huge "pro" for Payton, there is a "con" to consider. So, as long as Payton remains a candidate, let's evaluate him. By the way, to this point, he has only interviewed with the Broncos and is scheduled to talk to the Panthers, so that's the competition.

Here we go, with three big pros of hiring Sean Payton for the Texans:

Instant credibility, instant relevance, instant everything
Sean Payton is a Super Bowl winning head coach with plenty of options on where to spend the next decade of his life, either coaching or in broadcasting (or sitting on a beach somewhere). If he chooses to come to Houston, Texans training camp immediately becomes a "must stop" for the national media this summer, and the Texans hit the free agency shopping period in March with instant credibility and relevance with players and agents. I would imagine that the Texans' ticket office would be busier than they've been in months, maybe years, if they were to hire Payton. Business-wise, this would be a phenomenal move.

Payton would be perfect for a young QB
Payton spent most of his career as a head coach grooming Drew Brees, which gets often brought up as a negative by Payton naysayers, as if Drew Brees "made" Sean Payton. What those people forget is, before teaming up with Payton, Brees was not on a Hall of Fame track. He had been cut loose from the Chargers in favor of Philip Rivers. He was a solid quarterback with a bum shoulder. Together, Payton and Brees wrecked whop in the NFC for fifteen years. It would be fun to see Payton do the same with Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud. Or ANYBODY, for that matter.

Payton is likely to bring a great staff
Rumor has it Payton has already reached out to former Texans DC and former Broncos head coach Vic Fangio to be his defensive coordinator. That's a great start to what SHOULD be a superb coaching staff. Payton has enough cachet around the league, and I would imagine a big enough Rolodex, to where there should be no shortage of coaches wanting to climb aboard this train.

And now, here are the three big cons in the Texans' potentially hiring Payton:

The cost, both draft capital and actual American currency
OK, this Payton thing sounds awesome, right? So, just like when you're being sold something that sounds great, and you ask "What's the price?" you brace yourself. There are two costs involved in getting Payton. First, there is the draft capital you'd have to send the Saints to allow them to nullify his contract. (When Payton quit, he had multiple years remaining on his deal, and thus, the Saints have his rights.) For what it's worth, Texans fans are not all that gung ho about trading picks for a head coach:
Then there's the actual money the Texans would pay Payton, which reportedly would hit and maybe sail past the $20 million per year mark. YIKES. The money is the McNairs problem, until it comes time to raise ticket prices, then it's a "Texans fan" problem.

Payton is no spring chicken
Sean Payton is approaching 60 years old, which is a good 15 years older than the oldest of the six other Texans head coaching candidates. Additionally, I am no doctor, but just eyeballing Payton on the set of FOX NFL studios, it doesn't look like pilates is part of his regular routine. In other words, what's his shelf life? The Texans probably want a decade out of the next guy. Does Payton want to coach till he is 70? Reportedly, he is seeking a four -year deal, for what that's worth.

How motivated is Sean Payton?
This is the big one, and this is the one that only Payton (and anyone he confides in) really knows — is this desire to resume his coaching career just one huge cash grab? One final $100 million payday to make sure that his grandkids' grandkids never have to worry about money ever again? I don't know if it is, but I do NOT like the fact that Payton bailed on the Saints a year after Brees' career ended. After one season of seeing the Saints' job get harder and harder, his gut reaction was to go do TV, which is totally his right to do. Also, it's my right to assess why I think he did it, and apply that to my trepidation level on him taking over the same role on my favorite team.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast