The Arizona Cardinals have quite a coaching search to do for owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Monti Ossenfort.
So far eight names have emerged as potential replacements for Kliff Kingsbury after four seasons at the top in the desert. Bidwill said he wanted to cast the net far and wide in their search, and so far they’ve done just that.
However, there is one name that keeps floating around in the organization: Sean Payton.
The Cardinals’ initial interest in Payton, as he was one of the first names the organization wanted to speak to before silence fell on the situation.
Pay that against the massive draft capital the New Orleans Saints are asking for in exchange for the rights to his contract, or the $20+ million annual salary Payton will be asking for in salary, and the price might just be a bit for Bidwill be high to swallow him up in addition to Kingsbury’s payout for the remainder of his contract.
So far, only one of the eight names they’ve either interviewed or requested has been brought in for a second interview: Dan Quinn.
Things got quiet until recently when the cardinals reportedly agreed to meet with Payton next Thursday. Payton – who has previously been interviewed with the Denver Broncos – postponed a second interview with Denver to speak with Arizona.
The rumor mill is once again running at breakneck speed, but we’re still early in the process for the Cardinals. They waited until the end of the regular season to fire Kingsbury and also pledged to fill their vacancy as general manager before finding their fourth head coach in ten seasons.
The Cardinals didn’t appear to be major players for Payton early in the process, so the sudden shift in movement seems… interesting.
At least according to Broncos insider Ben Allbright, who believes Payton doesn’t have a big market and could very well return to Fox for another year.
Saints insider Jeff Duncan believes the same.
The Cardinals certainly wouldn’t waste their time interviewing if they weren’t interested in bringing him up, but how would Payton benefit from meeting Arizona?
The Cardinals are a pretty desirable goal for a coach: A great place to live, a franchise QB in Kyler Murray, a touch of cap berth, and the #3 overall pick in this year’s draft are all at their disposal.
Payton’s meeting with the Cardinals shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the timing with Arizona/Denver in their respective timelines seems… wrong.
From the outside it looks like some kind of hardball is being played here. The Denver/Payton mutual interest shouldn’t be confused, but let’s not forget that one of the two potential opener Los Angeles teams was reportedly Payton’s dream destination. There were some schools of thought that suggested it was LA or bust this offseason.
Payton feels no pressure to take a job this offseason.
Information changes quickly, especially at this time of year. However, if we are trying to decide what is smoke and what is not at this point, it certainly seems like the Cardinals are being used as leverage.
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