IRVING -- A lot of folks forget that Sean Payton came close to leaving the Cowboys in '04 to become head coach of the Oakland Raiders. Al Davis offered Payton the job but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave his young passing-game coordinator a $500,000 raise to stick around for a couple more years. And when Payton took the Saints job in '06, he returned to Texas Stadium and beat Bill Parcells' team, 42-17.
That's as fired up as I've ever seen Payton during a game. After touchdowns, he could be seen racing down the sideline thrusting his laminated playcalling chart into the air. I don't think he had any bad blood for the Cowboys, but I think it was important to him to show Parcells, the man who used to call him "Dennis the Menace," that he was a force to be reckoned with. Today on a conference call at Valley Ranch, I asked him why he didn't take the Raiders job when he had the opportunity. At that point, the organization wasn't that far removed from a Super Bowl appearance and hadn't become such a laughingstock.
"I had just moved the family and there was still a part of me that was leery. And it didn't feel right," Payton said. "And when Jerry's the last guy you see in a decision like that, you end up staying."
At that point, Payton and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer both ended up with $1 million salaries, which was unprecedented for Jones. This afternoon, Payton talked about the respect he has for Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. He coached with him with the Giants and said he always knew Garrett was going to be a successful playcaller.
Payton also continued to say that his team isn't caught up in all the talk about a possible perfect season.
"We haven't paid much attention to that," he said. "We've avoided the hypotheticals and really focused on the next game and the next team. What's important is playing our best game against Dallas."
I think that what's benefiting the Saints the most is that they've had wakeup calls without losing. There's no reason in the world they should've beaten the Redskins two weeks ago, but Washington handed them the game. So it's like the Saints have dealt with some adversity without the sting of a loss. Honestly, I think they have as good a shot as the Patriots did two years ago to have a perfect season.
I don't see any defense in the league that can slow this offense down. And if the Cowboys don't have DeMarcus Ware, it's hard to envision them going on the road and winning this game.