Sean Payton, Bill Parcells talk role

Updated: March 27, 2012, 12:24 AM ET
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN

While seeking the counsel of his former boss and mentor, Bill Parcells, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has broached the idea of Parcells becoming the interim head coach during Payton's suspension for the 2012 season, according to several league sources.

Payton and Parcells have spoken numerous times, sources said, since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced last Wednesday that the Saints coach was being suspended for the year because the league found that the team had engaged in a bounty program that included incentives to injure opposing players.

Payton is contemplating an appeal of his stiff sentence, sources said. His suspension begins April 1 and will end after the Super Bowl.

Goodell says he could let Payton coach while the suspension is being appealed.

"I said in a letter they have to appeal by April 2, I believe," Goodell said Monday at the owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. "If he decides to appeal, I probably will allow him to continue and I would expedite the hearing and I would expedite my decision.

"We did meet twice and went through the information. If he has something else for me to consider, I will."

Payton's agent said Monday "no decisions have been made about an appeal."

Donald Yee said Payton "fully supports the league's player safety goals."

However, under a number of problem-solving scenarios related to his suspension that he has discussed with Parcells, one of those scenarios has gauged Parcells' interest in taking over as interim head coach. Payton served as assistant head coach under Parcells when the two were with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003 to '05, and has sought his counsel on a regular basis since becoming the Saints coach in 2006.

"Sean Payton and I know each other well, and he has sought my counsel about his situation with the Saints. He has told me a little bit about the team, about the situation they're in, and about the players. But that is it," Parcells told SI.com on Monday.

Asked if he had the bug to return to coaching, Parcells told SI.com, "I don't think so.''

It is uncertain whether Payton has discussed Parcells' candidacy as an interim head coach with Saints owner Tom Benson or general manager Mickey Loomis, who was handed an eight-game suspension.

Payton was unavailable for comment.

Parcells, who was attending a spring training game between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, said the Saints haven't contacted him about possibly coaching the team in the wake of Payton's suspension but did say, however, that Payton has spoken to him about how to handle the season.

Sources familiar with Parcells offer mixed opinions as to whether he would be tempted to fill Payton's shoes during the suspension if presented with a formal offer.

"As a friend of Sean's and a football guy, I'm sure he'd consider it but they're talking about a lot of things," said one source about Parcells. "In the end, I don't think it would happen. It makes sense but it's complicated."

One complication is that Parcells, who was among the 10 finalists as a nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, would have to wait another five years once an interim coaching post is completed under the Hall of Fame's bylaws. One Hall of Fame official said the bylaws would have to be changed but did agree it is a unique situation that could merit discussion. The five-year Hall of Fame clock might not have to be restarted if Parcells took a role with the Saints that did not specifically involve coaching.

Payton met with his staff and couldn't resolve the interim coaching situation, a source told ESPN.com's John Clayton. The source said offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. would prefer to just call plays and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer isn't going to campaign for the job. Steve Spagnuolo is new to the staff and just taking over the defense and might not have the aggressive personality to be Payton's replacement for a season.

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Outside candidates have been discussed but few, if any, have the experience or the intimate coaching relationship with Payton that Parcells offers.

The franchise would have to adhere to the Rooney Rule and interview at least one minority candidate if the Saints went outside their coaching staff to seek a coach to replace Payton for the 2012 season.

If Payton does appeal and persuades Goodell to reduce his penalty, it is unlikely he would try to coax Parcells into an interim job, sources said.

The news that Parcells has been approached about filling the Saints' opening on an interim basis was met by surprise at the NFL's spring owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla.

Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith told ESPN's Rachel Nichols that Parcells "would bring a lot of experience to our division, that's for sure."

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney said having Parcells back on the sideline would be good for the NFL.

"Bill Parcells is a great coach, anytime he's involved in the league it's a good thing. We'll see what happens," Rooney told Nichols.

Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton, ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols contributed to this report and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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