Payton to meet with Parcells this week

Sean Payton plans to squeeze in some Tuna fishing during his trip to Florida for the NFL’s annual meeting. has learned that Payton is expected to meet in person with Bill Parcells this week to see if Parcells wants to become the New Orleans Saints’ interim head coach for the 2012 season. Parcells would hold the position as Payton serves his year-long NFL suspension for his involvement in the Saints’ bounty scandal.

Speaking at the owners meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. Tuesday, Payton said he’ll meet with Parcells today about the search for a replacement. Payton also said GM Mickey Loomis and owner Tom Benson would be involved in the search and that he was committed to returning to the Saints in 2013.

ESPN first reported that Payton and Parcells had spoken several times about such a scenario. The two are close friends, with Payton having served on Parcells’ staff with the Dallas Cowboys from 2003 to 2005 before being hired in New Orleans in 2006.

Parcells’ return, though, is far from a done deal. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Parcells suggested he was not interested in a return. Asked if he had the bug to coach again, he said, "Do I have the bug? I don’t think so."

Besides Parcells’ willingness to coach again at the age of 70, has learned that Payton remains undecided about whether he will appeal the suspension levied last week by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. If he does appeal and the suspension is shortened, Payton may be more likely to promote a current staff member on an interim basis until his return.

Parcells last coached in 2006 with the Cowboys. He has a 183-138-1 overall record during stints with Dallas, New England, and both the New York Giants and Jets. He led the 1986 and 1990 Giants to Super Bowl titles. The 1996 Patriots reached Super Bowl XXXI under his watch as well.

Considered one of the most influential coaches and talent evaluators during almost three decades in the NFL, Parcells was a finalist this year for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If he coaches again, Parcells will not be eligible for induction until five years after his retirement.

The Saints were rocked last week by punishments given by Goodell for running an illegal bounty program that offered financial incentives for knocking opposing offensive players out of games.

Ex-Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who was the bounty ringleader, was suspended from the league indefinitely. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six) also were sanctioned. The Saints were fined $500,000 and stripped of 2012 and 2013 second-round draft choices.

The NFL is expected to soon announce sanctions against some of the Saints players who actively participated in the bounty program.

Payton is one of the NFL’s top head coaches. He guided the 2009 Saints to the franchise’s first Super Bowl title and two subsequent playoff appearances. Saints quarterback Drew Brees also set the NFL’s single-season passing record last season operating in Payton’s high-powered offense.

Pete Carmichael Jr. (offensive coordinator), Steve Spagnuolo (defensive coordinator) and Aaron Kromer (offensive line) are considered the top three internal candidates to replace Payton.