Parcells makes perfect sense for Saints

April 4, 2012

Roger Goodell, the same man who levied the suspension, will hear Sean Payton’s appeal on Thursday. And the odds are slim that Goodell will shorten his season-long suspension of Payton for basically misleading NFL investigators and not putting a stop to Bountygate when the league first checked out the allegations at the end of the 2009 season, just weeks before Payton and the Saints won their biggest prize, Super Bowl XLIV.

In too many ways, Payton is the Saints. Louisiana fans view him as some kind of superhero or modern-day Huey Long to the underclass masses even while he parties with millionaire country singers and bands. Some would say Payton is too arrogant for his own good, and that Goodell is punishing him a little for that, too.

Who really knows, but some believe (and I’m one of them) that the banishment for an entire season was over the top, considering Bill Belichick stole signals, basically cheated, for so many years and never was forced to leave the New England sideline.

Payton is adamant that he plans to be on the Saints’ sidelines for the 2013 season. He believes Goodell should allow him to coach some this season. But if Goodell declines to lessen his suspension, it makes perfect sense for Bill Parcells to replace Payton. Parcells gave Payton his big chance, running the Dallas offense, and the two are best friends. Parcells is definitely a mentor-like figure in the coach’s life.


If you believe ProFootballTalk, some of the Saints’ assistants, men who would be in line to serve as interim head coach this season, don’t like this idea, viewing Parcells as some interloper.

And that’s exactly why it’s a good idea!

Power and control can do strange things to a football assistant’s ego.

Parcells, who has Hall of Fame credentials as a coach, would be simply keeping the office warm for Payton. His presence would allow Payton’s assistants to focus on their jobs of coaching the players, exactly what they are paid to do, while negating any back-biting or infighting or any of the other silly things that happen when the boss is away.

Payton wouldn’t need Parcells if his able assistant, Joe Vitt, hadn’t also been suspended for six games for his role in Bountygate. In fact, Parcells may only have to stay on the job until Vitt is cleared to coach by mid-October.

Payton is right in his thinking. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who definitely has a bright future, should concentrate on running the offense and calling the plays that help Drew Brees create his magic. Carmichael just started play-calling some last season. No way he needs the added burden of being the interim boss.

New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the guy replacing Mr. Bounty Gregg Williams, shouldn’t be considered because he still needs to build a relationship with the Saints’ defenders. He doesn’t know them, plus he needs to focus on a system foreign from Williams’ teachings.

Of the three assistants mentioned the most as Payton’s replacement, offensive line coach Aaron Kromer makes the most sense. He’s the closest to Payton and he will be a NFL head coach some day. If Payton wanted to play favorites, he would have selected Kromer already.

The bottom line is that the Saints remain one of the NFL’s best teams. As long as they have Brees running the offense, they are championship contenders.

Even the champion Giants know that they probably would have lost to the Saints in the playoffs last season and felt very fortunate that the 49ers upset them.

This is why it’s best to bring in an outsider. At 71 when training camp opens, Parcells doesn’t have long-range plans on returning to the sidelines should the Saints end up in the playoffs or better yet actually playing in the Super Bowl that they are hosting this season.

Who knows what owner Tom Benson, who is upset with the suspensions, would do with Payton if Kromer, Carmichael or Spagnuolo led the Saints to another title? But we all know it would wreck whatever chemistry Payton is trying to rebuild in New Orleans.

It sounds ridiculous that Benson would cut Payton loose because many owners would rush to hire him, starting with Jerry Jones if Jason Garrett doesn’t win this season in Dallas.

The man risking the most in this replacement scenario would be Parcells.

He’s retired now, enjoying watching baseball, betting the ponies and playing golf. He’s had coronary health issues in the past and if he does return to the sidelines, it would push his candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame back another five years and that’s not good because there are no guarantees in life. If he’s selected one day, Parcells would like to make his own acceptance speech. And, believe me, such an honor means a lot to the two-time Super Bowl winning coach.

If Payton’s assistants are truly loyal to him, they should accept whatever decision he makes about a potential replacement. He’s the boss.

And this is the confusing predicament in New Orleans. Based on the Saints’ hierarchy, many would think Benson and GM Mickey Loomis, who is appealing an eight-game suspension, are really Payton’s bosses. And does Benson want to pay Parcells what was supposed to be in Payton’s paycheck?

Time will tell on all of this, but his many supporters believe Payton will make the right call, one that’s best for his team this season.

Lockout fallout

As teams wait to greet their players later this month, the new CBA rules that prevent quarterbacks and others from hanging out at their respective facilities are being either criticized or lamented by some head coaches. It’s difficult to argue with Rams new boss Jeff Fisher when he says that if Sam Bradford wanted to come by and visit and talk about the new playbook that it should be his prerogative.

But while the owners fought to protect their billions during last year’s lockout, the players opted for more days off and less practice time. Union leaders like center Jeff Saturday, who will now snap for Aaron Rodgers, helped write these new limitations on OTAs and mini-camps and fewer in-season practice days with shoulder pads.

None of these rules would be adopted by a head coach, but the owners weren’t thinking about them and what would really improve the game of football. And what Saturday and his fellow veterans on the union’s executive board did was protect themselves and their future jobs.

With fewer practice days, teams like the Green Bay Packers are at a disadvantage. The Packers prefer to build their team through the draft and not via free-agency or multiple trades. And that means that rookies and young free-agents will have less time to be taught by Packers coach Mike McCarthy and his staff. Both rookie and coach will have to squeeze time either before or after practice once camps open in order for those players to catch up and for McCarthy’s system to work.

But, ultimately, how can a young player prove himself to the coaches if padded practices and overall sessions are limited? The advantage will always go to the veteran in such a scenario.

It’s like McCarthy was saying. Many of his players now prefer to spend the off-season in Green Bay, but it makes no sense that his punter and kicker can’t use the Packers’ indoor facility for three months.

“A high school field simply isn’t the same,” McCarthy said.