Jim Henderson: Tampa Bay shutout

As you look around the NFL this Monday, based on the evidence left from Sunday, you see a number of teams who seem to be unwilling or incapable of putting up much resistance with their absence from the post-season certain or all but certain.

Fortunately the Saints are not among them.

Five teams couldn't manage to score a touchdown. The Jaguars, Chargers, Bills, Chiefs, and Lions succumbed meekly, along with, of course, the Tampa Bay Bucs.

You never play a perfect game.  But the Saints came awfully close Sunday  in every phase of theirs.

The late-season role of the Saints as a spoiler and not a contender is one they've been unfamiliar with in the Sean Payton era, but one his absence has helped contribute to in the current Sean Payton-less era.

Sunday came the latest update on that situation through the coach's regular mouthpiece --- Jay Glazer of Fox Sports.  His report says the Saints and Payton aren't close to agreeing on a new contract and that he will pursue all options if the two apparent primary suitors for his talents -- New Orleans and Dallas -- are unwilling to secure them.

How less-than-ironic that this report surfaces prior to these two teams meeting next week in Dallas.  Again, it's all about gaining leverage for the head coach who has orchestrated a masterful scenario at doing just that.

I would never accuse Sean Payton of sabotaging the Saints players and coaches he has left behind for the time being and maybe forever.  But how do these reports leaked periodically through his sources help the Saints win?  And how does Sean's position benefit if they don't?

His situation is just another distraction for the Saints to deal with in a season of numerous unprecedented ones, exacerbated by those reports.

The Saints go to Dallas Sunday, where a defeat of the Cowboys fans the flames of the firing of Jason Garret and the hiring of Sean Payton.  A Cowboy victory fans the flames of the re-hiring of Payton in New Orleans, while the assistants who carry on here without him risk their own firing if they publicly express anything but their unwavering loyalty to him should he return.

This is how the game is played in big-time sports and Sean Payton has every right to play it.  But you shouldn't -- and you shouldn't have to -- like it.