NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Whether Sean Payton rides off into the sunset in the West or the sunrise in the East, the odds are he'll be riding off somewhere. Timing is everything in life, and from his perspective, the time is right to do so now.
Having gotten the Saints over the hump in 2009, he now has them over the barrel in the first week of 2016.
It's unlikely he will ever be more marketable as essentially a free agent head coach than he is now. He's a Super Bowl winner, he's relatively young, he's current and his recent record isn't so tarnished by losing to conceal the still-luminous glow of an NFL championship ring.
Never fear to negotiate. And he has that prerogative now. If he wants further concessions, power or riches here, he can demand them.
The Saints' alternative is to demand he fulfill the remaining two years of his contract here under its current structure. And then what do you have? An unhappy coach whose value to you in a possible trade is unlikely to be any higher one year from now than it is at the moment. And if you thought the occasional rumors of his wanderlust were a distraction this season, imagine how much a season full of that unrelenting speculation would be next year.
He could force the Saints to fire him and probably walk away with some sort of settlement and still have quite likely the pick of vacancies that he already has his eye on. So the Saints' option is to get something for him now in a trade, fire him at an additional cost with nothing in return, or bring him back under a sweeter deal - which may retain a coach who's unlikely, under the circumstances, to be much happier or more successful.
Or you can turn the page on this era and start a new chapter with an unproven head coach as the Saints did with Sean Payton in 2006.
In 2016, maybe you get the next Mike Zimmer, who won the NFC North with the vikings last night in his second season.
Or maybe you get the next Mike Pettine, who's probably getting pelted by dog biscuits as he's driven out of Cleveland after just two miserable years with the Browns.
The first person with the fool-proof solution to this dilemma gets a free Sean Payton visor - autographed by Tom Benson.