ATLANTA, GA (WVUE) - So here we go again. Another Saints season has ended in Atlanta and once again everyone is left wondering if it was Sean Payton's last game as the Saints head coach.
It's completely understandable that Payton doesn't want to respond to every small bit of speculation week-to-week. But now that the season is over, all Payton had to say was 'I'm not going anywhere.'
Done. Speculation squashed. We all move on to the normal offseason storylines.
But that didn't happen.
"Next question" was Payton's predictable response to the question of if he will be back in 2017. There was also a new twist to the drama. FOX 8 Sports confirmed that Payton and Mickey Loomis met after the game at the Georgia Dome for about an hour to discuss his future.
I've been to just about every Saints road game since 2010. I'm confident in saying meetings like that don't routinely happen. That shows how real this situation truly is.
I've long maintained that reports like the ones constantly surrounding Payton aren't made up out of thin air. They are carefully calculated and intentionally leaked for a specific reason.
In this case, despite his denials, there's no denying there's interest in Los Angeles. Whether or not that interest is reciprocated from there, or anywhere, remains to be seen.
In the process, the organization waits in limbo. Again.
All of this can certainly get tiresome for any team, but it would be easier to tolerate if Payton and the Saints were still a perennial playoff contender.
That's where this exhausting storyline must take a turn.
Payton is no longer that coach, and the Saints are no longer that team. He's simply a head coach whose team has been mired in mediocrity.
Three straight 7-9 seasons should have him concerned that his seat is too hot to sit on. Instead, the story is, and really always has been, does Payton WANT to leave? Would he even have the option with any other organization?
The answer is likely no. Even if he does return, it's time the Saints realize this.