ATLANTA, GA (WVUE) - Like an all-pro poker player, Sean Payton played his cards perfectly.
Even as his team meddled in mediocrity for a second straight year, Payton's coaching stock has never been hotter.
The dominant story of his 7-9, 2015 Saints was never how bad they struggled on the field. But rather, is this Payton's final year in New Orleans?
Name another head coach at any level of football that can go 14-18 in two seasons and miss on so many personnel moves and can still CHOOSE if he wants to stay or go?
No one. Outside of Sean Payton of course. Any other coach would be sweating to see if he is going to be fired.
But alas, the time has finally come for Payton to show his hand. The weekly gamesmanship of having someone in his camp leak information to prominent national reporters then denying them to the local media, who are constantly charged with asking about the reports then getting terse responses, is over.
Well, almost. He did give us one more for good measure after Sunday's win.
"No, listen, we got players in tomorrow. We got to evaluate the roster we got a lot of things we have to do. If I feel the need to get you an itinerary I will. No, that's the answer though, that's the answer you with me? I can't be more clear. Next question," Payton predictably responded.
Typical wash, rinse, repeat cycle.
But this time things are different. This time it came from Jay Glazer who, as everyone knows, is the closest thing to having Payton actually say it himself.
In it, Glazer said Payton is meeting with Mickey Loomis on Monday to discuss his future.
"There's a lot of things that could happen. If Mickey Loomis decides to change certain things up there, Sean could stay," Glazer said. "If somebody says 'OK, we'll give you a second round pick for Sean Payton,' that could happen too..."
So after all the ups and downs, it will come down to a meeting between the two most powerful men in the organization.
I've been 50/50 the whole season on Payton's future. But Sunday was the first time I've ever leaned to the side of him leaving.
I observed the emotion after the game. It certainly had a 'riding off in the sunset' feel.
Drew Brees chimed when asked about his head coach's status.
"I hope so. I don't know the future, nobody does. I know that anytime the season ends there's lots of question marks," Brees said. "I guess we will all
have to wait and see but I certainly hope he does."
His face had a slight smile. His words were definitely sincere. But the tone surely lacked the usual confidence.
Brees, like everyone in the organization, has no idea what exactly Payton is going to do.
But the good news is, the time has almost come for everyone to find out.