For those of you who frequent this specific digital destination and/or who watch or listen to PFT Live, you already know that the Dolphins wanted to hire Sean Payton to be the team’s next head coach, with the idea of also securing the services of quarterback Tom Brady. You also know that the lawsuit filed by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores (on the same day Brady announced his short-lived retirement) blew it all up.
It was, as we’ve said many times since late February, a done deal. It was happening. It was lined up. It was just a matter of time.
During Super Bowl week, Brady would have been introduced as a minority owner of the Dolphins. After that, the Dolphins would have worked out a deal with the Saints for Payton, with at least a first-round pick going from Miami to New Orleans. Then, presumably after the Buccaneers had acquired a new starting quarterback via trade or free agency, a deal would have been struck between Miami and Tampa Bay for Brady to play for the Dolphins.
Yes, it was happening. Indeed, it was a done deal. It has been the most underreported story of the offseason, in large part because it wasn’t first reported by ESPN.com and/or NFL Media. They’ve since both largely ignored and/or downplayed it, because it wasn’t theirs.
That doesn’t make it any less true.
Recently, multiple reports added a key detail to the equation. The Dolphins were ready to give Payton a $100 million contract.
Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported late last week that it would have been $20 million per year over five years for Payton. Albert Breer of SI.com reported on Monday that it actually would have been $100 million over four years.
Whether four or five years, it’s no surprise, given that: (1) the deal was done; and (2) the coaching market is in the process of going haywire.
Obviously, it didn’t happen. Come next year, someone surely will make another run at Payton. The Panthers already have been linked to Payton. As explained in Playmakers, the Cowboys were poised to replace Jason Garrett with Payton in early 2019, but a strange turn of events involving the New Orleans Pelicans and Anthony Davis scuttled what was, at the time, a done deal.
Other teams may be interested in Payton come 2023. He’s clearly in play for next year. He’s a proven commodity. And it’s now clearly known that he’ll be ready to coach again. He nearly did, without a break.
But for the Flores lawsuit, it would have happened. Payton and Brady to Miami. Brady, reunited with an old-school Parcells disciple who burns the midnight oil and demands a high degree of accountability from his players. Just like Bill Belichick.
To understand Brady’s attraction to Payton is to better understand Brady’s desire (however it was articulated to the Buccaneers) to swap Bruce Arians for Todd Bowles, another Parcells protege. Although Brady couldn’t take a day more than 20 years with Belichick, Brady knows the value of hard coaching, for him and for the rest of the team. A coach who works and works and works and works and who expects a similar commitment from his players. That’s what Brady wanted, and that’s what he almost got in Miami.
Let’s spin it forward, on both counts. Could Payton and Brady, who will be a free agent in 2023, eventually team up elsewhere? That all depends on where Payton goes, and whether that team needs a quarterback. Miami, still a potential Brady destination, won’t be changing coaches after one year with Mike McDaniel. The Cowboys, if Payton lands there, won’t be changing quarterbacks.
Could it be Carolina? It’s hard to imagine the Saints trading Payton’s rights within the division. Still, when assessing the potential spots on both the coaching and quarterback carousels after the upcoming season ends, it makes sense to keep an eye out for the possibility, slim as it may currently seem, for the planets to align in a way that results in an otherwise contending team looking for both a new coach and a new quarterback. That team, if there is one that fits the description, could be the next team that tries to land both Payton and Brady.