NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday night during a radio interview that he plans to be back with New Orleans next season and to honor his contract, which runs through 2020.
Payton's statement on WWL-AM, the Saints' flagship radio station, came hours after he gruffly declined to address what he viewed as baseless rumors and speculation about a possible departure following a third straight 7-9 season.
Payton added in an interview with host and former Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert that he "absolutely" has no interest in coaching elsewhere.
Earlier Monday, while on an end-of-season conference call with New Orleans media, Payton stopped short of offering assurances about his future in New Orleans, but insinuated his expectations of returning when he asserted some recent published reports about him contained factual errors.
He went on to emphasize that the reason he often allows speculation to fester is because he does not want to dignify with responses those reports he views as incorrect and based on unaccountable, unnamed sources.
"We're not going to address rumors," Payton said, a day after a season-ending 38-32 loss at Atlanta. "If we answered those every time, it would be silly."
Payton took issue in particular with reports he met with general manager Mickey Loomis after Sunday's season finale to discuss the coach's future with the club, calling them "completely false."
"If I'm going to answer questions to a report like that that's inaccurate, then we only just feed or turn the rumor mill — so I won't," Payton said. "And that's just the way it is."
Payton did wind up acknowledging that he met with Loomis, but stressed that the pair have met after every game since his hiring in 2006 — but mainly to discuss the game that was just played.
"We come in. We have a Gatorade. We talk," Payton said. "Then we get a cheeseburger and we get on the plane."
The Saints, who won their only Super Bowl and have qualified for five postseasons with Payton as coach, have not been to the playoffs — or even been above .500 one day — since the 2013 campaign. At the same time, the offense Payton designed around quarterback Drew Brees has remained among the NFL's elite; New Orleans finished this season first in total net yards with 6,816, or 426 yards per game.
Days after the 2015 season ended, Payton similarly said he doesn't envision himself "ever coaching for any other clubs."
"I plan on finishing my career here," Payton said last Jan. 6. "I'll be here as long as they'll have me."
Within a couple months of those comments, Payton had a contract extension through 2020 paying about $9 million per year, more than any other NFL coach.
Firing Payton now could cost in excess of $30 million in the absence of a buyout agreement, but coaches also can be traded. And there are coaching vacancies this offseason, including with the Los Angeles Rams.
Veteran Saints players have expressed confidence that Payton — whose 94 regular-season wins are a franchise record — will return to New Orleans, saying they've seen no indication he wants out or that the club wants rid of him.
"All this is very speculative," Brees said. "I just don't expect that to happen."
Veteran safety Roman Harper, who was part of Payton's first draft class in New Orleans, said he expects Payton "to be here and to continue to lead this organization in the right direction like he's done the previous 11 years."
Payton has in fact coached 10 seasons since his hiring, having been suspended for 2012 in connection with the NFL's bounty probe. Including playoffs, he is 100-70 as Saints coach.
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Posted on Tue, January 3, 2017
by BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer