FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- It's hard to believe that Saints head coach Sean Payton once had his play-calling duties stripped when he was offensive coordinator with the New York Giants in 2002, but that's exactly what happened. When Bill Parcells became head coach of the Cowboys in 2003, one of his first hires was Payton. In effect, he gave him an opportunity to reset his career.
Payton was instrumental in helping Quincy Carter lead the Cowboys to 10 wins and a playoff appearance in 2003 and it wasn't long before Al Davis tried to hire him to become head coach in Oakland. Payton came close to accepting the job, but he decided to give Jerry Jones one more chance at the negotiating table. Jones never enjoyed paying big money to assistants, but he increased Payton's salary from $500,000 to $1 million.
Payton called and told Davis he wasn't coming. In 2006, the Saints made him their head coach. Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram has a good column today about how grateful Payton is for the time he spent with Parcells.
"[Parcells] knows how to win, and I learned an awful lot in a short period of time, three years," Payton said. "When you think about that opportunity for a young guy to work with a Hall of Fame coach, it's invaluable."
Payton attempted to take then-Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano with him to New Orleans as his offensive coordinator, but Parcells blocked the move. Sparano might not admit it now, but at the time he thought Parcells' decision may have ended any hopes he had of being a head coach in the league. He was furious with Parcells for not allowing him to pursue an obvious promotion in both title and money.
Of course, now we know the rest of the story. Parcells and Sparano are running a little team here in South Florida.