Biggest week of Sean Payton's career

If nothing else, Sean Payton’s appeal of his one-year suspension from the NFL has bought him one more week as coach of the New Orleans Saints.

It could end up being the biggest week of Payton’s coaching career. Yeah, it’s mid-April and, seemingly, there’s nothing going on right now. But there’s a lot for Payton to take care of in the next week.

It’s been apparent that he and general manager Mickey Loomis, who will be suspended for the first eight games of the 2012 season, are doing most of the leg work on finding a replacement for Payton. They’ve talked to Bill Parcells. Even if they can coax Parcells out of retirement, the Saints will have to interview at least one other candidate to satisfy the Rooney Rule, which only applies if the team brings in a coach from outside. It’s also possible, the Saints could stay inside and make offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, or offensive line coach Aaron Kromer the head coach.

It’s also possible the Saints could go with one of their current assistants and still bring on Parcells in some sort of role as a consultant or special assistant. In that scenario, Parcells’ five-year clock for Hall of Fame election wouldn’t have to start over.

However the replacement part plays out, Payton has a lot of other things to do in the next week. He’s known for being extremely organized, and it’s likely he’ll want to leave a detailed plan for his replacement that will include how to run offseason workouts (which begin next week), training camp, the preseason and even some general plans for the regular season.

Payton doesn’t handle contract negotiations. That’s Loomis’ job, and his suspension doesn’t start until the beginning of the regular season. But the Saints have another brewing crisis on their hands.

They placed the franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees at the start of free agency. Brees and the Saints have said they want to work a long-term deal, but nothing has been finalized. For another week, Payton has a lot of clout in determining what happens with the Saints.

The coach wants to leave his team set up as well as possible for the 2012 season. The best thing he can do in that time is use his influence to make sure Brees gets signed to a long-term deal.