If it wasn't a sign that he's a front-runner for New Orleans' head coaching job, it was clear the Saints wanted his take on their uncertain quarterback situation.
"We talked about that," Payton said Thursday afternoon. "I enjoy coaching that position. I enjoy being involved in the offense. I would certainly look forward to being involved with that development."
Aaron Brooks started for most of six seasons before he was benched for the final three games of 2005, the worst season of his career. It is not clear whether the Saints will bring him back in 2006, when he is slated to be paid about $6.5 million.
Meanwhile, if Houston selects Reggie Bush with the top pick in the NFL Draft, the Saints will have the choice of Matt Leinart, Vince Young or any other top quarterback prospect with the No. 2 pick.
Payton stopped short of getting into specifics over whether he thought it would be worthwhile to keep Brooks or take a quarterback in the draft.
"To say, 'Hey, thats a certain position that should be drafted,' I think its too early, at least right now, to comment on," Payton said.
He also wouldn't say which college quarterback he'd most like to see taken by the Saints if the team decided to go in that direction.
"I haven't even had a chance to look at some of these college players yet. Our season just ended a week and a half ago," Payton said.
Payton's arrival in New Orleans followed those of New York Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. Mike Sherman, recently fired as the Green
Bay Packers' head coach, was scheduled to interview with the Saints on
Thursday evening and Friday morning. The Saints also planned to meet with former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz on Friday night and Saturday morning.
Payton has spent the past three seasons under Bill Parcells in Dallas, where he also holds the title of assistant head coach. Before that, he was Jim Fassel's offensive coordinator with the New York Giants -- a stint that included the Giants' NFC championship in 2000-01. He played quarterback at I-AA Eastern Illinois, followed by a brief pro playing career in the CFL with Ottawa and the NFL as a replacement player with Chicago during the strike season of 1987.
Like Carthon, Payton credited his time with Parcells for getting him ready to seek out head coaching jobs.
"You learn a lot more about all the things that are necessary to be the leader of a team and so there's day-to-day hands-on training that you get and you might not even be asking for it," Payton said. "You try as best you can to be organized, have a plan, know exactly what you want from a schedule standpoint, have an idea of what you would want in a staff."
The only other team Payton has interviewed with so far is Green Bay, which hired San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy, who also held the same position with the Saints. Payton said he did
not have any other interviews scheduled, which could leave the Saints, who went 3-13 this season, as his only chance to land a head coaching job for 2006.
Payton said he wouldn't be deterred by the Saints' poor showing in 2005, when the team was displaced to San Antonio and practiced in temporary facilities after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on Aug. 29.
"It's hard to look at their talent now compared to their record with all of the circumstances and things that they've gone through," Payton said. "It's a team that's certainly shown that they can be competitive and I would look forward to that challenge."