Long before Jason Garrett became the apple of Jerry Jones‘ eye for his offensive brilliance, there was current New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Payton was a Dallas Cowboys assistant coach from 2003-2005, where he very quickly became Bill Parcells‘ go-to guy regarding airing the ball out down the field. In his rather impressive short time in Dallas, there was speculation that Payton would become the Cowboys’ head coach as soon as his predecessor retired. However, as we all know this didn’t happen.
Parcells decided to stay with the team for one more season, and that is the same year Payton left the ‘Boys in 2006 for a chance to turn around a reeling Saints franchise.
Boy, has Payton done just that.
In his time in New Orleans, the Saints have made five playoff appearances, and even won the Super Bowl in 2010.
As another matchup with the Saints rapidly approaches this Sunday, I always find myself asking, “What if Payton never left the Dallas Cowboys? Would they be stuck in mediocrity? Would Payton take Tony Romo to another level like he has with Drew Brees? What have the Cowboys done since Payton has left?
They definitely haven’t won the Super Bowl, and actually really haven’t come close. “America’s Team” has only made the playoffs three times, and has not once made the NFC Championship Game.
Let’s also keep in mind that coaching positions with the Cowboys have been anything but stable since Parcells’ retirement and Payton bolted. Parcells’ immediate replacement, Wade Phillips, was fired after just two and a half seasons, and he was then replaced by his own offensive coordinator, who we all know as Garrett. Under Garrett, the Cowboys have gone 8-8 for three consecutive seasons, and have been the epitome of average.
Prior to a couple of these 8-8 seasons, the bounty gate scandal unfolded in New Orleans. I held out hope that Payton, who calls Dallas his offseason home, would leave the Saints for a chance to have a reunion with Jones and the Cowboys. Of course, this didn’t happen either.
So every time the ‘Boys face the Saints, one has to wonder what could have been if Jones kept Payton for one more year as a “head coach in-waiting,” since now it seems as if he’ll never leave New Orleans.
First off, I truly believe the Cowboys would have already won a Super Bowl under Payton. It’s often forgotten that Payton, a former Eastern Illinois quarterback himself, was the one who discovered Romo as an undrafted free agent from his former university. After seeing what Payton has done with Brees, one can only wishfully think about what he could have done with Romo. Brees certainly wouldn’t be the No. 9 that is immortalized today.
Secondly, Dez Bryant would definitely already boast the title of the league’s best receiver. Sorry Calvin Johnson, but think of the most talented Saints receiver Jimmy Graham here. Dez has way more potential and ability than Graham, who has posted ridiculous numbers in his time in the league. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think Dez’s numbers would be substantially better than they are now under Payton.
Third off, I don’t think there would be any questions surrounding the team’s play calls, as Payton always seems to find creative ways to get his playmakers the ball. Although Payton himself is pass-happy like Garrett, he still knew how to get the ball to the likes of Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas in space. One could also argue that Payton would have even more talented personnel in Dallas.
Lastly, Payton is known as the biggest risk-taker in the NFL, and someone who embodies taking risks more than Jerry himself. I feel like a partnership with Jerry would have been a match made in heaven. Jones would let a coach like Payton have free reign over their roster, as they think similarly in football philosophy.
Man, wouldn’t it have been a nice thing to see him coach the Cowboys? Instead, one of the most storied franchises is stuck with the nothing-more-than-average Garrett at the helm, who has the team embroiled in mediocrity.
Kyle Nault is a NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @KyleOnTheDaily.