AP File Photo/The Shreveport Times, Shane Bevel
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, congratulates Dallas Cowboys head coach BIll Parcells after the Cowboys beat the Saints 30-7 in a preseason NFL football game at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La. on Aug. 21, 2006.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Sean Payton lists Bill Parcells as his mentor. These days, the New Orleans Saints coach may need that support more than ever.
Facing a season-long suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounties program, Payton planned to meet with Parcells, his former boss, on Tuesday, a conversation that will include who will coach New Orleans this coming season.
Speaking Tuesday morning at the NFL meetings, Payton said he talks regularly with Parcells, and has sought his counsel often throughout this process. He added that he, general manager Mickey Loomis — who is facing an eight-game suspension — and team owner Tom Benson are weighing a number of scenarios, and Payton said a decision whether he will appeal the suspension is likely in the next “two to three” days.
“We’ve gone through just an early, between Mickey, myself, Mr. Benson, just an early synopsis of what our options would be,” Payton said. “We’ll continue to do that when we get back to Metairie. Even this morning some, we’re going to have some breakfast and discuss that matter. Fortunately, we feel like we’ve got a number of good candidates. The trick then is what it does to affect their roles that they currently have.”
One role Payton is certain about: He’s “100 percent” confident he will coach the Saints in 2013.
Parcells led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl victories, is a mentor to Payton, and hired Payton as an offensive assistant in Dallas in 2003.
“You’re asking me what are his great strengths?” Payton said. “And I would say to you he’s a great teacher. Certainly I’m biased, having worked with him. But he’s a Hall of Fame head coach. And I would also say there’s some things probably set up in the framework of our program that would be exactly how he would have set those things up had he been the head coach here in `06. So there’s some carry-over that way.”
Payton spoke for about 18 minutes on Tuesday, remaining composed throughout. He talked about the disappointment that for the first time since his first season playing football as a kid 39 years ago he may miss a season.
“You go through a range of emotions that kind of hit you,” the 48-year-old Payton said. “You’re disappointed. You’re disappointed in yourself that it got to this point. I think we’re trained as coaches to begin preparation right away. I find myself reflecting on it, and you go through a lot of emotions.”
The NFL’s investigation found that Payton initially lied to league investigators about the program, at first denying its existence, and also instructed his defensive assistants to lie. Payton twice has apologized for his role in the bounty system that offered payouts for big hits on opponents, saying he takes “full responsibility” for the program that operated for three years under his watch.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that if Payton appeals the suspension, he could remain as coach during the process.
“I said in a letter they have to appeal by April 2, I believe,” Goodell said. “If he decides to appeal, I probably will allow him to continue and I would expedite the hearing and I would expedite my decision.”
Asked if Payton’s punishment was as much for lying to him as it was for the actual bounties program, Goodell spoke about a pattern of untruths.
“This is a violation of a very serious rule,” Goodell said. “We have made player health and safety very clear as a priority. During the process of when this first was raised two years ago, there were denials. They were not forthright and that continued through our investigation.
“This is something with zero tolerance and is not acceptable.”
The league also slapped a six-game suspension on assistant head coach Joe Vitt, who also coaches linebackers and was a potential choice to fill in for Williams.
Former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who left the Saints after last season to join the St. Louis Rams, ran the bounty program and has been suspended indefinitely. Goodell also fined the Saints $500,000 and took away second-round draft choices in 2012 and 2013.
Payton was asked if he felt the Saints were being punished too severely.
“No, I accept this,” Payton said. “I’ve heard that argument and I think trying to really look closely at how we and how I can improve has been probably a better way for me to handle this than to kind of vent or look outwardly at other programs. I try to take that approach.”
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