A chunk of Albert Breer’s most recent mailbag at The MMQB delves into the future of the Chicago Bears, including potential candidates to replace Matt Nagy. Breer mentions Josh McDaniels as one option. Ohio State Head Coach Ryan Day and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald are two others (with caveats you can read about here if you’re interested).
But then, unprompted, Breer offers up this: “Or maybe the McCaskey family will take a big swing at someone like Sean Payton, who worked with GM Ryan Pace in New Orleans and is from Chicago.”
Sean Payton is certainly an unexpected name-drop. And the connection to GM Ryan Pace isn’t one we should take lightly. But still, at first blush, this feels like a pie-in-the-sky idea. Fun to think about, but not realistic.
However, two days later, here’s Breer — in a piece exploring the idea of trading coaches in the NFL — connecting the Bears and Payton once again: “If you’re the Bears, and you make a change after the season, would you see if GM Ryan Pace, a former Saints exec, might be able to land native Chicagoan Sean Payton, who’s now in a bit of QB purgatory in New Orleans?”
OK, now you have my full attention. Especially after those specific mentions coming within days of each other.
But if your antenna isn’t up yet, let’s point out that Breer isn’t alone with these speculative thoughts.
In a piece shared after the Saints’ Thanksgiving loss to the Bills, PFT’s Mike Florio paints Payton as a coach at a crossroads. And those crossroads could lead to him coaching elsewhere in 2021. Because there’s going off the board. And then, there’s going reeeaaally off the board.
“It also won’t be a surprise, frankly, if Payton’s name makes a re-emergence on the Sunday Splash! circuit as a guy who could be moving on after the season,” Florio writes. “As some who chase constant content quota may conclude, if Payton can’t bring a franchise quarterback to him, maybe he’ll take himself to a franchise quarterback.”
Yo! So, now we have three mentions of Payton as someone who might be an option to coach a different team next year than the one he is with now. The timing of these ideas being pushed publicly is interesting, to say the least.
Since joining the Saints, Payton has a 148-88 record. He has won more playoff games (9) than lost (8), and has a Super Bowl ring. But he also has a legacy that is bigger than football results. Coaches like him just don’t walk away from situations like that one. But if he was to do so, why not the Bears? Maybe the allure of the Naperville Central grad/Eastern Illinois product/former Bear speaks to Payton. Perhaps the potential to coach Fields piques his interest. It’s possible that Payton could envision himself as the last piece to what might be the last great American sports challenge — building a Bears Super Bowl winner with a franchise quarterback and head coach who are together arm-in-arm.
The concept of Payton jumping ship to guide Fields moving forward borders on unrealistic and pipe-dream. And yet, because the last week of coach movement have taught us nothing is impossible, it wouldn’t be right to simply ignore informed speculation. I’m not saying it will happen. There is so much that could happen between now and the season’s end to go that far. But, if only for a moment, it’s fun to dream the biggest dreams. Let’s face it. At this point, there is no idea too out-of-this-world to consider when it comes to the Bears’ future.
At minimum, this is interesting speculation. It’s fun to discuss. And seeing the wild head-coach movement (and rumors) around college football will only add fuel to fires for those hoping for an anything can happen scenario to play out for the Bears. I mean, just as the Bears were due to land a QB prospect with Fields’ talents and accolades, shouldn’t the due factor suggest the time is coming to nail the head-coach hire?
Michael: My only concern here is whether or not getting Payton means having to keep Ryan Pace …. But let’s cross one bridge at a time.