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Payton refutes speculation, will stay as coach of Saints

AP

Saints coach Sean Payton smiled often and answered questions for a full hour while team owner Tom Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis looked on from a few meters away.

More introspective, laid back and talkative than usual, Payton appeared refreshed and eager to begin a second decade in New Orleans.

Seeking to end speculation that he could be on the move after consecutive 7-9 seasons, Payton asserted on Wednesday that he doesn’t envision himself “ever coaching for any other clubs.”

“I know it appeared there was a looming decision, but I think this is really me saying again . . . here I am and nothing’s changing and I plan on finishing my career here,” Payton said. “I’ll be here as long as they’ll have me.”

Payton does not have an extension — at least, not yet. He said his contract, which runs for two more seasons and pays him about $8 million annually, remains unchanged for now.

“I’m sure at the right time, all those things will take care of themselves,” Payton said.

Payton did not deny that he and Loomis have had disagreements.

“We each like to win an argument, but I think it’s important in the discussions, when we’re going through things, that we both have the ability to look at what’s best,” Payton said.

“That’s what’s given us a chance at functional success. That’s what’s missing, quite honestly, in a lot of these organizations that spin the wheels.”

Payton began his first and only NFL head coaching job with the Saints in 2006, the season after the team had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Since then, he has gone 87-57 in the regular season with five playoff appearances and one Super Bowl title in the 2009 season.

His playoff record is 6-4. Payton’s record excludes the 2012 season, when he was suspended in connection with the NFL’s bounty investigation.

The coach said he understood the speculation about him leaving New Orleans, given that he has been with the Saints for a decade and that coaching vacancies were opening on other clubs as the season wound down.

But Payton stressed, “I knew in my heart of hearts that was not going to be something that came to fruition.

“There will be a time where they don’t want you back, and that’s OK. . . . One by one, that train stops for all of us,” Payton continued, then added a line he learned from his mentor, former Super Bowl-winning coach Bill Parcells. “We’re better for having ridden (the figurative train), then never having been on at all.”

Payton also made a point of expressing how his affection for living in New Orleans has grown as he watched the city recover from the devastation Katrina left behind. He discussed how the Saints represented “a lot more than football” when he arrived.

“There is something unique and different,” Payton said, referring even to local fine dining customs, such as when a team of waiters coordinate placement of entrees before each diner at a table at the same moment. “It grows on you and it is home. . . . I would struggle not living here.”

The Saints never indicated an interest in letting Payton go, but Loomis had seldom made himself available to comment publicly on the matter.

Bucs dismiss Smith

Tampa Florida AP

Jameis Winston had a strong rookie season, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tripled their victory total from the previous year. Still, it wasn’t enough to save coach Lovie Smith’s job.

Smith was fired Wednesday night after going 6-10 this season, 8-24 overall in two years running a team that has missed the playoffs eight consecutive years.

The late-night announcement came as a surprise because Smith’s job was not considered to be in danger after the Bucs improved from two wins and landing the No. 1 overall draft pick in his first season to rebounding from a slow start to briefly contend for a wild-card berth with a rookie quarterback starting every game.

“This decision was difficult on a variety of levels,” Buccaneers Co-Chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement. “I am disappointed that we were not more successful these past few seasons, but we are committed to doing what is necessary to give our fans the winning team they deserve.”

Smith led the Chicago Bears to the NFC title in 2006, when they lost to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. He was 84-66 in nine seasons with Chicago.