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Rumors fly of Sean Payton to Dallas, if Cowboys falter down the stretch

Mike Florio and Charean Williams don't have a lot of confidence in the Cowboys despite a matchup at home against backup QB Gardner Minshew and the Eagles.

The season began with widespread rumors that a season of unfulfilled expectations would potentially result in the Cowboys firing coach Mike McCarthy and hiring Sean Payton. As the season pushes toward a conclusion, with the Cowboys looking sluggish in their last two outings, the rumors are making the rounds, again.

Yes, the chatter is back. If the Cowboys finish with, say, a one-and-done postseason, the thinking is that owner Jerry Jones would potentially pull the trigger, finally, on hiring Payton.

As explained earlier this year, Jones was ready to hire Payton in early 2019. It was the decision of former Pelicans star Anthony Davis to ask for a trade out of town that resulted in the Saints deciding not to allow Payton to leave for Dallas. (Confused? Here’s the full story. Which was told in Playmakers.)

This time around, Payton is already gone. The only issue would be compensation, first for the Saints and then for Payton. (Also, Jones would have to be willing to pay McCarthy to not coach for two years, assuming the full five-year contract is fully guaranteed. Jones typically doesn’t like to pay coaches to not work for him.)

The rumors come at a time when is reporting that Payton is “already putting together an all-star staff,” with former Broncos coach Vic Fangio as the potential defensive coordinator. That’s really not a surprise, however. Payton has said he will be coaching sooner than later, and that he’ll be returning in 2023 or 2024. It would be ridiculously foolish for him not to have a staff ready to go; if he doesn’t, he’d have to slap something together on the fly, if an opportunity emerges to coach in 2023

Indeed, PFT learned months ago that Payton was getting a staff ready earlier this year, when the Dolphins were trying to hire him and planning to trade for quarterback Tom Brady.

Thus, getting a staff together doesn’t mean he’s definitely coming back. And it also shouldn’t be regarded as much of a revelation. He’s made it clear he’s interested in returning. Of course he’s going to have a staff ready to go.

The real question is whether he’ll return -- and if so where. It finally could be Dallas. For Jones, who has coveted Payton for years, it could be speak now or forever hold your Johnnie Walker Blue.