Is Sean Payton a dream or reality for Carolina Panthers head coach?

(Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) Sean Payton
(Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) Sean Payton /

Sean Payton has permission to speak with the Carolina Panthers about their vacant head coaching position, but how realistic is the possibility?

As the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins were fighting it out for a divisional playoff round spot, the Carolina Panthers dropped a bombshell of their own. A report from ESPN’s insider Adam Schefter that was confirmed by multiple others stated that Sean Payton has been granted permission by the New Orleans Saints to speak with their NFC South rivals, which is a dramatic turn of events in pursuit of finding a new head coach.

This came out of nowhere considering the long list of candidates already accumulated by the Panthers. However, it’s right in keeping with team owner David Tepper‘s bold approach and willingness to swing for the fences in pursuit of progression.

Payton has a ton of interest from franchises looking to improve their fortunes. The Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, and the Arizona Cardinals have all thrown their hat in the ring, so it might come down to which organization the current FOX Sports analyst prefers.

The Carolina Panthers job might intrigue Sean Payton

The Panthers represent an intriguing option. Although his Saints connections make it a controversial switch within the division that wouldn’t be well received in Baton Rouge.

They can maneuver money for cap space, have plenty of draft picks, and also boast an outstanding young core to build around long-term. Therefore, this is arguably the most attractive destination for any head coach compared to the situations elsewhere.

Payton got the green light from New Orleans to speak with Tepper and general manager Scott Fitterer. One could potentially assume this also indicates compensation has already been agreed between the two rivals.

What that would look like is anyone’s guess.

Carolina’s price will be steeper than others due to their NFC South familiarity. But parting ways with the No. 9 overall selection and more is unlikely to sit well with a fanbase that is in desperate need of long-term hope.

There’s little chance Payton accepts the job without a first-rounder to select a new quarterback, either. Although there could be options on the open market or via trade to explore in this scenario.

Payton’s NFL credentials are there for all to see. There is the Bountygate saga that stains his legacy, but this appointment ticks every box of what Tepper is reportedly looking for in Matt Rhule’s long-term replacement.

Whether this is anything more than a pipedream is undetermined. Payton would not be the yes man Tepper probably wants after giving Rhule complete power, but few would deny this isn’t the best pure coaching candidate on Carolina’s shortlist currently.

The compensation, contract, and everything else will be immense. After his $62 million experiment with Rhule failed miserably, Tepper needs to be 100 percent convinced this is the right play given his previous rash moves.

This is another intriguing development for fans to monitor closely in the coming days. Ben Johnson is also scheduled for an in-person interview on Wednesday, which could be the wildcard after Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports claimed he was “leading the race” before the news surrounding Payton emerged.

At the moment, it’s more of a dream than reality all things considered. But as always when it comes to Tepper, nothing whatsoever can be ruled out.

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