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Sean Payton believes it’s unlikely he becomes next Dallas Cowboys head coach

Sean Payton, Dallas Cowboys

Sean Payton is the most sought-after of the top NFL coaching candidates in 2023, with multiple teams willing to pay a king’s ransom in a trade to hire him. While Payton is keeping his options open, it appears the Dallas Cowboys aren’t under consideration.

Before Monday’s Wild Card Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jerry Jones vehemently downplayed rumors that head coach Mike McCarthy could be fired if Dallas suffers another first-round postseason exit.

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McCarthy took the franchise further than any coach has since 2006-’07, earning consecutive playoff appearances with a combined 24-10 record over the past two seasons. However, expectations were set even higher entering the 2022 season.

Jones put McCarthy on notice before training camp, stating to reporters that a Super Bowl was the standard that needed to be reached. It was followed by numerous reports that the Cowboys needed to win playoff games for McCarthy to avoid being fired.

Dallas is now limping into the playoffs. After jumping out to a 9-3 record, the Cowboys went 3-3 the rest of the season including narrow victories over the Houston Texans, Gardner Minshew and Josh Dobbs.

If there was any belief that Jones’ public backing of McCarthy after the regular season was purely for show, reporting by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network on Sunday makes it clear that even Payton is buying into the statements.

“Even Sean Payton doesn’t consider this to be a potential opening. It seems Mike McCarthy is safe.”

Ian Rapoport on Sean Payton’s perception of the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching job

It came on the same day that NFL insiders indicated Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley will return next season. The Chargers and Cowboys were viewed as the two favorites to land Payton, offering him the young, franchise quarterback and job location he desired.

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If there are no openings in Dallas and Los Angeles, Payton might not return to coaching in 2023. He is still under contract with FOX Sports and is reportedly interested in remaining with the network next season.

Payton pulling out of the NFL coaching carousel would have ripple effects for multiple teams. The Denver Broncos would likely pivot to either hiring Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh or choosing Cowboys’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn as their next head coach. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Saints would lose out on a first-round pick they likely anticipated receiving this offseason in a Payton trade.

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All of this could change depending on the Cowboys’ performance against the Buccaneers. If Dallas loses on national television, with its last playoff win coming in 2018, Jones might change his mind.