|Sean Payton has Benson mesmerized after doing so much as the head coach for the Saints. (US Presswire)|
PALM BEACH, Fla. -- One of the NFL's more inexplicable billionaires, Tom Benson, accumulated his fortune with automobile dealerships, banks and media outlets. There have been times, when Benson has sashayed around the Superdome under a colorfully decorated parasol, when people had to wonder if Benson was anything more than the green behind the Saints' machine.
In the wake of Monday's news that suspended coach Sean Payton is trying hard to anoint his own interim successor in close buddy Bill Parcells (forget those Parcells unconvincing denials), Benson's role -- or, perhaps, his weightlessness in the misguided flirtation -- comes under such scrutiny.
The whole ordeal is about as confounding as the stupefying fact that Benson's net worth includes nine zeroes following the numbers.
Unless there is some underlying initiative at work, or Benson has retained the ultimate veto power and is poised to exercise it should the peripatetic Parcells actually agree to return to the field, the Saints' owner is a willing party to craziness. Why in the world would a guy who made a fortune selling cars hand over the keys to his most expensive luxury vehicle to a guy who has driven the automobile over the cliff?
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Sean Payton, even given his obligatory and hollow mea culpa here on Tuesday morning upon his arrival at the NFL annual meetings, makes Thelma and Louise look like candidates for the safe-driver discount. One would think that after so many years of stewarding auto dealerships, Benson would be able to discern a fast-talking flimflam by now. But, clearly, he's been mesmerized by the NFL equivalent of a used-car salesman.
Care for the weatherproof undercoating, too, Tom? Payton can get you a deal.
The fact of the matter is, Payton is Benson's best salesman on the lot. As noted a horse-manure huckster as Payton is, he has ingratiated himself to the owner and mesmerized him with banter and the belief he is special. And the owner apparently regards even a besmirched Payton as perhaps equal to the sainted Drew Brees as the countenance of a once-laughingstock franchise.
And that's too bad.
On the strength of one ballsy onside kick decision at the outset of the second half of Super Bowl XLI, Payton has not only built, but fashioned, a reputation. Morals be damned. The NFL has been an almost win-at-all-cost proposition. Some banks and financial institutions, and Benson can probably relate to this, have become too big to fail. By virtue of a Super Bowl title, and genius offensive play-calling (give the man his due), Payton has apparently become too big to fire.
Lose a game and you're in trouble. Forfeit your soul, or permit some runaway hubris to overtake your value system, and you don't always lose your job. Let's be honest here, something that Payton was not, at least on those occasions when he was summoned to Park Avenue to be interrogated by commissioner Roger Goodell: Payton is a prevaricator (the genteel term for "liar") of the highest order. So maybe he didn't quite toss his trusty lieutenants under the bus for their roles in masterminding the tawdry "Bountygate" scheme. But Payton was piloting the bus, perhaps with outdated license, and left some tread on a few people. He certainly didn't keep the bus between the lines, that's for sure.
How the man still has a job, even with a one-year hiatus, is puzzling enough. How he convinced Benson to permit him and general manager Mickey Loomis to approach Parcells, a man with more comebacks than Sinatra, is beyond perplexing. As noted by the Sports Xchange on Monday, Payton has essentially undermined all of the interim coach candidates on his staff by chasing after Parcells. And Parcells, as well, has to be a little goofy, too, by even considering the one-year caretaker role.
Neither man, though, is as loopy as Benson. And this time it has nothing to do with boogying around the Superdome.