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CBSSports.com National Columnist

What Payton wants is obvious, but why would Saints want it, too?


Sean Payton (right) passed over esteemed OC Pete Carmichael (left) for the interim job. (US Presswire)  
Sean Payton (right) passed over esteemed OC Pete Carmichael (left) for the interim job. (US Presswire)  

Sean Payton, smartest guy in every room he has ever walked into, thought he could do what he did and not get busted. Can you believe that? He thought he could get away with it.

I'm not talking about the bounty system his team used to target and then savage opposing players. I'm talking about the stuff that came afterward. The interim coach who was picked to replace Payton. I'm talking about that.

Once an arrogant SOB, always an arrogant SOB. That's Sean Payton, and then some. Arrogant, smarter-than-thou, the whole thing. He's a piece of work, this guy, because what he has done -- what he thought he could do, and get away with it -- is sacrifice New Orleans' 2012 season to serve the greater good.

The greater good being the star power of Sean Payton.

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Look at the convoluted road the Saints traveled to pick a replacement for Payton, a process that Payton was allowed to oversee because, well, I'm not sure how to finish that thought. Because I'm not sure why Sean Payton, who has been such a wonderful Saints employee that he got himself suspended for a full season, was allowed to handpick the guy who would replace him.

All I know is Sean Payton handpicked some of the most obviously non-threatening guys he could. And I know why: Because Sean Payton is all about Sean Payton. Even as he has overseen three years of outrageous behavior that gutted the Saints -- cost them their head coach for 16 games, another coach for six games, their general manager for eight games, plus draft picks and fines -- Sean Payton made the call to replace Sean Payton with men who would do the job fairly well.

But not too well.

Because if someone did the job too well, um, that could cause a problem in 2013 when it's time for Sean Payton to return as head coach. Who needs or even wants Payton, that bounty-ignoring monster, if the Saints just went 13-3 without him?

So the first guy Payton tried to hire was his buddy Bill Parcells, who hasn't been good in years and who would have taken the job with a clear expiration date. Parcells turns 71 soon, and he wouldn't have been a threat to stay as head coach even if he'd turned back the clock to 1990 and gone 13-3. For one season Parcells would have replaced Payton as a favor to Payton, and then Parcells would have gotten the heck out of there.

Parcells was the perfect hire for Payton, but it didn't work out. Michael Lombardi at NFL.com posited the theory that it didn't work out because another member of the Saints' suspended posse, general manager Mickey Loomis, didn't want Parcells because Parcells -- while not a threat to Payton -- would have represented a threat to Mickey Loomis. Is that one true? No idea. Interesting theory, but I have no idea if Mickey Loomis operates in all-about-me mode.

Sean Payton? He lives in all-about-me mode, right down to the way he appeared at a Final Four concert next to Jimmy Buffett, who wore a T-shirt that said "Free Sean Payton." After Parcells said no, Payton turned to Joe Vitt. You know, the guy who can't even coach the first six games because he's suspended for the same reason as Payton. An interim coach gets no less threatening than one who can't even coach the whole season. Whatever happens in 2012, however good the season could theoretically go for the Saints, Vitt's impact will be marginalized by his six-game suspension.

But my suspicion is the Saints' 2012 season won't go that well at all, which I suspect would suit Sean Payton just fine. He wants to return in April 2013 as a martyr and a white knight, riding in from the wilderness to save the day. He can't save the day if the Saints go 13-3 in 2012, but he can sure save it if they're 8-8 or something similar.

And really, what else are the Saints going to do -- even with all that talent -- given the rudderless way they'll lurch through the 2012 season? One coach for six games, Joe Vitt for the next 10. Keep in mind, Joe Vitt is not head-coach material. That's an important fact here, because the Saints have another guy on staff who absolutely is head-coach material. But Sean Payton didn't turn to that guy as the interim coach. Didn't even consider him, from what I can gather.

Pete Carmichael is his name. He's the Saints offensive coordinator, X-and-O whiz kid, only 40 years old, close with quarterback Drew Brees. He's the next Sean Payton, is what he is, and he's so highly regarded around the league that he has been summoned by the Raiders and Colts to interview for head-coaching positions. But for his own franchise, sorry: You may be good, Pete Carmichael -- but you're no Joe Vitt.

See, Payton can't afford to have the Saints got 13-3 next season under Carmichael. That happens, and other teams would line up to hire Carmichael, and what then? You'd have Saints fans wondering if maybe the Saints should cut loose the tainted Sean Payton -- what's he done for us lately, anyway? -- and keep Pete Carmichael.

Payton can't have that. So he's not promoting Carmichael, which as an added bonus increases the odds that Carmichael returns in 2013 as the Saints offensive coordinator. It's diabolical micro-management, what I'm suggesting, but anyone who knows anything about Sean Payton knows he is capable of being that diabolical, and that micro-managing.

What I can't understand is why the Saints are letting him do it.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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