As Sean Payton Chases The Chargers, Can Dean Spanos Pull The Trigger

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Can the Los Angeles Chargers be bold at the right time?

Sean Payton has made it clear among league insiders that he’d love a shot at coaching the Chargers. The idea of pairing him with young quarterback Justin Herbert and the rest of the talented Chargers offense seems to be a logical move, particularly when people consider the near future of football in Los Angeles.

Sean Payton stepped away from the New Orleans Saints at the end of the 2021-22 season. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

But will Chargers owner Dean Spanos do it?

“It’s a great question because Dean usually overthinks things that are obvious, but then he sometimes makes a snap decision you don’t expect,” a fellow owner said. “Should he do it? It’s pretty obvious.”

To that owner, who said he counseled Spanos numerous times about the difficulty of moving to Los Angeles, the issue is not so much about whether Payton is clearly a better coach than the still-unproven Brandon Staley.

“You’re in L.A. You better capture attention. You put Sean Payton together with a quarterback like (Herbert), you capture attention,” the owner said. “And the way I see it, the Rams are going to be taking a dip for a while.”

A Logical Progression Of Events In LA

  • Rumors are running rampant around the league that Rams coach Sean McVay could retire after this season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford might walk away as well. The championship-to-last place 3-8 Rams could be in serious rebuild mode.
  • The Rams do not have a first-round pick in 2023 and have not selected a player in the first-round since 2016. The team’s core of talent is short, making a rebuild even more protracted.
  • The Chargers have what many general managers, scouts and coaches believe is one of the deepest rosters in the league.
  • Staley has a 15-13 record over his year-plus as coach, which many people see as underachievement.

In other words, the Chargers, who came to Los Angeles with no built-in fan base, have a chance to both elevate their profile above the Rams and win at the same time.

“Is Staley a bad coach? No, I don’t think so. But he’s not proven and they need a guy who can get them over the top,” an NFC general manager said. “If you’re telling me they can really get Payton, I don’t think it’s much of a debate. Sure, maybe Staley goes on a run and forces them to keep him. I don’t see it.”

Getting Payton would require the Chargers to make a trade with New Orleans, which still controls Payton’s rights. It would also require the Chargers to make Payton incredibly well-paid, likely at more than $12 million per year on a longer-term deal. Finally, the team would have to swallow the remainder of what it owes Staley.

It would be a decidedly out-of-character move for the usually conservative Spanos.

Chargers Owner Dean Spanos is not known for making huge money spending deals. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The GM stopped to ponder the situation a little more.

“But man, that’s a big-time move to make after just two years. It’s one thing to talk about. It’s another thing to do it.”

Can Dean Spanos Pull The Trigger On Sean Payton

That is where both the owner and the GM said they wondered if Spanos or even his son John, who oversees the football operations, have the nerve to make the move. The owner said it reminded him of what happened in 2006 when Spanos fired Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season and how Spanos handled the Chargers relocation to San Diego.

“Both times, he didn’t know how to handle the situation. Instead of letting (Schottenheimer) have a little rope after the big season and keeping the peace between Marty and (then-Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith), he made a snap decision and tried to be the tough guy. With L.A., he never played the tough guy when he should have and the whole thing played out on him instead of him playing it out,” the owner said.

“In this one, he should grab the opportunity and ride it, but I just don’t know if he’ll do that.”

Written by Jason Cole

Jason Cole has covered or written about pro football since 1992. He is one of 49 selectors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has served as a selector since 2013. Cole has worked for publications such as Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports, The Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, and started his career with the Peninsula Times-Tribune in Palo Alto. Cole’s five-year investigation of Reggie Bush and the University of Southern California resulted in Bush becoming the only player to ever relinquish his Heisman Trophy and USC losing its 2004 national championship.

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