REAL TALK

Let's have an honest conversation about the Houston Texans and Sean Payton

Sean Payton
Texans fans shouldn't get their hopes up. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.
Sean Payton

For the past few weeks, ever since the Houston Texans fired head coach Lovie Smith, the hot topic on sports talk radio has been: who will the Texans hire as their new coach?

And most of the talk has been: it’d sure be great if the Texans hired Sean Payton.

What on Earth are you talking about?

Payton, who coached the New Orleans Saints for 15 years and one Super Bowl title, interviewed with the Texans earlier this week. He also will meet with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers about their head coach openings. The Arizona Cardinals have asked for permission to speak with Payton. The Indianapolis Colts also are in the market for a coach.

All of those opportunities are better suited for Payton, who can write his own ticket for a head coaching job.

Why would Payton pick the Texans, a dysfunctional organization that has had four head coaches in the past three years: Bill O’Brien, Romeo Crennel (interim), David Culley and Lovie Smith? A team that has won only seven games in the past two years? A team that plays its home games in a half-filled stadium? A team without a quarterback? A team that lost the first pick in the draft, and a shot at getting Bryce Young, by thoughtlessly winning its last game of the season, a victory that more and more is looking like a final screw you from its soon-to-be-fired coach.

But fans who want Payton to coach the Texans say, “he would be able to attract big-name free agents to Houston, and he’s the perfect coach to mentor a young quarterback. Look at what he did with Drew Brees in New Orleans.”

First, Vince Lombardi couldn’t lure a star free agent to Houston these days. And Brees was a five-year veteran, a starter for four of those years, and already a Pro Bowl selection, when he joined the Saints.

Payton is looking to put an exclamation point on his Hall of Fame credentials. Why would he want to take over a team in shambles that was an underdog in all 17 of its games last season? He would be an offensive genius for a team without an offense.

Why would the Texans, deep down, want a coach who will demand total authority, cost them a long-term contract worth tens of millions of dollars, plus a first-round draft pick and maybe more?

Why would Texans general manager Nick Caserio, whose own job may be on the hot seat, want to hire a charismatic coach with a big personality who will have more power with the man upstairs? I’m talking about owner Cal McNair, not the only true power that could turn the Texans into winners.

Denver would be a snugger fit for Payton. The Broncos have a competitive defense and quarterback Russell Wilson, who could use some coaching up next season.

So why would Payton accept an interview with the Texans? Perhaps he wants to drive up his price with other teams. Or he’s a Whataburger guy. Or he likes what humidity does for his skin.

The Texans also are considering Thomas Brown (Rams assistant head coach) Jonathan Gannon (Eagles defensive coordinator), Shane Steichen (Eagles offensive coordinator) and DeMeco Ryans (49ers defensive coordinator). Ryans would excite Texans fans but he, like Payton, should have his pick of the coaching litter.

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Thunder defeat Rockets, 123-110. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 36 points and Chet Holmgren added 29 to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 123-110 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.

The Thunder won their fifth straight to move into a tie with Minnesota for first place in the Western Conference.

Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault was impressed with how his team responded after falling behind by 16 points in the second quarter.

“We had some poise, but it was more urgency,” he said. “I thought tonight was a recognition of, if we kept playing like that, they could have run us off the floor.”

Oklahoma City was up by eight points with less than seven minutes left before scoring the next nine points, capped by 3-pointers from Jalen Williams and Gilgeous-Alexander to push the advantage to 115-98 with 3 ½ minutes to go.

Fred VanVleet and Jabari Smith Jr. had 20 points apiece for the Rockets in the first of consecutive games between these teams. Alperen Sengun added 19 points and 12 rebounds, while Smith led the team with 17 boards.

“They tightened up a little bit and we didn't execute as well as we needed to,” VanVleet said. “That's the way it goes sometimes.”

The teams meet again Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder held a four-point lead to start the fourth and used a 12-2 run to push their advantage to 99-85 with 9 ½ minutes to go. Holmgren had the first nine points in that span and had two dunks and a 3-pointer.

Houston got within 104-95 a couple of minutes later. Dillon Brooks and VanVleet both made 3s for Houston to trim the deficit, but the Rockets were unable to get any closer.

“Once we got the ball churning and moving… that got us flowing,” Holmgren said. “But it started with defense, getting stops and allowing us to get out in transition.”

The Rockets were up by nine with about eight minutes to go in the third before Oklahoma City used a 16-2 run to take an 80-75 lead with less than three minutes left in the quarter.

“The physicality we really amped up midway through the second quarter,” Daigneault said. “That was the game right there and we really kept it going in the second half.”

Williams started the run with a 3-pointer and Isaiah Joe added a 3 in that stretch to allow the Thunder to go on top.

The Rockets scored the next six points to regain the lead, but Oklahoma City ended the quarter with a 7-2 run to take an 87-83 lead in the fourth.

“Obviously you have to execute better offensively to give yourself a chance,” VanVleet said. “Scoring 21 in the third hurt us a little bit momentum-wise.”

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