Bradley Handwerger / Eyewitness Sports
That Sean Payton’s impending move to Dallas with his family was big news isn’t really a surprise to anyone who knows New Orleans and its permanent inhabitants.
Those who live here, and especially those who grew up here, are zealous in their defense of the city.
It’s this fact that Payton likely underestimated in how he handled the news getting out of a real estate transaction in a Dallas suburb.
But I can’t fault him for his family wanting him to live somewhere else.
I’ve been there before. It’s how I arrived in New Orleans.
I was working in north Alabama but knew I wanted to live here. From the moment I began visiting college friends who were from New Orleans while I was at the University of Georgia, I knew this is where I wanted to be.
One day, I suddenly made the decision to get up and leave, putting in my two weeks and moving here without a job.
I get that the Payton’s want to be in Dallas.
I don’t have children, but I understand that he and his wife Beth want to give their children Connor and Meghan the best possible education they can afford, key word on afford, which they can.
Here’s where we diverge, though – I’m not (and some people would say this is a good thing) the face of a city and a professional franchise.
Whether it’s what he wanted or not, when Sean Payton signed his original contract to be the Saints head coach, he took on the mantle as being an ambassador for the city.
And that includes his wife Beth, his son Connor and his daughter Meghan.
The city continues its upward mobility from the depths of the Hurricane Katrina disaster and Payton, by virtue of leading the city’s most visible national advertisement, is part of this now five-year-old recovery.
The family’s visibility around town at not just charity events, but every day activities, is something else the citizenry can cling to in knowing that things are going well and getting better.
How does Payton now tell prospective free agents that New Orleans is a good place to live and raise a family?
How does Payton tell players that they must attend offseason workouts when they’d rather be home in another city with their family that they spend little time with during the season?
And yet, this doesn’t feel like a story that would be blowing up the internet and on Twitter if it wasn’t Dallas.
It’s well-documented that Payton has a great relationship with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. It’s well-known that Payton enjoyed his time on the Cowboys’ staff before coming to New Orleans.
New Orleanians, for better or worse, have a personal beef with Dallas.
No one ever said that Payton would commute during the season every day back and forth between Dallas and New Orleans.
He’ll remain in the metropolitan area during the season and have his family commute in during game weekends.
He’ll go to Dallas in the offseason on weekends and they’ll summer at their beach house at Watercolor outside of Destin, Fla.
His focus, according to what he said in a radio interview on WWL-AM, will be on his job in New Orleans and getting the Saints back to the Super Bowl.
But that won’t placate the fanbase if the Saints start out poorly, whether the losses are by 1 point or 21 points.
There’s only one solution to the public relations fiasco that this has started.
Win and this story goes away.
That fact will never change regardless of where he lives.