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Saints to hire Payton as head coach

NEW ORLEANS (Jan. 17, 2006) -- The New Orleans Saint s will hire Dallas Cowboys assistant Sean Payton to his first NFL head coaching job, a team official familiar with the decision said.

The Saints' official was speaking on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the formal announcement wasn't expected until Jan. 18.

Payton has been a quarterbacks coach for three seasons under Bill Parcells in Dallas. He also held the title of assistant head coach. Before that, he was a New York Giants assistant, a stint that included that team's NFC Championship in 2000.

Payton was one of five candidates interviewed by the Saints at the team's headquarters last week. The others were Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman and former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz.

Payton will succeed Jim Haslett, whose tenure lasted six years. The Saints were 3-13 in 2005, a season in which all of their "home" games were played on the road because of Hurricane Katrina. The Saints were a .500 team during Haslett's first five seasons.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans first reported Payton's hiring.

Payton's background as a quarterbacks coach -- he also had a very brief pro playing career at that position in the CFL and as a Chicago Bears replacement player in the 1987 strike season -- could serve him well in New Orleans, which is expected to draft a quarterback with the second overall pick in the NFL draft.

Aaron Brooks, the Saints' starter for most of the past six seasons, had his worst season in 2005 and was benched for the final three games. Brooks is due about $6.5 million in salary next season.

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