The Indianapolis Colts will almost certainly fire head coach Chuck Pagano on Monday, beginning a coaching search with a pretty significant factor in their pocket: quarterback Andrew Luck. Because of the allure of the job with a franchise quarterback in place, it's expected that owner Jim Irsay will look to hire an established, big-name head coach.
That's what NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported this morning as well, as he said that the Colts are expected to target Nick Saban and Sean Payton first and foremost.
Assuming #Colts part ways with Chuck Pagano, they'll think big on coaches. Expected to make Nick Saban & Sean Payton say no before moving on— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 3, 2016
Saban and Payton are two of the biggest names that could potentially be hired by the Colts, and both would absolutely fit the bill of a big-name or established head coach. Those two names have been rumored for months in connection to the Colts job, but Rapoport makes it sound like the Colts will indeed target them as their search begins.
Of course, here's the reality check: it will take a lot to get either one of them. Both are successful head coaches and won't come easily. Nick Saban is one win away from his fourth national championship at Alabama, and while he has turned down a number of jobs in the past, there continues to be talk that he might be willing to go back to the NFL if it's the right fit. He thinks it didn't work out with him and the Dolphins because of the lack of a franchise quarterback, so Indianapolis would provide that for him. Keep in mind, however, that he won't want to leave Alabama for just any random job, so it will take persuading, money, and probably quite a bit of personnel power to sway Saban to the Colts. It's far from certain that he will leave, but his name has entered the mix so often in recent months that it does sound like the Colts are expected to pursue him.
Sean Payton, on the other hand, is perhaps a more realistic possibility in terms of actually leaving his current job. The talk around the league continues to indicate that he might be coaching elsewhere next year, in which case I'd think he would jump to the top of the list of the Colts' choices. He has had success in New Orleans (including a Super Bowl victory) and really knows how to coach an offense. Getting a coach like Payton would likely be huge for Andrew Luck, and Payton would also fit the bill as a big-name, established coach. Likewise, for Payton the job would likely be intriguing since it has a quarterback already in place.
The Terre Haute Tribune-Star's Tom James (who does have some connections to Sean Payton) said that people close to Payton think he would indeed have interest in the Colts' job:
Talked to source close to Sean Payton a couple of weeks ago. Was told then he would have interest in Indy job if let go in New Orleans.— Tom James (@TribStarTJames) January 3, 2016
Perhaps the biggest factor when it comes to Sean Payton is this: the Saints likely won't let him leave for nothing, as Payton is still under contract. The Saints could then try to trade him, which could drive the price up and drive the Colts away. CBS' Jason La Canfora said on the CBS pregame show, however, that Payton will sit down with the Saints this week and that the discussion could lead to a trade - which could be "possibly for just a mid-round pick."
There's still a lot left to figure out with the Colts' coaching search (the first step is firing Chuck Pagano), but it's expected that they will go after Nick Saban and Sean Payton as their top targets. This should come as no surprise - the question now just becomes whether they'll be able to get either of them.