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Sean Payton had interest in the Colts, but team says they didn’t share that interest

New Orleans Saints v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Earlier tonight, CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported that the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton had discussions regarding a possible trade, and La Canfora reports that it broke down due to the asking price: the Saints wanted “at least one pick in the top two rounds,” and Jim Irsay was unwilling to pay that.

La Canfora also reported that Payton also would have brought Jeff Ireland with him as general manager, and that the opportunity to work with Andrew Luck was the main thing that was alluring about the job to Payton.

The Colts didn’t totally deny the report tonight, but they clarified it quite a bit. Colts’ Chief Operating Officer Pete Ward, who La Canfora said was the one leading the discussions on the Colts’ side, clarified both to La Canfora and FOX59’s Mike Chappell that the Colts did not have interest in Payton.

“It’s totally fictitious,’’ Pete Ward told Chappell. “This is the age of false information. It’s believable.’’

Some might say it’s... wait for it... fake news.

“I told [La Canfora] it was BS. And you can quote me on that,” Ward added.

So what actually happened? According to the Colts, Payton’s reps reached out to them to see if they were interested, and the Colts said no. Simple as that.

“I got a call from someone who said he was an associate of Sean Payton,” Ward explained. “He asked if we were interested in talking and I said ‘No.’ That was it.’’

It was a brief phone call. “That it was,’’ Ward added. “I hate when something like this comes up because it’s not true and no matter how untrue it is, there are people out there who are going to wonder.’’

So that’s a pretty strong denial from Ward, and it’s worth noting that he didn’t just deny that it happened but instead clarified what the real situation was. Of course, it’s always possible that the Colts’ response was always going to be to deny they had interest in other candidates. After all, Jim Irsay denied that the team had interest in Jon Gruden when it has been pretty well-established that he did. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Colts would want to deny they had interest in other potential head coaches if they do plan on keeping Chuck Pagano.

What’s the truth? We don’t know - but what we do know is that Sean Payton’s reps reached out to the Colts to gauge interest. The deal didn’t work out, however, whether it was due to the Saints’ asking price or due to the Colts not having interest.