Payton on NFL playoff dilemma

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 3 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

When Jon Gruden used his platform as an analyst on Monday night football to campaign for restructuring the playoff system if a team with a losing record qualifies, it brought chuckles and guffaws from broadcast partners Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski.

Was it really so farfetched a premise?

"When the season starts, everyone understands what the parameters are for success and how the seeding is done," says Sean Payton, coach of the Super Bowl champion Saints. "I think the only thing that has been discussed recently is the matter of seeding, as opposed to a division winner. I think the topic has been the way in which the seeds are handed out.

"Again, we still have a third of the season left. There's a lot of discussion about that and I think that all of it sorts itself out."

The NFL long has preferred placing a heavy emphasis on winning the division, believing it keeps interest up in cities where contenders under the current system would be pretenders in an altered setup. Gruden argued that any team with a losing record — the Rams and Seahawks are tied at 5-6 atop the NFC West, and the Colts and Jaguars lead the AFC South at 6-5 — should be replaced in the postseason parade by a winning club from another division that otherwise would be out.

That has little chance to fly, particularly because fans and ticket buyers in St. Louis and Seattle already would have little interest in the playoff race if only overall conference standings mattered. By that standard, the Rams or Seahawks would rank no better than eighth overall.

As for allowing wild-card teams with a better record to host a division winner with a worse mark in the first round of the playoffs, Payton says it's been talked about.

"I don't know if it came to vote as much as it was something that was discussed and tabled," he says. "But it is something that has been looked at. They handed out eight or nine years of information where it would have potentially impacted teams that won a division, but would have played a road game because of it.

"I think it all sorts itself out in the end."

BIG WALT'S MOMENT: Walter Jones turned to Twitter earlier this week, breaking the news of his jersey retirement ceremony before the Seattle Seahawks had the chance.

Not that Jones' No. 71 joining Steve Largent's No. 80 in the rafters of Qwest Field is any surprise.

Jones will be honored at the two-minute warning of the first half Sunday when the Seahawks host Carolina. It's appropriate the likely future Hall of Famer, who became the standard all other left tackles were compared to for nearly a decade, is being honored against the Panthers. Carolina was the team Seattle beat in the NFC championship game five seasons ago to reach its only Super Bowl.

And, just as he was for most of his 13 seasons, Jones was at left tackle that night.

Jones started all 180 games he played in his career. According to coaches and team statistics, he was called for holding just nine times in 5,703 pass attempts and gave up just 23 sacks.

Jones was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and an All-Pro four times. He announced his retirement in April after not playing since Thanksgiving Day 2008 and undergoing two knee operations.

"It's tough, but I think I'm ready," Jones said back in April.

On the day of his retirement, the Seahawks announced Jones' No. 71 would join Largent's as the only player numbers retired by the franchise. The No. 12 has been retired by Seattle in honor of its fans.

FLIGHT CREW: The New York Jets' wide receivers are spreading their wings with a new nickname and cool T-shirts to match.

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