NEW ORLEANS — Sean Payton's many motivational ploys included a life-size poster of an exit door on the locker room wall at Saints headquarters. It served as a not-so-subtle reminder that finding the way out of the organization was easy for those who failed to buy into his way.
It a stunning twist, the NFL has shown Payton the door.
The move has left the Saints reeling, trying to figure out how to move forward without Payton — at least for a year.
New Orleans has begun picking up the pieces.
A person familiar with the situation said Thursday three current assistants are strong candidates to take over in Payton's absence: Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr., defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and offensive line coach Aaron Kromer.
The Saints also must orchestrate a front office and coaching staff shuffle to account for partial-season suspensions of general manager Mickey Loomis (eight games) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (six games), who also coaches linebackers.
The person said it is too early to tell who will be named interim head coach or how reassignments across both the coaching staff and front office will shake out. The person added that Payton, who has now been with the club more than six years, and Loomis, who arrived 12 years ago, still had the backing of team owner Tom Benson.
RUNNING BACK BUSH JOINS BEARS: Michael Bush is joining the Chicago Bears, perhaps to team with Matt Forte and give the team two hard and effective runners who can alternate punishing defense.
Or maybe in a more visible role should Forte hold out after he earlier was slapped with the franchise tag.
Bush played four seasons for the Oakland Raiders, gaining 2,642 yards (4.2 yards per carry) and scoring 21 touchdowns. The powerful 245-pound back had his most productive season in 2011, setting career highs in rushes (256), yards (977), touchdowns (7), receptions (37) and yards receiving (418). He mostly was a backup to Darren McFadden but had nine starts last season when McFadden was injured.
Forte, who sprained his knee in early December and missed the final month of the season but went to the Pro Bowl, has not been able to get a long-term deal from the Bears. He was given the franchise tag, meaning he will make $7.742 million next season if there is no new contract reached.
Forte went to Twitter to express his opinion of the signing of Bush, saying he had been "disrespected."
HASSELBECK UNDERSTANDS MANNING CHASE: Matt Hasselbeck says he understands why the Tennessee Titans tried to sign Peyton Manning. The veteran quarterback plans to move on and take care of what he controls.
That includes building off his first season in Tennessee.
Hasselbeck says any owner on any team can pursue a player in free agency and that he has a ton of respect for Manning as a quarterback.
JETS TRYING TO TRADE STANTON: A person familiar with the New York Jets' plans says the team is trying to trade quarterback Drew Stanton.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the team hasn't announced its plans.
Stanton signed a $1.25 million, 1-year deal last week to be Mark Sanchez's backup, but the Tim Tebow deal has relegated Stanton to another third-string job. He left the Detroit Lions for a chance to be a No. 2 QB after sitting behind Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill.
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