Everyone speaking on the record is mostly denying it. Start there because the idea that the Miami Dolphins wanted to hire Sean Payton and add Tom Brady as their quarterback and a minority owner in 2022 sounds so improbable that no one really wants to discuss it.
And no one wants to confirm it. Well, most of it.
I asked new Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel on Monday whether trading for Brady was anywhere on the radar once he joined the organization, and his response was, “Tom Brady? Of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Tom Brady? The Super Bowl winner? No, that has not been a conversation at all. I think that’s what you call fake news.”
McDaniel is being honest. The Dolphins have not discussed adding Tom Brady in any manner — including in trade — since the new coach was hired Feb. 6.
And on Monday, a source close to Brady insisted “there’s nothing to see here” relative to Brady and the Dolphins in 2022.
But this isn’t solely about the last month. Or even the 2022 season anymore.
The Miami Dolphins have indeed discussed adding Brady as a player multiple times dating back multiple coaches, according to a source, when they heard Brady was unhappy in New England.
And interest in Brady peaked at the end of 2019 season and early in the 2020 offseason when, according to the racial discrimination lawsuit former coach Brian Flores filed in February, club owner Stephen Ross wanted him to “recruit” Brady to Miami in violation of the league’s tampering rules.
Brady and Ross are familiar with one another and not just from having lunch on the Dolphins owner’s yacht that time Flores outlined in his suit.
Both are University of Michigan men. Both have respect for one another that rises to the point Ross has told confidants he might want Brady to join the Dolphins ownership group after his career is over, even if he doesn’t end up playing for the team.
But make no mistake, the lure of Brady to the Dolphins is having him in uniform playing quarterback, per multiple sources.
Then there’s the Payton part of the equation.
At the press conference in which he announced he was stepping down as New Orleans Saints coach after 15 seasons, Payton admitted he was approached about continuing to coach elsewhere.
The Dolphins were one of the teams that contacted Payton through back channels to gauge his interest, according to a source.
And it gets more interesting because Payton was apparently intrigued enough that he talked to some prospective assistants he could hire to be on his staff in Miami, if he decided to go that direction.
OutKick spoke to two of the assistants Payton talked to, and one confirmed that the possibility of coaching in Miami was discussed. The other assistant said Miami was not specifically discussed, but added he’d be interested if that were to ever become likely.
The Dolphins, by the way, do not deny their interest in Payton. General manager Chris Grier said at the NFL Combine in February the Dolphins requested permission to speak with Payton once they heard he was stepping aside in New Orleans.
Grier said that request was denied by the Saints.
But the assistant who spoke about potentially coming to Miami with Payton said that conversation happened prior to Payton stepping down in New Orleans, not afterward. And that would run counter to Grier’s timeline.
And, again, Payton admitted during his farewell press conference that he’d already been contacted.
Sean Payton is obviously not going to be the head coach of the Dolphins in 2022, just as Brady will not be the team’s quarterback.
But all this raises the possibility Ross might continue to chase his dream coach-quarterback combination next year.
Payton has not closed the door on returning to the sideline some day.
“I still have a vision for doing things in football,” Payton said at his last press conference, “and I’ll be honest with you, that might be coaching again at some point. I don’t think it’s this year, but I think maybe in the future. “
So if the Dolphins under McDaniel don’t meet whatever expectations Ross may have and Payton shows interest in returning to the NFL, what’s to stop Ross from trying to hire him again in 2023?
Yes, it would require draft choice compensation going to New Orleans because the Saints still hold rights to Payton’s services.
But the Dolphins have two first round picks available to them next year.
Meanwhile, Brady and his wife Gisele Bundchen are building a mansion in Miami because they want a place from which to make the jump from the United States to Brazil and Bundchen’s parents easier.
And Brady is scheduled to become a fee agent next March after his current contract voids. That means he’ll be able to play wherever he wishes, assuming he wants to continue his career.
Obviously if Tua Tagovailoa, surrounded by the loads of talent the Dolphins have acquired so far this offseason at a price of $267 million, plays up to his draft pedigree and expectations, then Ross’s desire to chase Brady will wane.
But if Tagovailoa doesn’t perform with his new cast of teammates and the coach who promised to bring out the “greatness” in him, then the Dolphins could turn to Brady.
In that regard, the 2022 season will decide the direction of what Ross does next offseason: Keep McDaniel and Tagovailoa or try (again) to unite Sean Payton and Tom Brady as his new coach and quarterback.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero