Payton emerges as top candidate

Dallas assistant considered one of top, young offensive minds in NFL

General manager Ted Thompson can scratch Brad Childress off of his list of candidates to hire as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. Childress is expected to be named head coach of the Minnesota Vikings today, and there is a good chance that he'll ask Packers quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell to join him in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, Thompson interviewed Dallas Cowboys offensive assistant Sean Payton on Thursday. Thompson reportedly will interview Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon today; Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in Chicago on Saturday; San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy on Sunday; San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips on Monday and Packers defensive coordinator Jim Bates next Thursday.

Others on Thompson's list that he is expected to interview, according to reports, include Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grimm, New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, and possibly Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt within the next week.

Ex-Lions head coach Steve Mariucci and University of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, whom many felt were strong candidates to succeed Mike Sherman in Green Bay, are not scheduled for interviews at this time with Thompson. Mariucci was fired by Detroit in November. He was Brett Favre's first quarterbacks coach in Green Bay from 1992-95. Ferentz reportedly is drawing strong interest from the Houston Texans, who fired Dom Capers on Monday. Coaches whose teams are in the playoffs cannot be interviewed until next week.

Payton, 42, is a very intriguing prospect who has nine years of coaching experience in the NFL, including last two with Dallas. He is considered as one of the bright, young offensive assistants in the National Football League who learned under Jon Gruden, Jim Fassel, and Bill Parcells.

Payton, a former quarterback at Eastern Illinois University, coached under Ray Rhodes and Gruden in Philadelphia, and held offensive coordinator positions under Fassel in New York and Parcells in Dallas.

Payton helped resurrect the quarterback careers of Kerry Collins in New York and Vinny Testaverde, and Drew Bledsoe in Dallas. In Payton's first season with Dallas, Quincy Carter became the fifth quarterback in Cowboys history to pass for more than 3,000 yards and the first since Troy Aikman in 1997.

"I don't want Payton to leave; he's a great coach," Cowboys guard Marco Rivera, a former Packer, told the Dallas Morning News. "I couldn't imagine trying to replace that guy. I've only had one year with him, and I'm already excited about next year.

"He sees the game of football with a different attitude. He has a brilliant mind for offense, and he knows how to convey that to players."

Childress, has been with the Philadelphia Eagles since 1999, including the last four seasons as offensive coordinator. He was initially hired as quarterbacks coach by Andy Reid. Childress was at the University of Wisconsin from 1992-98 where Bevell flourished in an offense that set records. Reports indicate that Bevell, whose contract in Green Bay will soon expire, will be one of the first people he'll hire for his coaching staff.

Sherman says he is not interested in replacing Childress in Philadelphia, where he would be reunited with close friend Reid. Sherman told WTMJ radio Thursday that he was interested in returning to football only as a head coach.

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