New Orleans Saints interim head coach Joe Vitt said that he expects full-time head coach Sean Payton to return at 12:01 a.m. on February 4th, the official day after the Super Bowl, to begin work on evaluating the team and making adjustments where they are needed.
Payton will likely come in to a maelstrom of film and notes and have to slice through them in a timely manner. That is unless NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell allows him to return before that time and the way things have panned out for the Saints lately, it’s probably unlikely.
The evaluations Payton will have to do are his usual but this go around he will have a year to catch up on since he hasn’t been able to actually be in the Saints facility and the only game film he has been able to watch has been on T.V.
The most glaring thing that needs to be addressed is of course the Saints defense which ranks dead last overall and in stopping the run. Vitt said he thought the cornerback play got better as the year went on but the passing defense has hovered at 31st in the NFL all season long.
Though Payton likes his offensive picks in the NFL Draft, I would expect that he lets defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have the major say in the majority this year.
If he doesn’t, then free agency will be the next pool to pull from which the Saints right now don’t have that much to work with in regards to the salary cap unless they do some major restructuring of contracts. Or they flat out let some high priced players go. Defensive end Will Smith fits both these criteria and I’m leaning towards the latter.
For the offense, Payton won’t have too much to wring out except the kinks of inconsistency. Questions like, “Why did Drew Brees not look so crisp?” and “Why did a healthy Chris Ivory sit for half the season?” will be answered even if Payton is the only one who finds the answer.
Realistically, the glaring problem with the offensive line whether it was in pass protection or the run game will likely work itself out once Payton installs his brand on it. The loss of it was felt as the Saints offense was dominant on one occasion and then fizzled the next.
The coaching staff should also expect to get a “come to Jesus” meeting on both game planning as well as getting the players ready for a game. The sideline demeanor that was normally there was completely absent including Payton’s infamous attention to simple body language.
Though it won’t likely be pretty, the evaluations for the 2013 Saints will be necessary if the club wants to return to it’s previous winning pedigree that Payton himself helped establish.