Aug 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton during the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Saints won 23-17. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Match-up number 3: Sean Payton
Love him, hate him, think he’s going to leave more Miami (really?….really?), or something in between. There is no question, NONE, that Sean Payton is the best coach active in this game. Let us remember for a moment that so far this year Payton has found a way to allow for Luke McCown and Ben Watson to both have not only career days, but to put in performances that are arguably dominant. That could be the clearest testament I can provide to just how good Sean Payton is at what he does. Has this been his best year? No. However, there is no possible way anyone can argue that this year’s team is as remotely talented as the historical offenses of years past. Not only does this year’s Saints lack top end talent at a number of positions, but more importantly they are lacking key components to running Payton’s system successfully.
The Saints don’t have the kind of big-bodied possession receiver who can dominate the seams as they have had in the past. Colston is a shattered and broken shadow of his former self, Jimmy is playing matador in Seattle, and the heir apparent Brandon Coleman (who genius’s like me bought in on WAY too soon) can barely get on the field. The Saints offense truly needs a player who can be effective in those areas if it is to be as dominant as it once was, but it also requires an offensive line that is very good and more importantly very consistent. The Saints offensive line has only been consistent in its penchant for injury so far this year, and that has been one of the biggest reasons they have failed to produce up to their usual standards.
Despite all that Payton has still managed to manufacture some very impressive performances from this team, most notably against the Panthers (a great defense) and last week against the Falcons. Chuck Pagano is a good coach (though obviously not the best special teams coach in the league), but the world where he is even close to being on Payton’s level does not exist. Sean Payton is a Super Bowl winning head coach whose schemes helped change the way football has been played in the NFL over the last decade. His legacy speaks for itself, but more than that Payton is still a coach who clearly has the full attention of his players and is entirely capable of devising a game plan that can devastate his opponent.
There isn’t any question on who the best coach is in this game, but there is a question of whether Payton will be bringing his ‘A game’ or not. It may be true that a play-caller is only as good as his players execute the plays, but if the Saints really want to pull off their first road win of the season against a desperate Colts team they are going to need Sean Payton to bring all of his considerable genius to bear.