Why keeping Sean Payton was the right move for the New Orleans Saints
By Brian Pavek
Payton saw what broke the team apart in 2014, and instead of refusing to admit his mistakes like a Mike Smith, he chose to revamp his team and get rid of a number of productive, but also disruptive, members of the locker room. He also identified one of the teams’ biggest flaws (poor drafting) and brought in someone who has a stellar record in that area (Jeff Ireland). They always say that admitting your mistakes is the first step to fixing any problem, and the Saints clearly did that last off-season. What is more impressive is that during this season the Saints team suffered a devastating injury to a key member of the team on what seemed like a weekly basis, and yet the team only had one game where they didn’t give 100 percent. Outside of the game against the Washington Redskins, the Saints put their hearts out on the field.
Certainly the results were nowhere near what we as fans, or what they as professionals, would want to see. However, with sheer amount of youth on this year’s roster, nothing could have been better for them than to have the culture of ‘it’s your best or nothing’ drilled into them from the start. Gritty performances from veterans like Drew Brees and Terron Armstead certainly set a tremendous example for the younger players, but if you think Payton didn’t have a hand in it, then you are sorrily mistaken.
It is a FACT that the New Orleans Saints are much better off with Sean Payton than without him.
I can’t, and won’t, make excuses for this year’s squad. They were bad. However, I also won’t sit here and pretend that I don’t see potential for a great future either. Over the coming weeks and months, myself and the other writers for Who Dat Dish (as well as our sister site
) are going to do everything we can to extract even the tiniest little bits of hope for other fans and ourselves, while trying to stay realistic. It’s a struggle for us all (and yes, sometimes I’m a homer), but it is a FACT that the New Orleans Saints are much better off with Sean Payton than without him.
Certainly there are questions to ask about certain other members of Payton’s staff, but for the man himself, there is no question. There are, in my opinion, three qualities that make a great head coach. The first is an understanding of the game, the X’s and O’s element. It’s not even a question to me that Sean Payton remains the greatest offensive mind in the NFL, and at worst he is among the top 3. So, in this area he is elite. The second area is the ability to understand your roster and build it up to act as a cohesive unit that not only understands its ‘identity’, but shows it. In this area, Payton is still very good, but I believe this is his weakest area. Although, if the Saints have operated on a 2-year plan all along, then he could look smarter than us all by next season.
The last piece is actually the most important because there is no substitute for it: it’s leadership. You can find a great coordinator all over the place in the NFL. You can have great position coaches and a great general manager who can build a talented roster. However, if your head coach isn’t a great leader, it negatively impacts the organization. In this regard, Sean Payton is in a class that only a few in the league today, and in MY opinion ever, belong in. Sean Payton has many strengths and many faults the same as anyone, however the one thing he has without question is the respect of his players. Guys love Sean Payton, and more importantly they respect him. Like I said earlier, the true worth of a leader is found in hardship, not in triumph. Payton took a broken down roster missing key pieces with rookies and undrafted rookie free agents all over the place, and dragged them to a near .500 record. He did this by making sure that even though they had critical flaws the one thing they wouldn’t let opponents surpass them in was effort.
Let me tell you something folks, talent is a ‘easy come, easy go’ commodity in professional sports, but leadership is priceless. Sean Payton told us, “I think that honestly…there’s more moments, there’s more wins, there’s more playoffs, I promise you there will be.” I believe Coach Payton. Not because he’s MY coach and I love the team (even though I do), and not because it is what I want to hear, but because I believe that the passion and heart displayed by this years team has the potential to evolve into something special. There IS talent on this team, and while they have some BIG holes to fill, there are less than you might believe. It’s possible, and I look forward to seeing how Sean Payton carries this team into the next era of Saints football.