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Does anyone still want to trade Sean Payton?

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Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) celebrates after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 18, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (10) celebrates after scoring a second quarter touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Saints pulled out an essentially meaningless game against the Cardinals, exploding for 48 points against one of the league’s best defenses.

The Saints’ offense has been under some serious scrutiny after two poor performances against the Lions and the Bucs. Well, there shouldn’t be much doubt at this point. They may have struggled in crucial games, but they’re about as dangerous as any unit in this league.

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The Arizona Cardinals are statistically the best defense in the league. They allow the least yards per game, and have talent just about everywhere across the unit. There was plenty of reason, after these past two games, to suspect New Orleans would struggle to move the ball.

But Brees and Payton absolutely torched them. Brees threw for four touchdowns and 389 yards. Ingram and Hightower ran with authority. Brandin Cooks gained a career-high 186 yards, and Michael Thomas broke the Saints rookie record with 7 touchdowns on the season.

And in one of the better storylines on the night, Tim Hightower scored twice against his former team.

As I recently wrote, don’t believe the rumors that Sean Payton is on the hot seat.

He’s not going to be traded. Yes, the Saints are now three years out of the playoffs, but Payton continues to lead the most dangerous offense in football (outside of Atlanta). That’s the sort of asset that you don’t give up.

Imagine New Orleans was on course to replace Payton with the OC of the top offense in the league. Would you be excited? Yes.

And who else would you rather have? At the end of the day, you’re only going to be able to pull away a coordinator to be your next head coach. And no coordinator is more talented than Payton is offensively.

Parenthetically, I’d like to address the concerns about Payton’s playcalling.

Payton took over playcalling duties against the Rams earlier in the season. After exploding for 49 points, he decided to stay at the helm. New Orleans proceeded to fall apart offensively against the Lions and the Bucs. Saints fans were up in arms.

Specifically, New Orleans fans pointed to a series of 3rd and short situations where the team passed and failed to convert. Yes, running the ball is the obvious move in that situation. But hindsight is 20/20. And we don’t know as much as these guys calling the plays. There’s a reason the Saints look to pass in that situation.

Next: Emotional appraisal of the present and future Saints

But more importantly, the Saints have done exactly that, throwing on 3rd and short, today. With great success. No one is complaining now.

We’ll break down the defensive struggles in a later article.

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