New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has a new challenge awaiting him in 2021: attempting to make the playoffs without legendary quarterback Drew Brees.
After four consecutive playoff disappointments in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 (we need not rehash each one individually), one would’ve assumed that with the roster talent available and Payton’s reputation as a coach, that a trip to the Super Bowl would be a given.
It wasn’t, unfortunately, and it never usually is for Saints fans. We should never take 2009 for granted.
But Sean Payton has a chance to do something he’s never done before in his NFL coaching career: win without Drew Brees.
This, of course, will be easier said than done, but if it happens? Payton should win Coach of the Year.
ean Payton should win Coach of the Year if the Saints are successful without Drew Brees.
The roster is still talented, with a stout O-line, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Tre’Quan Smith on offense and a defense that has Cameron Jordan, Demario Davis, Marshon Lattimore as well as recent draftees Payton Turner, Pete Werner, and Paulson Adebo.
Coach Payton’s job is made easier by this, no doubt.
However, his quarterback room? That’s less of a sure thing.
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With a competition expected between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill, and Winston likely to win out, Payton would be taking a quarterback who had never made the playoffs as the starter in Tampa Bay.
For what it’s worth, the Saints have gone 8-1 without Brees over the last two years, including a 4-1 run by Taysom Hill in 2020, who was promised the job while Drew was injured.
The jury is still out on what Hill can be as a pure passer, though.
So what’s the point of all of this? Sean Payton has one quarterback with 5,000 yards passing talent but with a high turnover risk (30 interceptions in 2019 with the Bucs) and another who is widely considered a project.
It is worth mentioning that Jameis Winston had an epic playoff touchdown toss against the Buccaneers last playoffs, albeit on one trick play and not a large enough sample size.
The coach renowned for his work with signal-callers has a chance to make the playoffs with two pretty unproven assets at the game’s most important position.
Roster talent aside, if the Saints can make the playoffs despite the uncertainty at quarterback, Sean Payton will have accomplished nothing short of a Coach of the Year worthy season.