The New Orleans Saints might not have Drew Brees as their quarterback anymore but they still have Sean Payton as their head coach and that’s why the team is still getting respect around the league. Payton was named as the fifth-best head coach in the NFL per Eric Eager of Pro Football Focus.
Eager offered this analysis:
It flies under the radar how impressive it was for Payton to take the 2020 New Orleans Saints to another 12-4 season.
For one, Drew Brees missed significant time again, and the Saints went 3-1 in his stead (they were 8-2 in games Brees missed due to injury in the Brees-Payton era). Additionally, Brees was mostly cooked in 2020, with an average depth of target equal to 6.6 yards, surpassing only Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Smith.
Brees has missed nine total games in each of the last two seasons and that didn’t slow the Saints down whatsoever. They went 8-2 during that stretch without their Hall of Fame quarterback and while the players are the ones on the field making plays, Payton set them up for success during that time.
Eager also mentioned that with the lack of receiving threats after Michael Thomas went down, Payton helped keep the team afloat with his play-calling. Of course, that’s easier with Alvin Kamara on the roster but still, Payton has now been able to turn both Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill into winning quarterbacks.
Most teams meltdown without their star quarterback but Payton continues to thrive. That’s why he’s a no-brainer to be in the top five when it comes to NFL coaches.
The Saints won’t have Brees in 2021 but they’ll still have Sean Payton.
While most people are drooling over the Buccaneers in the NFC South (and rightfully so, considering they won the Super Bowl), the Saints are still getting respect even without their Hall of Fame quarterback at the helm anymore. They’re scheduled for five primetime games in 2021 and that’s a testament to Payton and how good of a coach he is.
This will be Payton’s first year without Brees as his starter entering Week 1, but considering how good of a job he’s done when Brees has had to miss time, Saints fans aren’t terribly worried. We’ve seen what kind of production he can get out of Hill as the starting quarterback and if Jameis Winston ends up being the starter, he’s two years removed from a 5,100+ yard season. Payton can certainly work with that.
Transitioning to life without a franchise quarterback won’t be easy, but if anyone can keep the Saints afloat, it’s Sean Payton.