Looking back on Sean Payton’s legacy in the NFC South

Kristen Wong
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Saints
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /

Sean Payton will not be remembered by the New Orleans Saints for his win loss records, his number of playoff appearances, or even winning the Super Bowl.

He will be remembered for giving the Saints a future, one that is now out of his own hands.

As New Orleans takes the next step forward in its coaching era, we take a look back at how Payton irrevocably changed the landscape of the NFC South.

How did Payton lead a disaster-torn losing franchise to win seven division titles, the most of any NFC South team? Tampa Bay got its fourth this past season, tying Atlanta for the fewest amount of titles; Carolina has just five.

It would be too extravagant to call New Orleans a dynasty given that the franchise has just one Super Bowl ring to its name, but it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to call Payton and the Saints the kings of the NFC South.

They were rather easily dethroned in 2021, and their resurgence hinges on Tom Brady’s imminent retirement, but New Orleans have long ruled its division with an iron fist.

Its currently muddled quarterback problem is just the price to pay for Drew Brees’ decades-long dominance and relationship with Payton, which formed one of the most admirable quarterback-coach pairings in NFL history.

Bountygate and the few nasty black marks on his resume aside, Payton will be remembered as a coach who built a winning franchise out of scraps, who carved for New Orleans a magnificent, ornate throne to reign from in its division.

When we look at what Payton has done, the titles he’s won and the myriad of in-game decisions he’s made down to every single called play, all of it is quantifiable. Hope, respect, admiration, and the other feelings Payton inspires are not. Remember that.

Here are Payton’s records against each NFC South team in his 15-season career:

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