Why Sean Payton Should be Strong Contender for Coach of the Year
When you think about the top candidates for NFL Coach of the Year or even hear any experts or analysts talk about it you hear a bunch of names but not really Sean Payton's.
You'll hear about the phenomenal job Brian Flores did with the Miami Dolphins, how Kevin Stefanski turned around the Cleveland Browns, Sean McDermot winning the AFC East with the Bills, or the way Ron Rivera beat cancer to guide Washington back to the playoffs.
However, what you won't hear is Sean Payton's name mentioned which is a travesty.
Now, it's not to say all of those other head coaches aren't deserving because they certainly are, every single one of them had to overcome obstacles along the way and had great seasons.
Let's not forget though the obstacles that Sean Payton and the Saints had to overcome this season as he led them to a 12-4 record while winning the NFC South for the fourth straight season.
First of all, the loss of Drew Brees for an extended period of time for the second-straight year. Payton had a decision to make at that time whether to go with the more experienced Jameis Winston or hold true to his word on giving an opportunity to Taysom Hill. As we know he rolled out Taysom Hill and Hill did enough to help the team to a 3-1 record during the time Brees missed with the rib fractures and punctured lung.
Altogether, over the previous two seasons, Payton has lost Drew Brees for a total of nine games and has guided New Orleans to an 8-1 record during those times. Between Teddy Bridgewater last season and Taysom Hill this year, their ability to overcome that adversity has put them in a position to be one of the NFC's most formidable teams.
Next, the Saints had to find a way to overcome the loss of Michael Thomas who played in just seven games this season catching 40 balls (109 less than he did last year) for 438 yards (he had 1,725 in 2019), and no touchdowns (he had nine last season). Talk about having to fill a void and Sean Payton was able to get creative with his personnel, whether it be Taysom Hill, Emmanuel Sanders, Jared Cook, Tre'Quan Smith, or Marquez Callaway they were able to do enough offensively to score the 5th highest points on a per-game basis in the league (30.1 ppg). Talk about turning water into wine, that was A TON of production to lose and they were still able to put up points.
Finally, the defense. If you told any Saints fan that they would only get 7.5 sacks from their stud defensive end Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport would only record a sack and a half you'd probably think New Orleans barely touched a QB all season. However, after refusing to pay up for Jadeveon Clowney, thank goodness that they did as he got injured yet again and missed most of the season, they found a career-year from the very gleeful Trey Hendrickson who recorded 13.5 sacks. In addition, the secondary struggled big-time early in the season but after the first couple of weeks, they righted the ship and finished top 5 in all major defensive categories.
So, Sean Payton might not be the NFL Coach of the Year this year but let's at least mention this man's name and give him the respect he deserves with the job that he did yet again this regular season. Now, the big question mark is how he'll handle things in the playoffs, hopefully, better than he has in years past.
Former Saints Players/Coaches in the Hall of Fane