A year ago, the NFL stripped Sean Payton of all duties associated with the New Orleans Saints for one year. However, like the summer sun or the rising tide, Sean Payton has returned to the city on schedule, and is resuming his hands-on style of play calling for the New Orleans Saints.
Last season, the Saints finished with a record of 7-9, while missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Fortunately for the Saints, it was not at the fault of the offense, which was second in the NFL averaging over 400 yards per game.
Payton had relinquished play-calling duties to Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, after breaking his leg in the sixth game of the 2011 season. Carmichael assumed that role for the rest of 2011 and all of 2012.
Payton said Carmichael was “outstanding” as a play-caller. Indeed, with Carmichael calling plays for the last 10-plus games of 2011, Drew Brees and the offense set NFL records, including yards passing for a quarterback at 5,476 and total net yards at 7,474. Moreover, during his time away from football, Payton missed the game, the action, and most importantly, calling the plays.
“It’s something I enjoy doing,” Payton said. “It’s just a matter of getting back up to speed and getting familiar with all the elements of it.”
Despite having good success with Carmichael at the helm, Drew Brees is eager to have Sean Payton return and sink his teeth into the offense. “That is the way it was for 5 1/2 years,” Brees said. “I am very familiar with that voice and those instructions. Pete did a phenomenal job, but I love the fact that Sean is back, and he is taking the reins and he is going to be the voice in my ear.”
Brees further explained his relationship with Sean Payton. “He’s a mentor, and that is not just necessarily X’s and O’s, although there is a lot of that,” Brees said. “Obviously, there is a great player-coach relationship. There is also a personal relationship. You are talking about the guy who believed in me enough to bring me here and give me the opportunity.”
That opportunity exists today. In real estate terms, the saints are a “fixer upper” with “great potential”, and Sean Payton has proven to the NFL that he knows how to build winners.
However, in his absence, his players continued to mature. “I think 35 is the new 25, actually,” he said. “I don’t sit here and say, ‘Hey, I only have five more years to play, and I have to win one in the next five.’ No, every year is kind of a stand-alone. I think that I am still at that stage in my life where I feel like I can play forever.”
Brees is heading into his 13th NFL season, having been through his last seven seasons in New Orleans without a major injury. How healthy he stays this year could depend on how well the Saints’ new starting left tackle will do.
Payton must decide on a player to replace four-year starter Jermone Bushrod, who left for Chicago as a free agent. The front-runner appears to be 2010 second-round draft choice Charles Brown, with free-agent pickup Jason Smith and third-round draft choice Terron Armstead also in the mix.
“Each player has certain strengths,” Payton said, adding that he will need to see how each handles more full-contact practices and preseason games. “I’m anxious to see how those guys play.”
Brees said he felt Brown performed well when filling in last season for Zach Stief at right tackle, but Payton has expressed concerns about Brown’s recurring injuries.
“Hopefully his health can be something that doesn’t affect how he plays,” Payton said. “This is a big season for him and an important training camp, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he responds.”
So strike up the band New Orleans, your beloved Saints have a new dance partner who knows the dance floor quite well.
Written by: @milroyigglesfan