Back in black
Prior to 2015, who would have thought that Louisiana would have come so close to losing both Sean Payton and Les Miles? The reports and rumors got so hot, that it was actually a shock when it was announced both men were staying put.
There were some crazy weeks mixed in there, but the outcomes of each case yielded the right conclusions. Miles should still be the head coach in Baton Rouge, and Payton should still be calling the shots in New Orleans.
I, along with many others, thought that this was the end of the road for the Saints' longtime head coach. He had been in New Orleans for a decade, and the Saints were coming off of two straight 7-9 seasons.
It appeared that the New Orleans brass wanted to start anew and that Payton may have wanted the same. With so many firings going on across the league, Payton instantly became one of the most sought-after coaches .
There have been reports that the Saints were willing to ship off Payton to the highest bidder. They were ready to trade him to any organization that was willing to give them a second-round draft pick in return.
Who knows what happened? Maybe no team bit. Maybe the Saints came to their senses. Maybe Payton had a change of heart. We don't know. All we know is that last Tuesday, a press conference was announced.
I thought this would be the sentimental Payton sendoff, but it turned into his declaration that he wasn't going anywhere. He made it clear that it's New Orleans where he wanted to be, and as long as the organization wanted him, he'd be their guy.
Like LSU's decision to keep Miles, this was the right move in New Orleans.
I'm not in denial. I see the writing on the wall. The Saints' era of winning the division and being in the thick of the Super Bowl discussion is most likely over. The Saints need some serious rebuilding to get back to being a winning team, but Payton is the guy I trust in doing that. Other than guys like BIll Belichick and Pere Carroll, who could the Saints have gotten to take over that would have been a better option?
No established coach was coming. It most likely would have been a coordinator with no head-coaching experience. I'll take my chances with Payton any day.
Things have been rough the past two seasons, but the man is still one of the best head coaches in the league. You don't just toss aside someone that has brought so much glory to your franchise.
Make no mistake about it, Payton is the greatest coach in franchise history. Before his arrival, the Saints were coming off of a dreadful 3-13 campaign and had only one playoff win to its credit.
His first season in New Orleans, the team culture totally changed. They went 10-6, won the division and made a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
Three years later, they won the franchise's first and only Super Bowl, something no one ever thought would happen.
In all, the Saints have won six playoff games under Payton's watch. That's six times more postseason victories than the franchise had before he became their head coach.
You don't just trade away someone that is responsible for the greatest era your franchise has ever seen.
The Saints definitely need some work. The defense must be rebuilt after two straight disastrous seasons. It's no coincidence that they went 7-9 in those two years.
The offense is fine. They struggled at the beginning of the year as they got used to the absence of tight end Jimmy Graham, but they got better as the year progressed.
Even getting a little long in the tooth, Drew Brees still threw for 4,870 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.
Brandin Cooks emerged as a big-time downfield threat with 1,138 yards and nine touchdowns, while Ben Watson did an admirable job of replacing Graham with 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns.
The Saints must do better with their offseason moves as well. The Graham trade was a big setback, and the acquisition of C.J. Spiller has yielded little to no results due to his inability to stay healthy.
Bringing in Brandon Browner seemed like a great move, but his repeated penalties hurt the Saints all season. Dannell Ellerbe was another offseason move that never paid off due to injury issues.
For the Saints to get back to a winning franchise, they need to make these and many more changes. However, switching head coaches is not one of them.