There’s no replacing Sean Payton


Sean Payton was the head coach of the Saints for 16 years before retirement.

With the recent news of Saints head coach Sean Payton choosing to step down as head coach of the New Orleans Saints, NFL fans from all over are shocked.

Payton was the second longest tenured active head coach with a single team behind Bill Belichick and the Patriots. After 16 seasons in the Big Easy, Payton has decided to hang it up, at least as the Saints head coach.

He did not rule out a possible coaching return which is no surprise to me and many others. At 58 years old, Payton still has football ahead of him with a lot of potential.

You can’t help but think that the retirement of Drew Brees had a lot to do with this decision. Brees and Payton were the heart and soul of the Saints.

When both joined the franchise prior to the 2006 season, the team was coming off a 3-13 record in 2005. To make matters worse the city of New Orleans was hurting and still recovering from the aftermath of the infamous Hurricane Katrina.

The duo’s impact was felt instantly as the Saints won the NFC South going 10-6 in just year one. The Who Dat’s went on to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round of the playoffs for only the second playoff win in franchise history. The win propelled the team to their first ever NFC Championship game where they were eventually beaten by the Chicago Bears. Such a quick turnaround earned Payton NFL Coach of the Year.

New Orleans was reborn after that and hasn’t looked back since. That’s why this news is so heartbreaking. I grew up knowing the Saints because of what they have been for the last 20 odd years. A contender and one the most consistent organizations in the NFL.

However, my dad and many others speak of when the Saints simply stunk. He remembers the times when fans would wear paper bags over their heads to the Superdome for home games and when people would refer to the team as the “Aints.”

There were some bright moments, but overall, nothing to really get excited for. Brees and Payton changed all of that and then some.

Katrina was rock bottom for New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. The head coach and quarterback instantly breathed life into a city and entire state of people who needed it so desperately. And to win the proceeding Super Bowl in year four was the cherry on top.

“Pigs have flown! Hell has frozen over! The Saints are on their way to the Super Bowl!” said the legendary Jim Henderson as Garrett Hartley’s field goal in overtime in the 2009 NFC Championship game sent the team from New Orleans to Super Bowl XLIV.

Beating Favre to get there and Peyton Manning for it all only made the season sweeter. After the elation of the 2009 campaign the Saints would make the playoffs seven more times but could not repeat as world champions despite going an NFL best 49-15 from 2017-2020 during the regular season.

The heartbreak of 2017 and 2018 in particular doesn’t need to be discussed.

After 15 years of watching Drew Brees and Sean Payton together on a football field, it will be hard for Saints fans and really NFL fans to get over the legacy they brought to the organization. Undoubtedly one of the greatest head coach/quarterback duos to ever grace the National Football League.

Be thankful you got to witness it as it has suddenly come to an end. I will always appreciate everything Sean Payton did for the Saints and wish him nothing but the best for his future.

With the promotion of defensive coordinator Dennis Allen to head coach, a new era is upon us in NOLA. The Sean Payton era will always hold a special place in all our hearts, but we must move on.

As Dr. Seuss always said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”