Sean Payton's coaching in 2020 goes beyond the "X's and O's" and "W's and L's." Instead, the intangibles of coaching and leadership are the reasons he deserves candidacy for 2020 Coach of the Year.
A look back at how it all started for Payton in New Orleans. It began with a coup is signing a franchise quarterback in free agency away from Nick Saban and the Miami Dolphins. Next, the Texans GM Charley Casserly makes a conservative pick and selects defensive end, Mario Williams over college superstar and Heisman trophy winner Reggie Bush in the 2006 NFL Draft.
Without a doubt, Payton and Loomis were drafting Bush at #2 overall. The remainder of the 2006 Saints Draft Class went on to have solid careers in the NFL - Reggie Bush (1st-Saints HOF), Roman Harper (3rd-Saints HOF), Jahri Evans (4th-potential Hall of Famer), Rob Ninkovich (5th), Mike Hass (6th), Josh Lay (6th), Zach Strief (7th-Saints Radio Announcer), and Marques Colston (7th-Saints HOF). Only the 2017 Draft Class rivals 2006's.
Sean Payton has one Super Bowl Championship, a 2006 Coach of the Year honor, three NFC Championship appearances, and many NFL offensive records as a coach. After 15 years in New Orleans, this may be his finest season of all, and should be considered for the 2020 NFL Coach of the Year.
But, five games are remaining in 2020. Here's why I believe Payton deserves a closer look for the recognition.
Today, New Orleans and the NFL face an unprecedented opponent. COVID-19. The novel coronavirus is taking its toll on the lives of millions worldwide. Sean Payton for the first prominent NFL personality to contract the COVID-19. He recovered, advised many of its effects, became a spokesman, and created a 'pseudo-bubble' for the Saints players to sequester during training camp. He observed the NBA and NHL's playoff bubbles and made important recommendations for the NFL in handling postseason teams. After a rash of outbreaks and game postponements, the NFL is taking heed and will institute a "local bubble" plan for playoff teams.
During a whirlwind of events this spring, Payton drafted, recruited, and assembled free agents and new coaching staff members. He craftily navigated the media circus of questions via Zoom calls and wondered if his already legendary quarterback would return.
Payton saw his reliable backup quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, leave and join an NFC South foe. His next move? Quickly recruit and sign a former #1 overall draft pick as one of Drew's backups, Jameis Winston. He re-signed Hill and had his star quarterback re-consider retirement after all.
Handling the public criticism and political backlash of his star QB's untimely comments may have been one of his best coaching decisions. Payton wasted no time to restore his team's unity by calling a Zoom meeting of all players and personnel that very night to air out differences and concerns. It was a master move.
Since, he has championed causes, maneuvered through injuries and clashes to his star players in Michael Thomas (ankle, discipline) and Brees (ribs), yet to field another backup to keep the team winning at 9-2, even with a backup QB (2-0, 26 points per game average). The Saints are leading the NFC's playoff race, and now the #1 total ranked defense. The accomplishment is the first time a Saints defense under Payton has the in-season ranking.
But five more games remain. I did say that already, right?
Yes, Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Andy Reid (Chiefs), Matt LeFleur (Packers), Sean McDermott, and Mike Vrabel are Coach of the Year candidates, but in my opinion, Sean Payton gets the nod.
2020 has placed all NFL coaches and their players in extraordinary circumstances, with COVID-19 surging through the world and the NFL ranks. After ten weeks under his belt, Sean Payton is a preferred choice as a Coach of the Year candidate.