Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rick Cleveland: Keep Payton

You are the New Orleans Saints. You have had three straight seasons with seven victories vs. nine defeats. You are under contract to pay your head coach, Sean Payton, $45 million over the next five seasons.

But the Los Angeles Rams – and possibly other teams – reportedly want to talk to Payton about becoming their head coach. It well could be that the Rams want to make a deal to secure Payton.

So, Saints, what do you do?

Here's what I would do. I first would determine what Payton wants to do. I mean, what he really wants to do. If he wants to coach elsewhere, let him have at it. Because, for $9 million a year, I can find another coach, another really good one.

But if Payton wants to continue to coach the Saints – if he's all in – then I am, too, at least for one more season.

It may sound silly with the record being the same for the third straight season, but the Saints made progress this season. They did. The makings are there to return to winning ways – and the playoffs – in 2017.

Offensively, Drew Brees has yet to show his age. He threw for more than 5,000 yards this season. He remains as accurate as any quarterback in the sport. That he did not make the Pro Bowl for a 10th time is a miscarriage of justice. He remains capable of delivering a championship. And, yes, his relationship with Payton is one of the biggest arguments for retaining Payton if he's all in.

But there's more. The Saints had two 1,000-yard receivers, including rookie Michael Thomas, who in one season has become one of the league's best. They have a 1,000-yard rusher in Mark Ingram. They have an offensive line that was clearly improved this season.

Defensively? The Saints finished 27th of 32 NFL teams in total defense, which is up from 31st a year ago. But they would have been far better if not for a series of injuries in the secondary. They became much better in their front seven. They played with more purpose under coordinator Dennis Allen. They could make a huge jump next season, particularly if they use their No. 11 draft pick for an impact player on that side of the ball.

Special teams? The Saints became much better after bringing in an additional coach the third week of November. Kevin O'Dea made a difference, but it was too late. Don't forget the Saints lost three games earlier in the season because of the inability to make a kick. The Giants beat the Saints 16-13 by returing a blocked field goal for their only touchdown in a 16-13 victory. The Denver Broncos blocked an extra point and returned it for two points in a 25-23 victory. Do the math. Another blocked field goal caused a 10-point swing when the Carolina Panthers beat the visiting Saints 23-20. Change three kicks and 7-9 becomes 10-6. The Detroit Lions got the last wild card berth at 9-7.

Following that Carolina loss on Nov. 17, Will Lutz made his last 12 field goals. That would seem a major problem solved heading into the off-season.

On Feb. 7 it will have been seven years since the Saints and Payton claimed the Lombardi Trophy with a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Since then, the Saints have been 11-5, 13-3, 7-9, 11-5, 7-9, 7-9, 7-9.

Ordinarily, four 7-9s in seven years after a Super Bowl would get you fired. Instead, the Saints pay Payton $9 million to coach in hopes he can rekindle the magic of 2009.

My take: One more year...


Rick Cleveland ( is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist.


Anonymous said...

As long as the Saints are stuck with Brees' aircraft carrier-sized salary cap killing contract the Saints will never make the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Trade Brees...keep Payton.

Bree's is in the start of the end of his career. Trade him for a couple of draft picks and send him on his way

Anonymous said...

Brees is killing the team's ability to sign impact defenders with his monster contract. He needs to renegotiate down, or be cut or traded. He's almost as harmful to the team as he is beneficial. Honestly, my vote is pull the band aid and part ways with both.

Anonymous said...

I say get rid of Payton---he should have been banned for life after paying bonuses to cripple other players---what a sorry Bastard !!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Dare say the 9 picks Brees threw in the 1-4 stretch beginning with the Denver game hurt way more than the special teams foibles.

Cleveland is such a stupid friggin' homer. It is four 7-9s in the last FIVE seasons. And how many disastrous Payton free agent signings to we have to endure?!?!?!

Start the rebuild NOW while the dynamic WR core is young and healthy. Get rid of Payton AND Brees AND Jairus Byrd AND Coby Fleener.

Anonymous said...

Brees re-upped last year for less money. Keep them both. This young team will win big in 2017

Anonymous said...

Brees didn't take no pay cut. He got another $25 million guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

It takes a saints article to reveal the intelligence level of people that post on this blog. Get rid of Payton and Brees? What idiots.

Anonymous said...

@10:38. If you like mediocre performance....certainly.

Of course, it is the ain't, the leagues most lovable and pathetic team. But if you want them to win, dump Meacum and trade Bree's.

/until then get the bags ready and learn to love 7-9

Anonymous said...

@10:38 doesn't want another SB, just the ability to say the Saints one won once upon a time.

Anonymous said...

How did Spiller turn out?

Anonymous said...

They lost 7 defensive backs for the year to injury. No coach can overcome that. Bad luck. Most will be back. Draft an OG and sign a good MLB and 2017 should be very positive.

Anonymous said...

At 11:17 and all 7 defensive backs sucked anyway. They all really suck bad. We have the highest paid safety tandem in the league and they suck.

Craig Robinson at MLB has been a pleasant surprise as one of the leading tacklers in the NFL and an absolute steal at or near the veteran minimum. Use damn near every pick on defensive backs, although we may have a good shot at the 2nd or 3rd best edge rusher in the draft at #11.

Anonymous said...

For only 4.5 million per year, they can still finish a couple of games under .500 with Mullen or Freeze.

Anonymous said...

How did Brandon Browner work out?

Anonymous said...

Who cares about Payton, I watch Dak and the Cowboys

Anonymous said...

Stanley Jean-Baptiste? He was supposed to be the next f'ing Richard Sherman. How'd that heralded draft pick work out?

Anonymous said...

It makes no difference who the coach is for the Saints. The ownership doesn't think it is viable to pay for top talent. They got rid of Bree's top receiver, Graham, and didn't feel the need to inform him. They have lost many players. You can't win without talent and it's no good to pay a top QB if you don't surround him with them. The coach now is meaningless

Messick said...

The used car salesman owner and his child-bride gotta go.

But that won't happen.

Anonymous said...

Browner and Baptiste were not even on the roster this year. Geez, at least know who is on the team if you bash it. Lewis was great before hip injury. Breaux was great last year and then broke his leg the first game this year. . Williams, Sean and Webb were showing a lot of promise. Next year Vaccaro will be in the last year of his rookie deal so expect big things out of him and Bell also next year. Saints need a pass rush and a OG and a special teams coach and they are set next year. DB will be deep.

Do you realize with the make-shift defensive backfield they had this year that they gave up only half of the passing touchdowns they did last year? 2017 or bust.

Anonymous said...

Ownership won't pay? They have been in the salary cap box for the last three years. They over pay not under pay. Finally they have cap space for next year. Looking for a big year next year.

PittPanther said...

Cleveland is crazy if he thinks management can just ask Payton what he wants to do, and expect a truthful answer. What sitting coach would tell his management anything except "I want to be here for the long haul?"

Anonymous said...

Cleveland knows nothing. Deuce today me everybody is staying and everybody involved expects a championship next year. He was stoked!

Anonymous said...

With SP in 2017 we will be in playoffs maybe 10-6.....losses will be to Pats, @Packers, @Falcons (1/1), @Panthers (1/1),@ Bucs (1/1), @Vikings. We should be able to win with the 3rd place schedule.

Without SP we would be lucky to win 6.

Anonymous said...

Without SP we would be lucky to win 6.

Thanks for confirming that the roster sucks.

Anonymous said...

Mullens heading to LA.

Anonymous said...

Only a Falcons fan or a total moron would suggest getting rid of Brees. He's one of the greatest of all time.

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