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From Chumps To Champs In 100 Games

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Since coming to New Orleans in 2006, head coach Sean Payton has turned the Saints from a league doormat into a perennial powerhouse. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.
Since coming to New Orleans in 2006, head coach Sean Payton has turned the Saints from a league doormat into a perennial powerhouse. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

Head coaches seem to fall by the wayside in favor of a quarterback or running back when people are asked to evaluate who a team’s most valuable asset may be. If you ask a New Orleans Saints fan the same question, many may say the head coach. Sean Payton is arguably one of the best coaches in the league, and that statement was reinforced last year when he was absent from the team. The Saints struggled without him, finishing the season in third place in the NFC South at 7-9. The team did perform well offensively, but his absence and leadership on the field and in the locker room were felt.

Since Payton’s arrival to New Orleans in 2006, the team has drastically changed and is a perennial offensive powerhouse. Payton coached in his 100th game in Week 4 against the Miami Dolphins – a game in which the Saints emerged victorious once again. With that victory, Payton’s record as head coach of the team sits at 66-34. New Orleans has had four double-digit win seasons in his six years in the Big Easy, failing to reach the .500 mark only once in 2007. In addition, he led the Saints to Super Bowl XLIV where they emerged victorious against the Indianapolis Colts, claiming the team’s first championship in franchise history, and more importantly, the only championship ever won by a professional sports franchise in New Orleans.

Payton's Hall of Fame-caliber start to his head coaching career is very impressive, considering his .666 winning percentage is greater than the likes of Chuck Noll and Tom Landry. Through his first 100 games, Payton has the highest winning percentage for a head coach that has won a Super Bowl, a feat that both Bill Belicheck and Mike Shanahan rank below him in.

Payton’s impact was immediately felt in New Orleans. He was very influential in landing free agent QB Drew Brees, luring him away from the Miami Dolphins. Immediately, Payton turned the league’s worst team around. The Saints were 3-13 in 2005, ranking second to last in points scored and 20th in total offense. Payton guided the team to 10-6 and the Saints made the playoffs for the first time since 2000. Payton catapulted the team to the upper echelon in offense in his inaugural season as the Saints finished fifth in total points and first in total offense. Payton added to his tremendous year when he was awarded Coach of the Year in 2006.

His reputation as an offensive coach has grown in leaps and bounds as the Saints have ranked in the Top 5 in total offense in all six years under his tutelage with the exception of 2010, when they finished sixth. Payton's aggressive coaching style and offensive genius propelled the team to lead the league in offense in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Payton furthered the team’s dominance on offense when the team broke the record for most yards gained on offense in a single season. In 2012, the Saints gained 7,474 yards, surpassing the 2000 St. Louis Rams mark of 7,075. 

This year, the Saints sit atop the NFC South at 5-0 and Payton has not missed a beat despite being out of the NFL for a year. The Saints offense ranks in the Top 10 and they are starting to score points at an impressive clip, eclipsing the 25 point mark in three consecutive weeks. 

So it is apparent that as long as Sean Payton is in New Orleans, the Saints will be a defensive coordinator's nightmare and fans can expect an offensive explosion from their team on a weekly basis as Brees conducts an aerial assault on the field under the genius play calling of coach Payton.