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Call it a man-crush, call it weird, call it whatever you want, but I love Sean Payton. I feel totally comfortable using that word—allowing you to apply whatever meaning to it that you want.
But Payton is the reason I took a four-year sabbatical of my regularly scheduled life in hopes of chasing a dream to coach football, before finally realizing God blessed me more as a writer and communicator than as a football tactician.
And he’s also the single reason I am currently a country music fan (I know it’s weird, but it’s a really long story for another time).
Let me fall back to a rational perspective for a moment. Payton struggled his first few years as a head coach in some game management areas—such as when to challenge, when to use timeouts, and when to run the football and kill the clock.
But Payton from 2009 ‘til now has been as solid a head coach as one can imagine. His offenses are annually at the top of the league in passing, and in two of the past three seasons, a rather dominant rushing attack as well.
Special teams are never an issue, due to good specialists and players as well as good coaches. The defense is annually questioned and criticized, yet more often than not finds a way to keep the Saints in games.
And this season, the offense has actually picked up steam when the proud head coach handed over the reigns of his offense to offensive coordinators Pete Carmichael, Jr. after suffering a devastating injury in the Week 6 Tampa Bay contest. Payton remains intimately involved in the game-planning and calling of the game, but has shown great trust in his protégé and quarterback.
That trust appears to have manifested a confidence in this football team that has led to it playing its finest football in his entire tenure. Tell me whatever you want but the Saints are playing better than at any point in their Super Bowl run in ’09, and I would argue better than any other team in the entire league.
The team no longer relies on turnovers as it did in ’09—actually flourishing despite an alarming lack of turnovers and finishing 2011 with a minus-3 turnover ratio (compare that to the Packers’ incredible plus-24 ratio). Of course turnovers are mostly due to luck anyway, meaning this team is far better than that 13-3 squad.
For these reasons and more (I didn't even mention the guts he shows in his play-calling and game management, or his incredible motivation skills), Payton in 2011 (now ’12) is the best coach in the NFL.