New Orleans Saints: How Sean Payton's Year Away Will Affect the 2013-14 Season

Tyler RabornContributor IIIMarch 8, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints calls a play during the second half during the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on December 27, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Sean Payton's season-long absence from the NFL looks to make several notable impressions on the New Orleans Saints' 2013-14 season.

Payton was suspended for the 2012-13 NFL season for his alleged involvement with a "bounty" program. The NFL's sanctions barred him from any contact with Saints personnel. Hence, he was forced to analyze the Saints from a different perspective last season. Coach Payton told Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune that in addition to watching the Saints' games, he was sent the game film to study each week. 

Consequently, one of the NFL's greatest coaching minds was left to study the game for an entire season in isolation. It's not much of a stretch to assume that Payton spent time drawing up new ways to use the Saints' personnel. While the NFL may have imposed sanctions inhibiting his ability to brainstorm with his coaching staff, these sanctions could not stop him from thinking about the game and how to improve his team.

Upon the NFL lifting Payton's suspension, he quickly demonstrated part of his new vision for the Saints by announcing, per this tweet, a schematic change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense.

This swift change indicated that he had decided to move away from Steve Spagnuolo's defensive philosophy. Thus, per this report from the team's website, the Saints relieved Spagnuolo of his defensive coordinator duties. The polarizing Rob Ryan was chosen as Spagnuolo's replacement, as detailed in Brian McIntyre's article on Yahoo! Sports.

While Rob Ryan was presumably hired for his knowledge and implementation of the 3-4, a certain added bonus comes with his hiring. Ryan's fiery personality should bring an attitude to the Saints' defense that they have not had since Gregg Williams left.


Another potential byproduct of Payton's isolated film study is new offensive formations and plays. Payton—one of the NFL's best signal-callers—has masterfully incorporated players into the offense during his tenure with the Saints. As evidenced by his use of Darren Sproles, Jed Collins and Jimmy Graham, Payton has a knack for designing plays around a player's specific skill set. Thus, with the emergence of players like Joe Morgan, Payton has likely designed new formations and plays tailored to capitalize on the Saints developing talents.

Lastly, when it was reported that Sean Payton's contract had been voided by the NFL, there was speculation as to whether Payton would return to the New Orleans Saints. Doug Farrar discussed possible implications of Sean Payton becoming a free agent, such as Payton being hired by the Cowboys, in his article on Yahoo Sports:

It's all speculation at this point, but it's not too hard to connect the dots. Jones always goes after a more well-known and dominant coach when his team is on the skids -- that was the thought process behind the Parcells hire in the first place -- and Payton may well be looking for a change in scenery after a year of such personal and professional upheaval.

Yet in December 2012, ESPN reported that Sean Payton had agreed to a five-year extension with the Saints. Following his reinstatement, Payton told Larry Holder of The Times-Picayune, "There was no way I was going to another team."

Payton's decision to return to the Saints, despite not being contractually obligated to, solidified his god-like status in New Orleans. Further, it demonstrated Payton's commitment to the team, which could likely serve as motivation for a team that already plays with a chip on its shoulder. 

After a year away, Sean Payton's return to the Saints' sideline looks to bring a new fiery defense, some new wrinkles in an already potent offense and additional motivation for the Saints in the upcoming season.