It's Time for Sean Payton to Relinquish Play-Calling Duties for Saints Offense

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It's Time for Sean Payton to Relinquish Play-Calling Duties for Saints Offense
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

ESPN's NFL Live has a popular segment aptly named "Overreaction Mondays." This is a very damning segment, as it highlights how both the media and fans overreact simply to what they saw over the weekend.

A player can essentially erase 10 years of film with one good or bad game. A team can go from being a Super Bowl contender to a toilet bowl cleaner all in one day.

The fickle nature of football enthusiasts can be disheartening at times, but also an eye-opening experience for those of us charged with the task of covering this great game.

Despite the team's 10-3 record and high offensive ranking (sixth overall), the New Orleans Saints' offense has sputtered at various points of the season. The run game has been an afterthought for much of the year and the constant switching of personnel groupings rarely allows for the players on the periphery to establish a rhythm. 

It's clear that head coach Sean Payton is set in his ways. And, quite honestly, who could blame him?

He has close to a decade of experience of approaching offense in one particular fashion—not to mention that said decade has seen his prolific offense become the benchmark for other teams to strive towards.

So this begs the question, would the Saints become an even greater offense if they were to look outside the organization for help?

Now, before you have a heart attack or start warming up your fingers to type insults in the comments section, know that the suggestion of outside help is not a slight to Payton.

It's merely a way for the Saints to truly make use of every available facet of offense the NFL has at its disposal. Remember, if you're not evolving, you're more than likely falling behind the times. 

With that being said, Payton needs to move to more of a CEO role in the mold of the great Bill Belichick—head coach of the New England Patriots.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being one of the most respected defensive minds in the NFL, in addition to being a three-time Super Bowl-winning head coach, Belichick has constantly kept things fresh and new by employing coordinators and letting them infuse new ideas into the Patriots' schemes.

Defensively, the Patriots have oscillated between odd- and even-front alignments as well as coverage- and pressure-based attacksall under multiple coordinators who were allowed to call the plays.

And regardless of which coordinator is allowed to run the show, it's very apparent that Belichick's fingerprints are all over the blueprints. Furthermore, it allows Belichick the chance to distance himself and look at the game—and team—in its entirety.

Sometimes you can only be as creative as your body will allow you to be. We've wondered if Payton's ego would ultimately hold the Saints back and it still might, but who's to say Payton just doesn't have the wherewithal to implement new schemes and ideas?

A great philosopher by the name of Toby Keith once said, "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was." 

The same can be said for Payton.

Though he continuously cuts off his nose to spite his face—in regard to the run game—maybe he's just fooling us all and waiting for the NFC Championship Game to unveil an all-new attack, because constantly passing the ball on 3rd-and-1, changing personnel groupings on every play and waiting to the last possible second to snap the ball is so 2009.

Saints fans, could you imagine what your offense might look like if Payton brought in an outside talent like current Washington Redskins coordinator Kyle Shanahan? 

At their core, both Payton and Shanahan are disciples of the West Coast offense and build their schemes around the teachings of the late Bill Walsh of San Francisco 49ers fame. But it's the 33-year-old Shanahan that has coordinated two totally different schemes run by two totally different styles of quarterback. 

When Shanahan was the coordinator for the Houston Texans, he helped lead Matt Schaub and the Texans to the third and fourth overall ranking in total offense in 2008 and 2009, respectively. 

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

However, it was his work last season in Washington (fifth-ranked offense) with then-rookie QB Robert Griffin III that really showed how much talent Shanahan has. In Houston, Schaub had the benefit of working with moving pockets by way of multiple waggles and boots. 

Griffin, on the other hand, ran a spread-option, college-based offense that relies on quick reads as opposed to the progression-oriented attack Shanahan ran in Houston.

Shanahan spoke with Bill Williamson of the Denver Post about his approach back in 2006:

I studied every potential X's and O's play and issue possible. I spent my whole life working on that. My goal was that any question a player could have about anything on the field, I'd be able to answer it.

That type of thought process resonates throughout a roster and shows up in key situations. It's been said that it takes 21 days to break a habit, which equates to an entire season in NFL lore. Actually, the latter part of that statement was made up, but you get the picture.

Coach Payton may not ever change his thought pattern, but an infusion of new ideas could be an eye-opening experience for him.

Maybe it takes a coach like Shanahan to shed light on how successful using one running back the majority of the time could be. He may also show that installing a no-huddle attack can be great for combating a hostile road environment. What about creating different launch points for Brees as his line goes through struggles?

These are all aspects that Payton overlooks. 

Most will say that, if the Saints were to go in that direction, current offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. or QB coach Joe Lombardi should call the plays. But Carmichael Jr.'s tenure as the primary play-caller last season due to Payton's year-long suspension showed that he is a true disciple of Payton.

Just imagine a roster as talented as New Orleans' installing parts of the Washington scheme—with the great Sean Payton overseeing it all. Can you say "complete domination"? 

Nevertheless, many fans will point to the team's record, offensive ranking and blowout of the Carolina Panthers and determine that as the be-all and end-all. 

Those fans should watch NFL Live on Monday...


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