After another 7-9 season and missing the postseason yet again, rumors began flying about New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton’s future in NOLA. Would he be traded? What would the Saints get in return?
Then came the “Five on Five”.
On January 5th, the New Orleans Saints officially announced 5 assistant coaches, including Assistant Head Coach (and Linebackers “Coach”) Joe Vitt and Special Teams “Coach” Greg McMahon. Unsurprisingly, this move has all but halted the Sean Payton Trade rumors.
With Sean Payton’s name not being included in the list of fired coaches, but with the inclusion of names like Sean Payton’s BFF Joe Vitt, it was clear to most that Sean Payton would be sticking around for 2017 as a member of the New Orleans Saints. Whether the fault truly lies with Joe Vitt and the rest of the assistant coaches or if they were merely scapegoats sacrificed for the benefit of Sean Payton can be argued by both sides.
In any event, what would be incredibly difficult to argue at this point, is that Sean Payton has secured himself one year - and one year alone - in New Orleans.
Sean Payton is not going to be traded now. Yes, you could make the point that a new Head Coach would now be given a clean slate to bring in his (or her) own new assistants. At the same time, with Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen, among others, not released, that argument falters. So really what you’ve got here is a case where Sean Payton’s assistant coaches have been fired to remove any future possible scapegoats at the conclusion of next season.
What does this mean practically? It means that in 2017, if the Saints have another mediocre season and miss the playoffs, it will look like Sean Payton will have no other coach to blame but himself. Obviously a lot of the team’s success falls solely on the performances of the players themselves, but it is the responsibility of the coaches to put the players in the best position to succeed. If 2017 ends just like 2016, with the New Orleans Saints watching the NFL playoffs from their living room couch, Sean Payton would almost undoubtedly be on his way out of the Bayou.