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Can Sean Payton Change in Time?

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The Brees - Payton offense won’t work for Teddy

New Orleans Saints v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

I’ve been thinking a lot about the legacy of the Sean Payton offense. I’ve always had a hard time figuring out what Payton is leaving for the next generation of offensive minds to steal and develop. As someone who has watched every snap from the Payton-Brees era, I find it still unclear. I don’t think it will leave a resounding impact like the Mike Shanahan wide/outside zone scheme which he popularized in the 90s, that many teams base out of to this day. It’s hard to parse out the different ideas that will stand the test of time because I believe, simply, that Sean Payton’s offense is just the best executed West/Gulf Coast Offense ever. This whole operation maybe only works with an absolute all time quarterback, which Payton has had in New Orleans. I don’t know if all the motions, the personnel groupings and the intricate game planning really work without Drew Brees. This is a West/Gulf Coast offense that has flown gently with the sands of time to incorporate some of football’s modern staples while never deviating that far from its roots.

It’s going to have to finally change. With Teddy Bridgewater at the helm for the next 6 weeks, Sean Payton must bring the Saints offense into a post-modern world to help his new starting quarterback.

Without Brees, Payton won’t be able to rely on the pinpoint accuracy and willingness to throw the ball in the intermediate areas of the field that has allowed Payton to produce some scintillating pass concepts thru the years. That’s not who Teddy is. In fact, the quarterbacks reluctance to pull the trigger on open throws more than 10 yards down the field could be his and the Saints downfall. Payton could scheme up the greatest plays ever, it might not matter if Teddy holds on to the ball.

I’ve put together a list of the Do’s and Don’t that I think we’ll need to see from Teddy and Sean in Seattle this week for the Saints to have any shot at keeping the season alive.

DO - RPOs

RPO’s as we know them in today’s NFL don’t exist in the Saints offense when Taysom Hill isn’t in at QB. Brees will throw bullet slants to his isolated receiver on certain run plays but there isn’t the any of the ones where the quarterback puts the ball into the running back’s gut and then reads 1 key defender to make a decision. With Brees, he can handle more than just a slant route, you might as well add some more routes to the picture and just have him drop back. Teddy needs to get warmed up a little. Let’s ease him in with some easy reads.

DON’T - Running the ball on 1st downs

Just because the starting quarterback is out doesn’t mean Payton should start calling more runs to compensate. Runs on first down are pretty inefficient and you don’t have Brees to bail you out of long yardage situations. Smashing Latavius Murray and Alvin Kamara into loaded boxes is probably not the way to go. Let’s not turn Kamara into a dull hand-off machine when there are so many fun ways to get him the ball. Over the years, one of Payton’s ways to stay ahead of the stick is through 1st down passing and I’d like to see him continue that even with Teddy.

DO - Play Action

Let’s get Ted Ginn Jr. the ball. It’s been proven time and time again how effective play action is in the NFL so it’s time to unleash Bridgewater’s young arm and find some of that Ginn speed on a post route. In Los Angeles, there is a good example of Teddy not pulling the trigger on an open Ginn post route that would have resulted in a desperately needed explosive play.

You can see the gravity that Michael Thomas commands as Eric Weddle, a middle of the field player, stares directly into the sun as Ginn streaks behind him. Sean has to call these plays and Teddy has to take those shots

DON’T - Miss open receivers

This falls on Bridgewater’s plate but he can’t miss throws to open receivers. Below is the Saints weakside option route that I’ve never seen Drew miss that badly. Gotta give the playmakers a chance.

On this next one, he is late and then misses behind the receiver:

DO - Intermediate passing

As I noted earlier, Teddy has a propensity to hold on to the ball even though routes are open down the field. Offenses can’t really move the ball efficiently without these chunk plays in the 10-20 yard range. Payton will get people open. Teddy has to pull the trigger and then throw the ball accurately.

Like this:

And not like this:

It’s hard to come off the bench and just be Drew Brees. That’s why Sean Payton needs to adjust accordingly and make the game a little easier on on his new quarterback. The season isn’t lost yet because of the tantalizing potential of Teddy Bridgewater. Against a tough test on the road in Seattle, the Brees to Bridgewater transition will have to be swift. Sean Payton will have to modernize in a hurry but if there’s any coach out there who could do it, it’s him.