Payton ready to lead Saints back to winning ways

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees welcomes back head coach Sean Payton from Bounty Gate suspension. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

METAIRIE - The intensifying degrees of normalcy for the New Orleans Saints have increased to a sizzle and, sure, the case could be made that searing temperatures and crawfish bisque-thick humidity were attributable to the status.

But don’t gloss over the fact that Coach Sean Payton was back in place to greet Saints players as they reported for 2013 Training Camp.

True, Payton and his familiar visor were in full view, representing a back-to-flesh composition of his “Do Your Job” mural/directive that seemingly covered an entire wall of the team’s indoor practice facility during his NFL-imposed absence in 2012.

“A 7-9 record doesn’t sit well with any of us,” Payton said of last season. “There’s an expectation level we have. We’ve developed and worked hard to create that.”

So the directive has been re-issued and re-emphasized, and the pace set as soon as he returned.

The Saints, under the coach with the highest winning percentage in franchise history (64.4 percent, courtesy of a 62-34 record), will seek to return to their winning ways. In the three seasons prior to last year, New Orleans rolled to a 37-11 mark.

Payton’s presence has produced a discernible bounce in the steps around the team’s practice facility.

“It’s probably a little fresher excitement than it would be ordinarily, because of what happened a year ago,” Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said. “I think we’re all a little more focused, maybe, than we would have been otherwise.

“He’s the same guy, but he seems really focused. But when I think back, he was always focused. And I know our players will tell you that. That’s part of his talent, to be able to focus on this team and the task at hand, and he’s right there.”

That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Payton arrived in 2006 with a singular purpose, to transform the Saints into consistent Super Bowl contenders. One Super Bowl victory (XLIV, following the 2009 season) and five playoff victories later, the franchise is just that.

New Orleans has led the league in yards per game four times – the only four times in franchise history – and in scoring twice in Payton’s six seasons as head coach. Only one other coach in franchise history has a playoff victory to his credit and none have led the team to three consecutive seasons of at least 11 victories.

“He’s going to have a plan to win and we’re just trying to follow that plan,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said.

Part of that plan includes a return to offensive play calling.

That’s not a slight to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael, who handled those duties last season during Payton’s suspension and also for several games in 2011, when Payton injured his leg. The team didn’t miss a beat with Carmichael calling the plays; it went on to set a league record for net yards (7,474) in 2011 and last year, the offense finished second in the NFL in yards per game (410.9) and third in scoring (28.8).

In fact, calling plays for the offense will be a shared duty between Payton and Carmichael.

No objection will be voiced from the quarterback who has prospered under the direction of each.

“I thought Pete Carmichael did a phenomenal job,” Drew Brees said. “I had Sean Payton in my ear for 5½ years previous to that. I’m very familiar with that voice and those instructions as well.

“I’ve got confidence in whoever is calling the plays, whether it’s Sean Payton or Pete Carmichael. I love the fact that Sean is back and he’s taken the reigns and he’s going to be the voice in my ear.”

Payton figures to be the voice in more ears than his quarterback’s.

Likely, Saints players already have re-acclimated to his tone to a degree. For sure, there were times it echoed in their ears last season even while he wasn’t present and without a doubt, they were reacquainted this offseason.

But that heat might not have been a fair representation of what’s about to come. Probably, it’s going to get a lot warmer at Saints camp, and it’ll have everything to do with the man in charge.