Less than a year ago, the NFL made the decision to suspend New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012 season. When the announcement came down on March 21, 2012, there was a ton of controversy over the punishment for the Saints and their head coach. Today, however, Payton has been reinstated by the league with little fanfare, and perhaps that’s just the way the league wanted it.
Although the reinstatement has been reported and Sean Payton has released a statement on the subject, there isn’t nearly the same fury in covering Payton’s entry back into the league. The NFL and its fans are preparing for the Super Bowl, so it makes sense that there isn’t as much attention on the announcement of Payton returning to the Saints, but I’m still shocked to only see the news on Payton come across the crawl at the bottom of a screen on ESPN or the NFL Network.
For the Saints though, a year without Payton proved to be a lost season. They finished the 2012 season with a record of 7-9, good for third in the NFC South. In the six seasons with Sean Payton the Saints have gone 52-34, have won three division titles, a Super Bowl and only once had a record of under .500. It was clear that New Orleans missed their most successful coach in team history. Actually, it was clear right from the start, as the Saints began the season at 0-4 and although they played better football late in the season, they never recovered.
It’s hard to blame the Saints for a such a slow start, as most teams would struggle without their head coach after he had been putting the team together for the past six seasons, only to have him pulled away for an entire year. And despite the Saints finishing the season strong and winning 7 out of their last 12 games, it was a lost season.
Drew Brees and the offense struggled to find a rhythm without Payton and for a team that goes as far as its offense takes them, it was clear his presence was missed. For some teams, even Saints teams of the past, finishing at 7-9 might be considered a decent year but those times have changed with Payton. He has proved to be one of the best coaches in the game, and the Saints fans are now accustomed to a standard of winning that they didn’t get this year. That makes this a lost season for the Saints.
Now that Sean Payton has been reinstated, Saints fans should be looking forward to a big season from their coach and their team in 2013. Payton had plenty of time to decompress and refocus his energy on the game, which could make the Saints a very dangerous team next season.
So maybe, it wasn’t a lost season after all.
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