During the 2020 NFL season, the New Orleans Saints faced the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10. Midway through the second quarter, Saints’s future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees dropped back to pass. The 49ers’ defensive end Kentavius Street powered his way through the line and slammed Brees down to the turf. As a result of the hit, Brees suffered multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung. Little did the Saints fans know that this incident marked the beginning of the end. Brees missed four games due to the rib injury. He would come back and play in the NFC Divisional playoff game versus Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately for Brees and the Saints, they lost by a score of 30-20. With 1:14 left to go in the game, the cameraman caught something that was very alarming to Saints fans. During a sideline interaction with backup quarterback Jameis Winston, Brees was caught telling Winston ‘this is your team now.’ Two months later, Drew Brees made it official as he announced his retirement from the game of football. It was a huge blow to the Saints and Who Dat Nation. Approximately one year later, the organization suffers another astronomical loss as Sean Payton announced he will be stepping down as coach of the New Orleans Saints. Payton’s announcement marked the end of a 16-year era that will be labeled the best era in franchise history.
In 2006, Sean Payton landed his first head coaching job with the New Orleans Saints. The city was a year removed from Hurricane Katrina, and the team was a year removed from a dismal 3 win season. With the help of his newly acquired free-agent quarterback, Payton instantly turned a struggling team into a winning organization.
In his first year as head coach, the Saints went from 3-13 to 10-6. They won the NFC South Division crown and earned a first-round playoff bye. The Saints made it to the NFC Championship game where they suffered defeat at the hands of the Chicago Bears. In his first season as a head coach, Payton ended up a game away from a Super Bowl berth. As a result of his excellent season as the leader of the New Orleans Saints, Sean Payton won the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award.
Three years later Payton had the Saints running like a well-oiled machine, as they started the season winning 13 games in a row. The team made its return to the NFC Championship game. This time they were victorious as they defeated the Minnesota Vikings in overtime by a score of 31-28. Sean Payton and the Saints ignited excitement in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana, as the Saints punched their ticket to Super Bowl XLIV.
Waiting for the Saints in the Super Bowl were the AFC Conference Champion Indianapolis Colts, who were led by New Orleans native, quarterback Peyton Manning.
Saints coach Sean Payton will go down in history as pulling off the boldest move in a Super Bowl. At the start of the second half, the Saints trailer the Colts by a score of 10-6. Payton decided to ambush the Colts as he called for an onside kick. The Saints recovered the ball and that play changed the flow of the entire game. The Saints would go on and beat the Colts by a score of 31-17. The Saints won their first Super Bowl title and Coach Sean Payton became forever a New Orleans icon.
After the Super Bowl victory, the Saints continued to win, but they weren’t able to advance deep into the playoffs. Finally, after a nine-year hiatus, Payton and the Saints made their return to the NFC Championship game to face the Los Angeles Rams. With a chance to win the game in the final minute of regulation, the Saints fell victim to the most egregious no-call in NFL history when Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman committed a blatant pass interference by tackling Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived. Sean Payton went ballistic on the sideline, but the no-call stood and the Rams claimed victory during the overtime session.
Sean Payton’s tenure as the Saints head coach is by far the best in franchise history. He is a Saints’s icon as well as a city of New Orleans legend. Payton amassed seven NFC South Division titles, three NFC Championship game appearances, one Super Bowl victory, and he has his own dance which is ironically known as ‘The Sean Payton.’
For now, Sean Payton is leaving the NFL coaching ranks, but he left the door open for a possible return. “I don’t know what’s next. I don’t like the word retirement… I still have a vision for doing things in football. And I’ll be honest with you, that I might be coaching again at some point. I don’t think it’s this year, maybe in the future. But that’s not where my heart is right now.