After a year away from football, much of it spent going on TV to talk about football, Sean Payton is refreshed enough to take on the mess that is the Denver Broncos. He’ll probably win the Super Bowl next season – he’s Sean Payton and that’s what he does. As we check his matchless accomplishments, we offer a caution ripped from Shelley’s “Ozymandias.”
Look on his works, ye mighty, and despair.
Sean Payton has won 100 Super Bowls.
Excuse the typo. Research shows there haven’t been 100 Super Bowls. We try again.
Sean Payton has won 10 Super Bowls.
I’m sorry. This can’t be right. Is there any way this is right?
I’m really sorry, but it says here Sean Payton has won one – that’s “1,” with no zeroes attached – Super Bowl.
If that’s true – and it is – why are we making him out to be the greatest coach this side of Vincent J. Lombardi?
Because – this is me setting aside the sarcasm – every so often we decide a coach is Simply Great, even though a cursory check indicates said coach is merely Pretty Darn Good. It happened with Chip Kelly, whose greatest achievement was losing to Gene Chizik in a BCS title game. It happened with Jon Gruden, a winner in his only Super Bowl appearance, which came 20 years ago. It’s happening with Payton.
He won the Super Bowl with the Saints on Feb. 7, 2010. His opponent that night was Indianapolis, as coached by Jim Caldwell. The Colts outgained New Orleans by 100 yards but lost after Payton ordered an onside kick – great call – to open the second half and Peyton Manning delivered a Pick-6 – lousy throw – in the final moments.
A city that hadn’t won anything of note, a city five years removed from Katrina, won it all as a 5-point underdog. Payton coached the game of his life. No Super Bowl has ever been celebrated as much. Still, it was a while ago.
Know how many different franchises have reached a Super Bowl since? Fifteen. Know how many different coaches have taken a team to a Super Bowl since Payton? Seventeen.
His playoff record after winning it all was 5-7. Granted, he lost two of the most excruciating games ever – the Minnesota Miracle and the NFC championship no-call against the Rams – but it’s not as if he’s Bill Belichick. (Six Super wins in nine trips.) He’s not even Sean McVay. (One Super win in two appearances.) Payton has made the Super Bowl once, winning once.
His career winning percentage (.631) is 24th-best among all coaches, sixth-best among current coaches. He has been named the NFL’s coach of the year once. (Ron Rivera has done it twice.) Payton’s six most recent playoff games were staged in the Superdome; the Saints were 2-4.
Journalistic disclaimer: I’ve worked in Atlanta for 38 years, 10 months and 27 days. The first NFL game I covered for the AJC was Falcons-Saints down there. Sept. 2, 1984: Falcons won 36-28, Gerald Riggs rushed for 202 yards.
I’ve seen the rivalry up close for a mighty long time, but I get paid not to root. I know many Falcons fans. I know a few Saints fans. I covered the Katrina Game. I’ve never heard a roar louder than the one triggered by Steve Gleason’s block of Michael Koenen’s punt.
Today’s missive isn’t a function of Saints envy. Had Payton posted the same record coaching the Titans, I’d be thinking the same thing: “No doubt he’s good, but is he THAT good?”
His greatest work was turning Drew Brees, a Charger fizzle coming off shoulder surgery, into a Hall of Famer. In Denver, Payton will work with Russell Wilson, who was Canton-bound until becoming a Bronco. Denver sent the draft’s 29th pick to NOLA as compensation for Payton. Within minutes, Saints defender Cameron Jordan – the bane of Matt Ryan’s existence – took to Twitter to lobby for a quarterback.
The Falcons might be interested in a QB, too. They’d hate to see part of the Payton payment packaged so New Orleans could slip ahead of them for C.J. Stroud.
They won’t mind not seeing Payton on the opposing sideline twice a year. He was 21-9 against the Falcons. Lots of coaches beat the Falcons, though. Dennis Allen, who replaced Payton, just went 2-0 against them; he was 5-10 against everyone else.
The above is part of a regular exercise, written and curated by yours truly, available to all who register on AJC.com for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes more opinions and extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
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