In the annals of NFL history, there are a few coach-quarterback combinations that will live on in infamy.
Since Brees joined New Orleans in 2006, Payton and Brees went 135-77 together (excluding games Brees didn’t start, and Payton didn’t coach while suspended in 2012).
We’re still busy unpacking what life will be like for Belichick without Brady in New England, and Payton will soon find out what’s in the cards for him without Brees under center in New Orleans.
It’s unlikely that Payton’s reputation as one of the most advanced offensive minds in the NFL will take too much of a hit in 2021 regardless of what happens, but it will be interesting to see how he calls plays, and how much freedom he allows his quarterback to have at the line of scrimmage.
As New Orleans enters a new chapter in their franchise history, we’ll assess the likelihood of Payton remaining with the team in the short-term, long-term, and somewhere in between.
1-3 Years Left With The Saints
It’s hard to envision Saints ownership cutting ties with Payton next season unless something utterly catastrophic takes place, but there is a world where he doesn’t make it past 2023.
If he decides to hand the keys of the offense over to Jameis Winston, and his one year crash course in quarterback grad school doesn’t help him cut down on the turnover problems he had in Tampa Bay, it won’t reflect well on Payton’s development plan for him.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) June 3, 2021
Payton could also opt to hand the offense over to Taysom Hill, and there’s a world where that might not deliver wins either.
If Hill uses his legs a little bit too much, and doesn’t slide or get out of bounds to see the next play, he might not last a full season.
In that case, Payton will have to flip-flop between a traditional passing offense and a read-option scheme, which might be confusing, and leave the team in a bind.
3-5 Years Left With The Saints
There’s also a possibility that Payton, who’s only 57 years old, lasts longer than the short-term window proposed above.
In this world, the Saints are probably in the mix for the NFC divisional playoffs for a couple of seasons, but might also have to deal with a couple of years where they don’t qualify for the playoffs.
If Payton commits to Winston for the majority of this time frame, the former number one pick’s resume might resemble the one he had with the Bucs.
Winston may have one year where he leads the league in passing, and another where his aggressive approach might get him into trouble.
In the Hill scenario for this timeframe, it’s possible that his dual-threat ability is a rousing success for a couple years.
Taysom Hill is a cheat code. 😤😤😤
Within 5 plays:
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 29, 2019
Then, in year three or four, the league catches up to what the Saints are trying to do, and Payton opts to retire or leave for greener pastures.
Over 6 Years Left With The Saints
This is probably the outcome most Saints fans are hoping for with Payton.
If this happens, it’s a good bet that New Orleans found a way to vanquish the new dynasty Brady is looking to build with the Buccaneers.
It’s also likely that the Saints defense will have found a way to limit the sky high potential that Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts have as a receiving duo in Atlanta.
Under this timeline, Winston’s turnover troubles will have been fully mitigated, and he’ll be a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback who enhances Michael Thomas the way Brees did.
Alvin Kamara will retain his dynamic athleticism and maximize the touches he gets from the backfield and out of the slot.
If Payton does last this long, it’s unlikely the Hill experiment will be the reason, as running quarterbacks in their mid-30’s don’t usually dominate the NFL.