As recently as last week I maintained some optimism that Payton's time in New Orleans wasn't quite over — that the adaptability he showed with backup quarterback Luke McCown under center indicated his coaching acumen was still up to date, that he still had cards to play. Even with a struggling offensive line, I figured, Payton's shift to a quick-passing offense could be supplemented by the full-scale deployment of weapon CJ Spiller to put defenses on their heels and keep the Saints' hopes alive.There are two working theories in play. One holds that the Saints are taking this year off to get their promising young defenders some experience and set themselves up to fix the glaring holes in the roster (particularly on the offensive line) and make one more run at it next year before Brees's arm falls off.
Payton didn't do that. Instead, he reverted. Behind an offensive line composed of backups, Payton rammed his backs straight ahead into Philadelphia's defense in a vain attempt to set up deep shots that rarely had a chance to materialize. The result? Drew Brees was pummeled, dropping deep into the pocket only to have Eagles defender Fletcher Cox all over him. Sacks and fumbles and, in at least one case, hits to Brees' damaged right shoulder ensued.
Payton's plan was unimaginative lunacy. It seemed lazy. Payton seems not so much set in his ways as uninspired, as if it takes the challenge of figuring out how to succeed with a McCown to provoke the ideas and obsessive attention to detail that once made him special.
The other theory is that Sean Payton is a complete and total burnout who is all set to sail off to Miami where he can play his bongos, take a few weekends in the Bahamas, and walk naked on the beach like Shaq.
Keep in mind, both of these theories fit perfectly with any perception of uninterested, lazy game planning in any given game this season. My guess is, if the Saints go on a bit of a mini-run toward the end of the season and end up with 6 or 7 wins, then it's more likely that we're looking at a designed rebuild. If not.. well...
Anyway Payton says he's happy here because of course that's what he'd say. Just remember, you don't need a windbreaker in Miami.