After weeks of interviewing candidates for the New Orleans Saints head coaching spot, general manager Mickey Loomis has made his choice and it is Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Sean Payton. Payton, who is 42 years old, has never been a head coach at any level, but he has worked with some of the best coaches in the NFL game today in Bill Parcells, John Fox and Jon Gruden. And most notably he has called the offensive plays for future Hall of Fame head coach Bills Parcells and the Dallas Cowboys the past two years, and “The Big Tuna” had never let anyone call offensive plays for him during his coaching tenure with the New York Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and the Cowboys.
Just two years ago Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders almost hired Payton to be their head coach, but a late minute snag prohibited him from landing the head spot in Oakland.
Jon Gruden, the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one of Payton’s closest coaching friends, says that the Saints got a real winner in the high touted quarterback mentor.
“Payton is a real gem of a coach,” Gruden said. “He’s bright, a super hard worker and he brings to the table a real sense of accomplishment out on the field. He leaves no stone unturned and he consistently brings great gameplans to a team. He is going to be a terrific NFL head coach. Sean has a great working relationship with his quarterbacks and that is the key position on a team to have playing at a high level on a consistent basis.”
While Payton is not a proven product, he is a young generation of head coach that has entered the league in the past few years. There are very few name products that guarantee marquee value like a Bill Parcells or a Joe Gibbs. Proven names that have won big in other places like Jimmy Johnson, George Seifert, Steve Mariucci and Mike Ditka didn’t win big in their second head coaching go-around.
Honestly, the Saints coaching job is a most difficult one and one that will have plenty of obstacles to overcome to reach great success. But from what I see, Sean Payton does have the credentials and the pedigree to achieve success in New Orleans, but it won’t be easy. This is a football team with some talent, but also some huge holes to fill at cornerback, linebacker, offensive tackle, tight end and most notably quarterback.
It really doesn’t matter if you are 32, 42, 52 or 72 years old, you are never fully prepared to become a head coach for the first time. Now, let’s see how Sean Payton handles the challenge and how well he can put some real football discipline and knowledge to this football team.
Local college roundup
This weekend the annual college all-star games hit a high note and they will have a distinct Louisiana flavor in both contests. In the Saturday afternoon East-West Shrine game in San Antonio, Texas, football watchers will get a chance to scout two top Louisiana products in LSU offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and Missouri State and Destrehan High School standout punter/placekicker Jonathan Scifres.
Later that night in the Hula Bowl from Hawaii former Lutcher High School and Northwestern State (LA.) cornerback David Pittman, along with former Hahnville High School and Georgia Tech safety Dawan Landry will play for the East squad.
Three-time All-SEC free safety LaRon Landry announced this past weekend that he was staying for his senior season at LSU rather than throw his name into the 2006 NFL draft pool. Landry had given the decision plenty of thought and he waited until the final day to announce his decision to go back to LSU. On my NFL draft board, Landry was ranked as the top free safety in the country and he would have projected as an early 2nd round choice, if he had come out early.
The decision by the former Hahnville All-state quarterback/defensive back to stay for his senior season was good news for LSU head coach Les Miles since he is losing 7 top senior defensive performers, defensive tackles Claude Wroten and Kyle Williams, defensive end Melvin Oliver, linebackers Cameron Vaughn, Ken Hollis and E.J. Kuale and cornerback Ronnie Prude, to the NFL.