Deke: Fast starts led to big things in Sean Payton era
by Deke Bellavia,posted Jul 7 2014 4:09PM
They say numbers don’t lie. That statement could not be more true, than when it comes to the New Orleans Saints success under Coach Sean Payton. And when you dig a little deeper inside the numbers, the obvious becomes crystal clear.
As he enters his ninth season as head coach of the Black & Gold, Sean Payton looks to have one of his better teams. In eight seasons, Payton led the Saints to the NFL playoffs five times, including winning the Lombardi trophy in 2009.
When you look at Coach Payton’s success, patterns become apparent. For example, the first four games of the season have been the indicator about how good…or not…the Saints will be.
In 2007, 2008, and 2012 the Saints did not make the playoffs. Sure, there are many reasons why the Black & Gold stayed home after the regular season, but it was largely due to a poor start in each of those three seasons.
In 2007 the Saints started the season a dismal 0-4, 2-2 in 2008, and 0-4 in 2012. When the Saints have gone to the post season, those first four games have been wins - far more so than not.
In Payton’s first season, the Saints came out of the gate a surprising 3-1. In 2009 the Saints were 4-0. They were 3-1 in 2010 and 2011, and the Black & Gold went 4-0 through their first four games in 2013.
So under Payton, the Saints have started the season either 3-1 or 4-0 in years in which New Orleans made the playoffs. On the flip side, in seasons where the Saints have not made the playoffs they kicked off the season either 0-4 or 2-2.
Is a fast start pivotal to the team’s success?
Coach Payton thinks so, “I think every one of us sees the statistics of teams that start two, three, four-and-0 versus the other way around, and the percentages obviously tilt, marrying each other. I think it goes a long way.” The Saints head coach continued, “I will say this: in 2006, it was critical because we were a decent team, but all of the sudden playing with some confidence after a couple of road wins and winning at home. Obviously in 2009 we carried that momentum for a large part of the season.”
Coach Payton expanded on the importance of a hot start, “Each year is different. In 2011 we lost week one in a tough loss, and I think you try to come away from it and say, ‘Hey, we just played a good football team.’ I think it was the Super Bowl Champion (Packers) the year before. You lay out the schedule – we’re not even at the point where we discuss the schedule yet, we will be in training camp – and you focus on your first challenge. Going on the road versus Atlanta is a big challenge. You really try to focus in on the next game. A fast start, though, is something that you’re looking for. Each week, you’re trying – especially in the beginning of the season – to improve and you’re in a race to improve against the other teams.”
Back in 2006 the Saints' hot 3-1 start led them to a 10-6 record, the NFC South Title and the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs. In 2009 the Saints started 4-0, won the NFC South and captured the #1 seed en-route to winning the club’s first Super Bowl title.
In 2010 and 2011 the Saints were 3-1 after four games with the Black & Gold landing the #5 seed in 2010, and the #3 seed in 2011. And last season’s 4-0 start helped the Saints earn another post season berth as the team was seeded 6th in the NFC.
So, if history taught us anything, it points out that the Saints need a good start. And if the Saints don’t have a good season in 2014, we may very well look back and point to how the team’s record was after the first four games. And if that record is 0-4 or 2-2, then it more than likely won’t be good. At least that’s what history says!