Kristian: For the Saints, the 'Payton Factor' is very real
Since Sean Payton was reinstated after a season-long suspension in 2012, the raging debate has been what kind of impact he will have on a 7 and 9 team that sorely missed his guidance and steady leadership last season.
The ‘Voice of the Saints’ says Payton’s return will help return the squad to as close to normal as you can get in the NFL. “I think anything that provides normalcy is welcomed by this football team, a steady factor of direction is what he should provide,” Jim Henderson explained. Payton’s return won’t automatically equal wins for the team, but it will equal a steady routine, relatively few distractions, and a well-prepared work week leading up to games.
Players laud Payton’s ability to prepare them for the week ahead. “He’s a great communicator, and he tells us each week what will win or lose the game. He knows exactly what wins games at this level,” said offensive lineman Zach Strief.
Payton has a rare ability to pinpoint and almost predict how a particular game will play out. That ability gives the players extreme confidence that they are prepared to play well and win. Before last season I said Payton alone was worth 2 wins a season. I can think of two games the Saints would have won if Payton were on the sidelines: The opening week loss to the Redskins, and the week three loss to the Chiefs. In that loss to K.C the Saints squandered an 18-point 4th quarter lead. That simply would not have happened with Payton on the sidelines.
While I’m not putting the Saints back in the post-season just because Payton returns to the field, I am willing to bet they’ll be in the thick of things in the NFC playoff picture. The defense won’t be a dreadful mess that it was a year ago. The offense will be its usual efficient self. You’ll see a team that is clearly more focused on the details of winning and losing, and well prepared team week in and week out.
The Payton Factor has already been felt in the team’s training facility, and likely will be felt through the NFL when the regular season begins.