Looking back on the best to ever wear Black & Gold
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It all began on Jan. 18, 2006. The day the Sean Payton era began in New Orleans.
One of his first orders of business was finding his franchise quarterback, which is exactly what he did when he landed Drew Brees. It proved to be a perfect marriage of head coach and player. The duo would go on to re-write the record books of NFL offensive football.
Payton’s first team in 2006 was a crazy collection of players in a city still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. Yet somehow, they won.
No victory was bigger than in week three when the Saints officially returned for the reopening of Superdome against rival Atlanta Falcons and let the world know...New Orleans was back.
That season, the team went 10-6 and advanced to the NFC Championship Game. Payton was named Coach of the Year.
In 2009, something special was brewing behind Payton and Brees and a new attack-style, take-the-ball away defense. The Saints took the league by storm.
They opened 13-0 and eventually made it all the way to the mountain top, defeating the Colts on the back of an unforgettable second-half interception to win Super Bowl XLIV.
Many consider Payton’s 2011 team better than his championship-winning group. Despite going 13-3, that team’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion in San Francisco.
The Saints should have been contenders in 2012 until the NFL dropped a bomb on the organization and suspended Payton for the entire season for his involvement in the team’s “bountygate” scandal.
Payton entered the lean years in 2014-2016. The Saints suffered three 7-9 seasons. During that stretch, Payton was rumored to have interest in other jobs, but ultimately remained in the Big Easy.
His decision paid off. From 2017 through 2020, the Saints accumulated one of the best rosters in all of football, and it showed on the field. The Saints won four straight NFC South Division Titles but were stung in the postseason year after year.
In 2017 it was the Minnesota Miracle.
In 2018, it was the NOLA No Call in the NFC Championship that prevented the Saints from getting to another Super Bowl.
In 2019, the Saints season ended in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and in 2020, Brees played his last game in an empty stadium.
This leads us to 2021, with no franchise quarterback and a gutted roster. Combined with Hurricane Ida and multiple COVID issues, the journey was very long and very challenging.
Still, Payton and the Saints charged on, pouring every ounce of energy into weekly game plans, somehow producing a 9-8 record with a team whose talent did not match.
Payton will walk away after 16 years, 15 seasons, with a franchise-best 152-89 record. The Saints, under Payton, recorded a 9-8 postseason record, where the organization had a grand total of one postseason win before Payton arrived.
Payton’s offenses with Brees consistently ranked near the top of the league every season, and made for must-see TV, as evidenced by their annual slate of numerous primetime games.
While his days in New Orleans are now over, Payton’s legacy is secured.
He is simply the best to ever roam the sidelines in black and gold.
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