By Joe D.
For those who haven’t been paying attention to the pre-game and post game fluff from the Super Bowl, Sean Payton coached under Bill Parcells during his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. While Payton’s run was relatively unremarkable with Quincy Carter, Vinnie Testeverde, and Drew Bledsoe, he certainly showed he was capable of designing a game plan and calling an offense. Some have echoed that Payton should have received the Jason Garrett deal and he should have succeeded Parcells. Here are some horses, please feel free to hold them for me.
Payton has continued to prove during his tenure with the Saints that he is capable of designing a productive offense, leading a team, developing late round draft picks into stars, and making selfless acts which benefit/inspire his team. He made two momentum shifting calls during the Super Bowl: the first going for it on fourth and goal and the second when he elected to onside kick to start the 2nd half. (Did anyone think back to the Parcells press conference when he discussed Zimmer and Payton in practice… “No offense to the Orientals”) In both instances, they were calls that worked and they are consequently uncriticized.
I contend that both calls were too risky and could have ended the game not with the play of the players, but by the decisions of the coach. If Peyton Manning and company drive the length of the field for either a TD or a FG, the margin at the half may have been insurmountable in the minds of the Saints players. While this may have added pressure to Garrett to not onside kick, I still think he makes the call to onside kick. He would have added incentive to call an onside kick to regain some momentum. The Colts’s special teams were not fooled; Hank Baskett had an opportunity to collect the ball. It bounced off of his helmet and a risky move helped set the tone for a 31 to 7 run by the Saints.
When you look at the first half, the Colts did pick up yardage, but they weren’t able to capitalize by scoring TD’s. You place Manning at the 50 or better and the odds improve greatly of the Colts scoring. Suddenly rather than the Saints being down 10-6 at the half, they may be facing a 24-3 deficit with 25 minutes left in the 2nd half.
Both decisions worked, and Payton will be viewed as a take no prisoners, leave it all on the field, don’t have any regrets coach. In an age when coaches are ostracized for perfectly legitimate decisions (Belicheck going for it on 4th down to end the regular season game against the Colts or Norv Turner electing to onside kick against the Jets at the end of the playoff game), Payton shouldn’t be given a pass on what easily could have lost his team the game.
Kudos for Payton and the Saints. His calculated risks worked and the Saints were the better team on Super Bowl Sunday. Maybe Wade Phillips would be well served to throw in a wrinkle periodically. Although, I like Wade the way he is – he’s willing to let the players win the game and not rely on the bounce of a ball to help determine the outcome.