DALLAS, January 4, 2017 – Sean Payton and Drew Brees have an exceptional player-coach relationship worth reviewing in light of what they have accomplished with the New Orleans Saints.
Regardless of the era considered, teams that sustained a winning percentage of 75% or more have been assured a spot in the playoffs for time immemorial. For instance, a team with 11 wins, 5 losses (69%) does not always get into the postseason; a team with 12 wins, 4 losses (75% win percentage) always makes it in.
“The Denver Broncos posted an 11-5 record in 1985 which placed them one game behind the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC West. The Patriots suffered a similar fate in 2008 when they finished 11-5 and missed the playoffs while the 8-8 San Diego Chargers won the AFC West.” – Profootballhof.com
The above will be used as a threshold of excellence for teams, and the duration of excellence will be a period of three consecutive years or more. Simply put, teams that have an average winning percentage that exceeds 75% (.750) for three consecutive years or more will be categorized as a franchise of sustained excellence. The records will be reviewed all the way back to 1960.
Dating back to 1960, there have been eighteen (18) franchises that have met the above standard of excellence (alphabetically):
Team (Years, record, win pct.)
Bears (1985-1988, 52-11, 82.5%)
Bills (1990-1993, 49-15, 76.6%)
Broncos (1996-1998, 39-9, 81.3%); (2012-2015, 50-14, 78.1%)
Chiefs (1966-1969, 43-12-1, 78.2%)
Colts (2003-2009, 89-23, 79.5%)
Cowboys (1968-1972, 53-15-1, 77.9%)
Dolphins (1971-1974, 47-8, 85.5%) *undefeated in regular season (1972) AND postseason
Eagles (2002-2004, 35-11, 76.1%)
Giants (1961-1963, 33-8, 80.5%)
Forty-Niners (1987-1992, 75-20, 78.9%)
Packers (1961-1963, 35-6-1, 85.4%); (1995-1997, 37-11, 77.1%)
Patriots (2003-2007, 66-14, 82.5%); (2010-2016, 89-23, 79.5%) *undefeated in regular season (2007)
Raiders (1967-1969, 37-4-1, 90.2%); (1974-1977, 47-9, 83.9%)
Rams, St. Louis (1999-2001, 37-11, 77.1%)
Redskins (1982-1984, 47-8, 85.5%)
Saints (2009-2011, 37-11, 77.1%)
Steelers (1974-1976, 32-9-1, 78.0%)
Vikings 1969-1971, 35-7, 83.3%); (1973-1976, 45-10-1, 81.8%)
(Stats are courtesy of Profootballreference.com)
The above-mentioned teams not only won with regularity, they also sustained that level of excellence for three consecutive years or more. They are the only franchises to have done so.
After the NFL expanded its schedule to sixteen (16) games in 1978, only 12 teams have demonstrated this standard of excellence. There have only been ten (10) franchises to do so since the NFL allowed unrestricted free agents in 1992.
Since realignment in 2002, with four divisions in each conference (AFC & NFC), only five franchises have reached the above-mentioned standard of excellence: Broncos, Colts, Eagles, Patriots and Saints. Of the two NFC teams (Eagles, Saints), the Saints were the only one to win a Super Bowl (XLIV, Feb 2010).
Having laid the above background, let’s now consider what Coach Sean Payton and Drew Brees have accomplished during this time frame.
In his first season, Coach Payton had to take his new team on the road for the first two games. The NFL actually scheduled it this way in order to maximize the time the New Orleans would have to refurbish, renew and restore the Louisiana Superdome (now called the “Mercedes Benz Superdome”). The additional two weeks were used up to the last day, even to the point of the Saints playing the LAST game of week three on Monday Night vs. their archrivals: the Atlanta Falcons.
Here you have a community (Louisiana/Mississippi Gulf Coast) that is still recovering from having been ravaged by one of the most destructive natural disasters in our nation’s history: Hurricane Katrina. To add more of a backdrop, some pundits across the nation said that it would be a waste of time and money to rebuild that community. After all, New Orleans’ average elevation is below sea level and many of its citizens were still displaced across the country. Coming
Coming into that Monday night game, the Atlanta Falcons were undefeated (in the young season), and were sporting the most impressive running game in the NFL. The team was averaging 279 yards rushing per game (767 total yards of offense in their first two games).
The Falcons’ quarterback, Michael Vick, had 175 yards rushing in the first two games. Atlanta was so confident prior to that Monday Night football game that their running back, who is also a New Orleans native, was quoted as follows:
“Our offense is unstoppable!” (Warrick Dunn)
The expectations were high, and the new head coach (Sean Payton) knew that the anticipation of the reopening of the Louisiana Superdome would be an emotional roller coaster. Coach Payton had his team ready, and the first defensive series proved that the Saints had a game plan for the Falcons’ vaunted running game. Then, after stopping the Falcons on a three-and-out, lightning struck (figuratively speaking):
Several things are capsulized in the above video:
- The sheer excitement and enthusiasm displayed by the Saints’ fans, especially after Steve Gleason blocked the Falcons’ punt.
- Drew Brees showing the heart of a lion by throwing a key block on a Falcons’ defender, allowing Devery Henderson to score a key touchdown. You may want to take another look at Brees’ key block at the 3:40 mark in the video above.
- Listen to the audio at the 4:00 mark to hear the passion and joy in the voice of Steve Gleason (following the game). The other game commentator (with Jim Henderson) was the late Hokie Gajan.
- Curtis Deloatch (Saints’ special teams player who recovered the punt blocked by Gleason) gives a short, yet memorable impromptu interview a few days after the game (at the 4:56 mark).
The fact that Brees was willing to throw that key block in the Falcons’ game is even more noteworthy, given the fact that Brees was mere months (Jan 2006) removed from significant surgery on his right shoulder. The following video shows just how serious an injury Drew Brees sustained in the Chargers’ final game of the 2005 season.
Dr. James Andrews goes into great detail on how far Drew Brees had come in the rehabilitation of his shoulder:
Head Coach Sean Payton’s recognition and awards:
- Voted AP (Associated Press) NFL Coach of the Year (2006) for leading the Saints to a 10-6 record, and appearance in the NFC Championship game. Noteworthy is the fact that the Saints were devastated by Hurricane Katrina just prior to the 2005 season, and finished that year with a 3-13 record.
- Kansas City Committee of 101 NFC Coach of the Year (2006, 2009)
- ESPY Awards Outstanding Team — New Orleans Saints (2010)
In 2009, Coach Payton aggressively coached the Saints to their most successful season, with a 13–3 regular season, and a 31–17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
In June 2010, Payton published a book (written with journalist Ellis Henican) entitled Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life. The book opened at number 8 on the non-fiction bestseller list of The New York Times. Payton described the concept of Home Team: “I didn’t want to write another winning-on-the-field book or about modern-day leadership…I wanted to write a book about the stories, ones that you sit around and tell your friends.” (courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
The Saints have qualified for the postseason in five of the nine years that Sean Payton has been Head Coach. His regular season (W-L) record with the Saints is 94-65 (59.1%); his record in the postseason is slightly higher: 6-4 (60%). He was suspended for the entire 2012 season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell because of allegations associated with the so-called “Bountygate” scandal.
Sean Payton is the longest tenured coach in the NFC South, and is the catalyst for developing a culture of winning and excellence within the Saints’ organization.
Quarterback Drew Brees:
Take a look at this video to learn a little more about this remarkable NFL quarterback:
Statistics, after Week 17 of the 2016 NFL season:
In single season passing yardage, Brees owns seven of the top 20 totals of all time. Brees has surpassed 5000 yards passing (season) five times; four other QB’s have done this once. Brees holds the NFL record, 54 games, for consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass.
- Brees has passed for 400+ yards in a game 15 times in his career.
- Brees is tied for the NFL record for most TD passes in a game (7).
- Brees has passed for 300+ yards in a game 112 times in his career.
- Brees is third in all-time TD passes (465), behind Manning and Favre.
- Brees is third in all-time pass completions (5,836), behind Manning and Favre.
- Brees is third an all-time passing yardage (66,111), behind Manning and Favre
- In single-season TD passes, Brees owns three of the top 20 of all time.
- In single-season passer rating, Brees owns two of the top 20 of all time.
- In single-season completions, Brees owns nine of the top 20 totals of all time.
- In single-season passing yards per game, Brees owns seven of the top 20 of all time.
- In single-season pass completion percentage, Brees owns four of the top 20 of all time.
Distinguished awards (Drew Brees):
- Walter Payton Man of the Year (2006)
- Miller Lite NFL Player of the Year (2006)
- NFL Alumni Quarterback of the Year (2006, 2009)
- Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award (2006 joint winner)
- PFWA George S. Halas Courage Award (2007)
- NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2008, 2011)
- Bert Bell Award (2009)
- Super Bowl XLIV MVP (2009)
- PFWA Good Guy Award (2010)
- ESPY Award Best NFL Player (2010)
- ESPY Award Best Male Athlete (2010)
- Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year (2010)
- Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year (2010)
- ESPY Award Best Championship Performance (2010)
- Bart Starr Man of the Year (2011)
- Athletes in Action/Bart Starr Award (2011)
- Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award (2011)
- ESPY Award Best Record-Breaking Performance (2012)
- Texas Sports Hall of Fame (inducted 2013)
(Award list, courtesy of Wikipedia.org)
1) The New Orleans Saints are more than a football team; they are family to the Louisiana Gulf Coast community.
2) Head Coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees are more than caretakers in their respective positions. Their persona, vision, leadership and tenacity bring tangible and intangible value to the Saints franchise.
From their initial season together (2006), they (and many other coaches and players) worked to build what was inarguably a standard of excellence in 2009-2011.
Despite recent setbacks (personnel issues, salary cap limitations, and key injuries), the Saints appear to be at the cusp of another run of excellence. Do not be surprised when the Saints come marching into the playoffs in 2017, and the next several years.
Bill Randall is a contributing writer for Communities Digital News (CDN). He and his family reside in Dallas, TX.