29 July 2011

Adaptation: Sean Payton's Second Act

Reggie Bush was Sean Payton's first draft pick with the Saints, Payton's prized x-factor in a relentlessly, attack-minded offensive scheme. Nobody was (is) a bigger fan of Reggie Bush than Coach Payton. 

Bush's 2006 selection not only symbolized the Saints' transition into a rebuilt, modern NFL franchise, but his skill set was also representative of the Saints' offense under Sean Payton: unprecedented, shapeless, formationally-diverse, explosive, up-tempo.  

Payton's evolution moves Saints ahead
The stories about Payton's early infatuation with Bush's talents are now legendary: Payton telling Bush's marketing agent, Mike Ornstein, "fuck you" upon Ornstein's request that the Saints not draft Bush in 2006, and instead allow Bush to go to a bigger market; then later, the coach drawing up plays for Bush on cocktail napkins at Emeril's the night before the 2006 draft when Payton realized Bush would be a Saint.

But now, as Bush leaves for Miami, his departure reveals a nuanced, adaptive shift in offensive philosophy in what now appears to be Sean Payton's second stanza as the Saints' head coach. 

Seemingly, the league's defenses started to better solve Sean Payton's offense in 2010. The trademark rhythmic tempo was less fluid; the interceptions were too frequent; the dimensional framework was too often one-sided; big plays were less prevalent; and the offense was less devastatingly, consistently efficient.  

And as a result, it's been incumbent on Coach Payton to react, adapt, and evolve. The NFL, and life in general, rewards dynamic thinking and punishes stagnant adherence to dated truths. Sean Payton seems intent on employing the former and avoiding the latter. 

Payton's current willingness to part with Bush--and his prior choice to make Bush increasingly less prominent in the offense--signals the coach's open-mindedness and acceptance of the present realities of a league better equipped to defend his schemes. The Saints' forward march without Bush is a not-so-subtle metaphor for a new era in Sean Payton's offense. 

What Sean Payton now has in Mark Ingram is an element that's been missing since Payton was cutting his teeth as a rookie head coach in 2006. Integrating Ingram into the the Saints' advanced, now matured scheme provides Payton with an opportunity to re-mold his progressive attack, to add a potentially elite power-back to his menu of services, and to force opponents into developing a new roadmap on how to contain the Saints' offense. 

If you're not busy being born, you're busy dying. 

Today, it seems like Sean Payton and the Saints' offense is focused on living in the moment.    

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