NEW ORLEANS -- With one swift move, one forceful firing, there’s no mistaking that Sean Payton intends to put the franchise on his shoulders and steer it back to the playoffs.
And no one is safe.
It took Payton less than 60 hours to put his hands back firmly on the steering column of the Saints’ franchise, firing Steve Spagnuolo after only one season as defensive coordinator.
If anyone had any questions about how the newly reinstated coach would respond to being let back into the league, whether he would have lost his patented Payton fire, Thursday’s event answered them.
Sitting in the stands of Ladd-Peebles Stadium for Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday, Payton all but hinted that this change was coming. He said the one thing that keeps him up at night is defense, that there would be tough decisions to make.
Though not with the franchise this past season due to his bounty-related suspension, it’s likely Payton was hoarding information about the defense in his “off” time, striking his forehead with the palm of his hand time and again.
New Orleans’ defense did, after all, set an NFL record for most yards allowed in a 16-game season.
But the bigger picture, the much larger story in this whole sordid affair, is that Payton is back.
Echoing a line from the movie Tombstone, Payton appears to be telling the rest of the league and those inside the Saints facility that he’s coming … and he’s bringing hell with him.
The move to a 3-4 defense is logical and likely something Payton realized should have happened in the first place.
With quarterback becoming more athletic and mobile, it makes sense to put athleticism on the field. Martez Wilson and Junior Galette may or may not be stars, but now they should at least get a chance to prove their worth.
That’ll be up to whoever takes over along with Payton.
One of the reasons Payton was punished was for what basically amounts to lack of institutional control for not keep an eye on Gregg Williams.
This move says that Payton is ready to regain that control, that he’s ready to be involved in every aspect of the game and team.
It may or may not be the right move. Spagnuolo was hailed when he was hired as the man to get the defense back on track. That didn’t work and Payton saw that from afar.
So he made a tough decision and he made it quickly.
And in so doing, Payton got 2013 off to the start those who follow his team were looking for.