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Coaches

Sean Payton

Since he was hired as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Sean Payton has established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the NFL. Since coming to New Orleans, Payton has led the Saints to five playoff berths, three NFC South division titles and the franchise’s first World Championship with a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Payton has a 79-43 overall record (.648), including a 6-4 postseason mark (.600) after the franchise had won only one playoff game prior to his arrival. Throughout his tenure, Payton holds the franchise’s top winning percentage (.648) for a head coach and ranks fourth among current NFL head coaches (min. 50 games). The 2009-11 seasons under Payton marked the most successful stretch in team history, as New Orleans posted a 41-14 mark (.759) including the postseason, the most victories in the NFL.

Payton is one of just seven active coaches to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. The others are New England’s Bill Belichick, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.

Since he was hired as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Sean Payton has established himself as one of the most successful coaches in the NFL. Since coming to New Orleans, Payton has led the Saints to five playoff berths, three NFC South division titles and the franchise’s first World Championship with a 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.

Payton has a 79-43 overall record (.648), including a 6-4 postseason mark (.600) after the franchise had won only one playoff game prior to his arrival. Throughout his tenure, Payton holds the franchise’s top winning percentage (.648) for a head coach and ranks fourth among current NFL head coaches (min. 50 games). The 2009-11 seasons under Payton marked the most successful stretch in team history, as New Orleans posted a 41-14 mark (.759) including the postseason, the most victories in the NFL.

Payton is one of just seven active coaches to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory. The others are New England’s Bill Belichick, Seattle’s Pete Carroll, the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.

Payton’s presided over the NFL’s most prolific offense, leading the league in net yards per game in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011 and finishing first in scoring in 2008 and 2009. These are the only four times the Saints have led the NFL in offense. In franchise history, the Saints have scored at least 45 points on 16 separate occasions with 12 of these outputs occurring under Payton’s watch. Defensively, New Orleans has finished in the top five twice (2010 and 2013). He has also sent a total of 31 selections to the Pro Bowl and earned the honor of coaching the NFC squad following the 2006 season.

In 2013, Payton helped guide the Saints back to the postseason with an 11-5 mark and by finishing 8-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the second time in three seasons. Ranking fourth in the NFL both on offense (399.4 ypg.) and defense (305.7 ypg.), New Orleans was one of the league’s most balanced clubs as they were the only team to rank in the top five in both categories. The defensive improvement of 134.4 net yards per game from 2012 was the biggest by a club since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. In opponent points per game, after surrendering 28.4 in 2012, the Saints gave up only 19.0 in 2013 as they improved in the league rankings from 31st to fourth. After reaching the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons, Payton led the Saints to the franchise’s first road postseason victory with the club’s 26-24 win at Philadelphia in the Wild Card round. Five Saints (QB Drew Brees, G Jahri Evans, TE Jimmy Graham, G Ben Grubbs and DE Cameron Jordan) were selected to the Pro Bowl.

In 2011, the Saints went to the playoffs for the third consecutive season and captured their third NFC South title with a 13-3 record, tying a club record for regular season victories originally set in 2009. It was the first time that the club has had at least 11 wins in three straight campaigns. Taking advantage of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome’s environment, the Saints posted an undefeated 8-0 record at their home stadium for the first time. With five road victories, the Saints also enjoyed a first in posting winning records at visiting stadiums in three consecutive seasons for the first time. In fact, three of the top six road campaigns in team history (7-1 in 2009, 6-2 in both 2006 and 2010) have come under Payton. His regular season road winning percentage (33-23, .589) is tops in club history.

Payton oversaw a record-setting year on offense for the Saints in 2011, as New Orleans set an NFL single-season mark with 7,474 net yards, while also leading the league in scoring with a club-best 547 points, the fourth-highest total all-time. Brees set NFL single-season records for completions (468) and completion percentage (71.2%) and what was then a mark for yardage (5,476). The team set NFL records for total net yards (7,474), completions (472), completion percentage (71.3%), third down conversion rate (56.7%) and fewest fumbles (6), while also setting what were then league marks for net passing yards (5,347) and first downs (416). A reconfigured offensive line with three new starters surrendered only 24 sacks, tied for the second-lowest total in the league. Five players represented the team at the Pro Bowl.

In 2010, Payton led the Saints to their second straight postseason appearance and third in five seasons with an 11-5 record. New Orleans converted an NFL-best 48.8% of their third down attempts and ranked sixth in the NFL in total yards (372.5 ypg). In addition, the team finished third in passing (277.6 ypg). The Saints finished fifth in the NFL with 351 first downs, the third-highest total in club history. New Orleans’ offensive line gave up only 26 sacks, which was the NFL’s fifth-lowest total. Five Saints were Pro Bowl selections.

Defensively, the team took a big step forward, making the jump from the 25th ranked total defense in 2009 to fourth overall (306.3 ypg) in 2010. It marked the first time since 1997 that they ranked among the league’s top five. Most significant was a jump in pass defense, moving from 26th (235.6 ypg) in 2009 to fourth (193.9 ypg) in 2010. The club moved up from 20th to seventh (19.2 ppg) in opponent points per game. The defense also significantly improved their opponent third down conversion ranking from 14th (38.0%) to fifth (34.5%).

In 2009, en route to the Super Bowl XLIV title, Payton guided the Saints to the team’s second NFC South title in four seasons with a 13-3 record.  Along the way the Saints set a franchise-record for most regular season wins in a season (13). Their 16 overall victories were the most in the history of the franchise. The Saints also posted the franchise’s longest winning streak and best start when they won their first 13 contests.  Payton once again was named as the top head coach in the NFL by numerous media outlets and recognized football chapters.

The Saints finished as the NFL’s top-ranked offense (sixth in rushing and fourth in passing) for the second straight year.  An opportunistic defense recorded 26 interceptions with an NFL-leading five returned for touchdowns. New Orleans also ranked second in the league in opponent red zone touchdown percentage (39.3%). The Saints set what were then team records in scoring (510) and touchdowns (64) under Payton’s watch and battled through the postseason with victories over Arizona (NFC Divisional Playoff) and Minnesota (NFC Championship) en route to Super Bowl XLIV. A club-record seven players were named to the Pro Bowl.

In 2008, the Saints ranked first overall in the NFL in offense and set what were then team records for total yards (6,571), net passing yards (4,977) and first downs (354), also tying what was then a team record for single-game scoring in a 51-29 win over Green Bay.

In 2007, the Saints endured injuries and a slow start, but put together a four-game winning streak to get back into playoff contention. New Orleans finished fourth in the NFL in total offense while also holding nine opponents to 17 points or less.

Payton scrapped the traditional timetable for rebuilding an NFL club in 2006. In his opening season as a head coach, the Saints jumped out to a 3-0 record - a first in team history and equaled the team's win total from the previous year – and clinched the NFC South title before the regular season finale. New Orleans led the NFL in total offense, went to the postseason for the first time since 2000 and advanced to the NFC Championship for the first time. When the 2006 season came to a close, Payton was voted the Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America, The Sporting News and the Maxwell Club. He and his staff coached the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl.

Payton was hired as the 14th head coach in Saints history on Jan. 18, 2006 after serving as a member of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff from 2003-05 under 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Bill Parcells. Prior to his final season with the Cowboys, Payton was promoted to assistant head coach/passing game coordinator and was responsible for the team's play-calling after serving as assistant head coach/quarterbacks from 2003-04. In 2005, the Cowboys tied for second in the NFC with 318 first downs. When he arrived, Dallas had ranked 31st in passing the previous year but immediately improved to 17th.

Payton went to Dallas following four years with the New York Giants (1999-2002), the last three as offensive coordinator after spending his first season as quarterbacks coach. He solidified his reputation as one of the game's brightest offensive minds in his first season as offensive coordinator, when the Giants captured the NFC title and went to Super Bowl XXXV. New York scored 328 points – the club's highest total since 1990 - and finished 13th in the NFL in total offense.

Payton was first assigned play-calling duties prior to a game against the New York Jets on Dec. 5, 1999. The Giants responded with 41 points and 490 yards - both season highs - and he retained that assignment over the final five games. Appointed the offensive coordinator the following season, over the next three years the Giants passing attack continually improved, ranking 13th in the NFL in 2000, tied for eighth in 2001 and sixth in 2002.

In 2002 the Giants also finished sixth overall in total offense, the team's highest ranking since 1985. In the previous decade, New York hadn't ranked above 20th. Prior to joining the Giants, he spent 1997 and 1998 as Philadelphia's quarterbacks coach. In 1997, the Eagles ranked second in passing and third in total offense in the NFC.

During his career, Payton has had particular success tutoring quarterbacks. Brees has thrived since arriving in New Orleans, as he holds or has tied a total of 26 club career, single-season and single-game records, eight of them NFL marks. Since signing with the Saints, Brees has completed 3,356 of 4,990 attempts (67.3%) for 38,733 yards with 283 touchdowns and a 99.0 passer rating. In 2013, he enjoyed another standout season as he completed 446-of-650 passes (68.6%) for 5,162 yards with 39 touchdowns and a 104.7 passer rating. He was selected to his seventh Pro Bowl as a Saint, tying the club record for all-star game selections with Pro Football Hall of Fame member William Roaf.

Since his first year as a play-caller in 2000, every passer under Payton's guidance has thrown for over 3,000 yards. In addition to Brees since 2006, the three starting quarterbacks he worked with in Dallas - Drew Bledsoe in 2005, Vinny Testaverde in 2004 and Quincy Carter in 2003 - all surpassed the milestone. While in New York, Giants QB Kerry Collins had 4,073 yards in 2002.

Payton wrapped two coaching stints at San Diego State University (1988-89 and 1992-93) around a stop at Indiana State (1990-91). During his second stretch with the Aztecs, Payton was running backs coach, working with Heisman Trophy runner-up Marshall Faulk before becoming quarterbacks coach.

Following the 1993 season, Payton moved to Miami (Ohio) (1994-95) where he was quarterbacks coach. He spent 1996 as quarterbacks coach at Illinois before entering the NFL with Philadelphia.

Payton earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Eastern Illinois, where as a quarterback he had 10,665 passing yards, then the third-highest total in NCAA Division I-AA history. The three-time AP All-American selection had professional stints with Chicago of the Arena Football League, Ottawa of the Canadian Football League and the Chicago Bears in 1987. Payton was inducted into the Eastern Illinois Hall of Fame in September of 2000 and had his jersey retired in a ceremony in September of 2010. He received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater in 2013.

Payton was born Dec. 29, 1963 in San Mateo, Calif., and raised in Naperville, Ill.

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