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Sean Payton’s timeline with the Saints
New Orleans Saints head coach announced he was stepping away on Jan. 25, 2022.
Jan 28, 2022

In a 90-minute news conference that was at times reflective, emotional, humorous and poignant, Sean Payton stepped down after 15 seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, Jan. 25, ending the longest-tenured and most successful run as coach in franchise history.

Payton presided over the NFL's most prolific offense since his arrival, leading the league in net yards per game in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016, the only six times the Saints have led the league in offense and first in scoring in 2008 and 2009. Ranking in the top 10 offensively for 14 consecutive seasons since Payton arrived in 2006 through 2019, the Saints had the third-longest streak (14 seasons) in the NFL since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

In team history, the Saints have scored at least 45 points on 26 occasions with 22 of these outputs occurring under Payton's watch. Defensively, New Orleans has finished in the top five three times (2010, 2013 and 2020). He has also sent 68 selections to the Pro Bowl, and he and his staff have earned the honor of coaching the NFC squad following the 2006 and 2017 seasons.

Here's a timeline of Sean Payton's years in New Orleans.

Sean Payton hired as Saints head coach

On Jan. 18, 2006 the New Orleans Saints hired head coach Sean Payton to become the 13th head coach in franchise history.

On January 18, 2006, the New Orleans Saints hired head coach Sean Payton to become the 13th head coach in franchise history.

Brees & Bush in hand

Sean Payton added some immediate help recruiting Drew Brees to quarterback the Saints for 15 seasons and drafting Reggie Bush second overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Payton shifts the Saints' culture in 2006

Payton scrapped the traditional timetable for rebuilding a club in 2006.

In his opening season as head coach, the Saints jumped out to a 3-0 record, equaling the team's win total from the previous year – and clinched the NFC South title in Week 16.

Photos from Sean Payton's first Saints Training Camp at Millsaps in 2006!

NFC Championship bound in season one

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 season came to a close, Payton was voted consensus Coach of the Year. He and his staff coached the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl.

sean-payton-coach-of-the-year

Payton works out the kinks

After reaching the NFC Championship in his first season with the Saints, Sean Payton's crew came back down to earth in 2007 and 2008, going 15-16 over the two seasons. The lessons learned would eventually fuel the success of the 2009 season.

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 offense, also holding nine opponents to 17 points or less.

In 2008, the Saints ranked first 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. The offensive line surrendered a franchise-low 13 sacks.

Payton guides Saints to 2nd NFC South championship

The Saints finished as the NFL’s top-ranked offense for the second straight year.

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). 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.

NFC Champions

After dismantling the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Divisional Round, the Saints made history with their NFC Championship win over the Vikings.

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) and battled through the postseason with victories over Arizona (NFC Divisional Playoff) and Minnesota (NFC Championship) en route to Super Bowl XLIV. Seven Saints were named to the Pro Bowl for the first time.

Photos of the New Orleans Saints 31-28 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in the 2009 NFC Championship game. (New Orleans Saints photos)

Super Bowl XLIV Champions

Sean Payton and the Saints go through three Hall of Fame quarterbacks to send New Orleans to the promised land with its Super Bowl XLIV win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

Back-to-back double digit win seasons

In 2010, Payton led the Saints to their second straight postseason appearance 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 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 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%).

Record setting year in 2011

Sean Payton and the Saints set NFL records for total net yards, completions, third down conversion rate, and fewest fumbles.

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 posting a team-record 547 points, then 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), 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

Return to the playoffs

In 2013, Payton guided the Saints back to the postseason with an 11-5 mark, finishing 8-0 at home 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 the Saints 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 New Orleans to the franchise's first road postseason victory with a 26-24 win at Philadelphia in the Wild Card round. Five players were selected to the Pro Bowl.

Saints go 21-27 over the next three seasons

Despite one the NFL's most prolific offenses, the Saints would finish 7-9 in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

2014

New Orleans finished first in the NFL in net yards per game (411.4), third down efficiency (48.3%), first downs (395) and opponent punt return average (4.1). The Saints would fall in 2 out of 3 regular season overtime games.

2015

A high-powered, quick-striking offense held its place among the elite in the NFL as the Saints finished second in the NFL in total net yards per game (403.8) and first in net passing yards per game (310.6), third down conversion rate (47.7%) and first downs (381). Unfortunately, the Saints defense set a new league record for the most passing touchdowns allowed with 45.

2016

Payton had the Saints in playoff contention right until Week 16 despite season-ending injuries to four Week One starters. Rebounding from a 0-3 start, the Saints won four of their next five contests to get back in the middle of the postseason picture. Payton accomplished the balancing act of adding youth to his squad while keeping the Saints in the thick of the playoff hunt, which paid off with a 2017 breakthrough.

On the wrong side of a miracle

Payton would lead the Saints to the top of an NFC South division that had three double-digit win teams.

The 2017 Saints produced an 11-5 record, producing their first playoff berth since 2013. Behind a squad led by Brees offensively and Jordan defensively, the Saints had seven players selected to the Pro Bowl and four draft picks selected to the PFWA All-Rookie Team, two more than any other club.

New Orleans, one of three NFC South playoff teams, upended Carolina (11-5) and Atlanta (10-6) to finish first in the division and advanced to the Divisional Playoff round after capturing a 31-26 Wild Card victory over the Panthers.

Offensively, New Orleans was the only team to rank in the top five in the NFL in both rushing yards per game (129.4) and net passing yards per game (261.8), while giving up only 20 sacks, the second lowest total in the league and turning the ball over a franchise-low 18 times.

The defense saw improvement in virtually every major statistical category. New Orleans moved up ten spots in total defense, including from 32nd to 15th against the pass. After ranking 31st in opponent points per game in 2016, New Orleans moved up to tenth in 2017, surrendering only 20.4 points per game.

The Saints came 25 seconds away from going to their third NFC Championship game under Payton but suffered a brutal 61-yard walk-off touchdown pass as time expired against the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round Playoffs.

More divisional round playoff game action from the Saints-Vikings matchup.

NFC Championship gone wrong

Saints grab back-to-back NFC South Division Championships on their way to an overtime loss in the NFC Championship.

In 2018, Payton led the Saints to back-to-back division titles for the first time, as they captured the NFC South with a 13-3 record, including 7-1 on the road, securing homefield advantage for the postseason. The Black and Gold excelled on offense, defense and special teams in advancing to the NFC Championship for the first time since the 2009 season.

It looked like the Saints may have won the NFC Championship in regulation after Brees engineered one of his late-game masterpieces but a missed penalty would make the redzone trip good for three instead of seven, leaving time on the clock for the Rams to send the game into overtime.

Coach Sean Payton said after the game the league office called and admitted its officials had missed two penalties on the play, defensive pass interference and a helmet-to-helmet hit. "I don't know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call," Payton said.

The loss ended one of the best seasons in Saints history as the team finished the regular season 13-3 and clinched the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

The offense ranked first in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (26), third in scoring (31.5 ppg.) and sixth in rushing (126.6 ypg.). New Orleans' 61 touchdowns were tied for second-most in the league, while the signal-callers' seven interceptions were tied for second-fewest. The Saints defense ranked second in opponent rushing yards par game (80.2 avg.) and opponent yards per carry (3.6 avg.) and tied for fifth in sacks (49). The Saints led the NFL in net punting average (43.2), while the coverage units' 60 punt return yards surrendered was a league-low and the fifth lowest total since 1978.

Three straight NFC South crowns

New Orleans set an NFL single-season mark with only eight turnovers, as they ranked second in the league in turnover ratio (+13).

Despite missing QB Drew Brees for five contests, Sean Payton would lead the 2019 Saints to 13 wins, including seven on the road, both for the second consecutive season and captured the NFC South division title for the third straight time. New Orleans set an NFL single-season mark with eight turnovers, as they ranked second in the league in turnover ratio (+13). New Orleans also ranked third in the NFL in sacks (51) tied for third in scoring (28.6 ppg.) and ranked fourth in opponent rushing yards per game (91.3 ypg).

NFC South dominance continues in Brees' final season

Payton and the Saints’ success continued in 2020 when they won the NFC South for the fourth straight season, posting a 12-4 record.

In 2020, the Saints became the only team since the start of the NFC South in 2002 and since that season's divisional realignment, only the third NFC franchise to capture four straight division titles. The Saints' regular season marks the last four seasons are 11-5, 13-3, 13-3 and 12-4, their first stretch of four consecutive winning campaigns. The division title was the franchise's ninth since 1991, the seventh under Payton's leadership. It was the seventh time in franchise history and fifth under Payton that the Saints finished a season with at least 12 wins. More importantly, the Saints advanced to postseason play for the fourth consecutive season, the first time they accomplished the feat in the franchise's 54-season history.

Resiliency key in tough season

Despite being forced to spend a month in Texas because of Hurricane Ida, having to play four quarterbacks and battling with multiple Covid-19 outbreaks, Payton guided the Saints to a 9-8 record and the cusp of the playoffs. Payton made his decision to step away from coaching two weeks after the season ended.

Payton steps down

After 15 seasons as New Orleans Saints head coach, Sean Payton steps away from football.

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