Reporting from Saturday night’s preseason game between the Saints and Texans, Peter King explained that training camp for post-Sean Payton New Orleans is “business as usual” under Payton’s successor, Dennis Allen.
The vibe underscores the fact that, but for Payton’s departure, everything else is pretty much the same for the Saints. The players haven’t dramatically changed from last year’s roster. The coaching staff is basically identical, with Allen getting bumped up to the top spot — like he did on a Sunday night last season when Payton was COVID-positive and the Bucs were held to zero points.
But here’s the real question for the 2022 Saints, one that won’t even begin to be answered until the regular season begins.
That’s when someone will have to fill the void of Payton’s maniacal effort to game plan for each opponent, scouring film from the next team on the schedule and processing ideas based on film from elsewhere around the league in the constant search for the right play to be deployed at the right time in order to make the right difference. It requires a major time commitment. It’s a search for a needle in a haystack when the haystack may not even have a needle in it. You have to work hard and work smart. You have to give up sleep. You have to focus. You have to obsess.
Payton set the example, for years. Who will slip into that role? Allen is a defensive guy, and he’ll have his hands full presiding over that side of the ball (something he has done incredibly well for the past several years). It likely will fall largely on offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael to do things that Payton did in order to both fine-tune the offense and navigate it through the traffic of 17 regular-season games.
I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m just saying it’s something that will need to happen for the 2022 Saints to be as successful as they can be. Some have fallen into the trap of thinking that the absence of Payton won’t make much of a difference. It will definitely make a big difference behind the scenes. Someone will need to do everything Payton did, and they’ll have to do it well. Otherwise, the absence of Payton will indeed make a huge difference for the Saints.