Welcome back, Sean Payton. The NFL reinstated the New Orleans Saints' coach Tuesday after suspending him for the 2012 season for his role in the team's bounty scandal. Without Payton, New Orleans went 7-9 and missed the playoffs. With Payton back in the fold, what is the Saints' outlook for 2013?
- Steve Wyche NFL.com
With Payton at the helm, Saints can right the ship
This is going to be an interesting offseason for the New Orleans Saints. Getting Sean Payton back is huge. He is the focal point of the franchise in nearly every aspect, something that became abundantly clear during the 2012 season.
As long as the Saints have Drew Brees at quarterback, they'll be in play for the postseason -- regardless of the strength of the NFC South and NFC in general. Payton and New Orleans' management will have some salary-cap issues to work through, and there is some roster replenishing that needs to take place.
Who knows if running back Pierre Thomas or defensive veterans Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma will be back? Regardless, the Saints have to fix that defense. Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo took over, and a lot of good players -- like Roman Harper, Jabari Greer and Malcolm Jenkins, to name a few -- didn't look so good anymore.
Payton's return will give the team a point person to make the hard decisions that need to be made. Based on what Payton has done in the past, I think he'll mainly make the right calls when it comes to getting the Who Dats back to where they once were.
- Charley Casserly NFL.com
Payton will help, but can't solve every problem
However, I don't think we can simply assume that because they were 13-3 with Payton in 2011, they'll win as many games in 2013. A number of problems face the Saints, including salary-cap issues that might cause them to release players or lose some via free agency. They're also currently without a second-round pick in April's draft.
The Saints need plenty of defensive help, including a pass-rushing end, an inside run-stuffer, a cover safety and another outside linebacker. They're in good shape offensively, if they can re-sign free agent-to-be Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and add a speedy receiver.
With so many questions to answer, it's hard to say what this team will look like in September, but Payton is an excellent coach. He'll have New Orleans back in the playoffs within two years.
- Adam Schein NFL.com
Payton makes the Saints instant contenders
I think we all missed on the domino effect of Sean Payton's suspension. He is the heart and soul of the team; think of his coaching, his intensity, the game-day rapport he has with quarterback Drew Brees. Payton's play selection and killer instinct on fourth-and-1 calls were also truly missed.
- Gregg Rosenthal NFL.com
Payton is no panacea, though he will be a big boost
Losing Sean Payton was far from the only reason that the Saints went 7-9 in 2012. Their defensive talent isn't great, and the pieces don't exactly fit coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. They might also have the worst pass rush in football.
Still, I'll take my chances with an offensive team that has great continuity, Drew Brees at quarterback and solid line play. They should be in the NFC mix, though the South is a deep division. Another playoff-less season should not be a shock.
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Saints had much bigger problems than Payton's absence in 2012
You think Sean Payton's absence was the issue with New Orleans in 2012? The Saints still fielded the No. 1 passing offense in the league. But how about allowing the most yards in a season (7,042) in the history of the game?
This was the worst defense in the NFL in 2012, bar none. It was historically bad. Would Payton have been able to fix that? He hired Steve Spagnuolo to do that before he was suspended.
Spagnuolo, by the way, actually said he's looking forward to Payton coming back so he can help fix the defense. That's like an accountant badly botching your taxes -- maybe doing the worst job in history -- then telling you he's going to ask another accountant for help. What did you need the first accountant for?
Things are such a mess with the Saints right now, and Payton isn't going to fix it all just by waving a magic wand ("waving a magic wand" was both a popular Spagnuolo catchphrase this season and the way my 4-year-old daughter tries to repair things around the house, pretending she's Sofia the First). The Saints are a team with 8-8 talent in need of a defensive overhaul, and those aren't really doable in only one offseason (just ask the Philadelphia Eagles). On Monday, we talked about the end of the New England Patriots' "era." Well, the Saints' mini-era of dominance has ended. Expect another struggle in 2013.
- Gil Brandt NFL.com
Payton good for two or three more wins in 2013
I'm happy for Sean Payton, whom I've known a long time. I always thought he was a very good coach, and he was missed a lot in 2012.
In my opinion, getting Payton back is like being awarded an extra first-round draft choice. His presence on the Saints' sideline will give them an extra two or three wins, which they definitely can use in a very competitive NFC South. He's a tremendous offensive mind who will find a way to score a lot of points even if he loses some offensive pieces. The Saints, who will have cap issues to deal with, will benefit from the shot in the arm Payton provides.
Of course, his first order of business will be evaluating the players on a defense that gave up a record number of yards in 2012. Between that and the cap, he'll have some tough decisions to make.