Sean Payton is the third-best head coach in the NFL, according to a sampling of 30 current and former general managers, team executives and assistant coaches. ESPN’s Mike Sando polled eight current general managers, four former GMs, four personnel directors, four executives, six coordinators and four position coaches for the project, which requires Insider access.
Payton was one of three coaches ranked in Tier 1, along with the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick and the Seattle Seahawks’ Pete Carroll. Coaches were graded on a scale of 1 to 4, 1 being the best, and Payton averaged a rating of 1.30.
Sando’s breakdown of the opinions on Payton was especially compelling.
He wrote that no coach in the league commanded as much respect for his abilities as an offensive innovator. And he said an unnamed former Saints assistant spoke highly of Payton’s ability to create a culture of positive thinking.
Sando said two voters were turned off by Payton’s ego, citing examples like Payton playing drums with Jimmy Buffett during his suspension and the amount of times he has changed defensive coordinators. One of them even rated Payton as a 3.
However, an unnamed coach who once worked with Payton dismissed those concerns, saying Payton makes things about him to take the spotlight away from players -- much like mentor Bill Parcells and Belichick do.
“Sean can come off as cocky and rub someone the wrong way, but he is very enthusiastic,” that coach said. “I love him to death."
Having covered Payton for all nine of his seasons with the Saints, I would absolutely give him the highest possible rating.
As Sando's researched showed, Payton deserves a 1 rating based on his skills as an offensive game planner alone. His ability to create and exploit mismatches has to rank up there with the best in NFL history.
But more than that, Payton has been equally impressive as a head coach, a motivator and an organizer who pays extreme attention to detail while creating an unprecedented winning culture in New Orleans.
As the unnamed coach said, Payton's brashness could rub some people the wrong way -- but certainly not within the organization. He's clearly beloved and respected by his players and coaches.