Sean Payton A Dark Horse Candidate For Coach of the Year?

Bill Belichick is the only head coach in the NFL that has been with his team longer than New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. A former Coach of the Year and Super Bowl winner, Payton has firmly established himself as one of the best coaches in the NFL.

But if that is true, then how come the only Coach of the Year (COY) award he has won came back in 2006, his first season with the team? Because when your team is consistently one of the better ones in the NFL, it is kind of hard to exceed expectations.

When it comes to COY, that is the key—exceeding expectations. It often seems like whoever wins the most games wins the award, but that is not always the case. John Harbaugh won it in 2019 when the Ravens won 14 games, but Baltimore was not expected to come close to that number that year.

Yes, his Ravens won the most games that year. But Harbaugh won because the Ravens dramatically exceeded expectations—more so than any other team that season.

Kevin Stefanski’s Browns undoubtedly exceeded expectations last season, as did Matt Nagy’s Bears in 2018. Sean McVay exploded onto the scene with the Rams in 2017, and no one saw the chronically underperforming Cowboys finally playing well in 2016.

Then there was Ron Rivera and his 15-1 season with the Panthers in 2015. So—yes, exceeding expectations is the key to winning COY. Can Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints do that this season? Setting expectations for a team like the Saints is somewhat tricky. For the last three seasons, they have been a Super Bowl contender (preseason odds of +1000 the last two seasons and +1400 in 2018). They have become a perennial contender, which translates into high expectations from one year to the next.

NFL Coach of the Year 2021/22PointsBetBetMGMBetRivers
Kevin Stefanski+1200+1200+1500
Sean McVay+1500+1400+1500
Kyle Shanahan+1500+1600+1400
Brandon Staley+1300+1600+1300
Brian Flores+1300+1600+1400
Frank Reich+1600+1800+1600
Sean McDermott+1500+1800+1700
Arthur Smith+1600+1800+1600
Andy Reid+1800+1600+2000
Robert Saleh+1800+1800+1800
Bill Belichick+1800+2000+1800
Matt Rhule+2000+2500+1800
Sean Payton+2000+2500+1800
John Harbaugh+2200+2000+2200
Bruce Arians+2200+2000+2200
Joe Judge+2200+2500+2000
Vic Fangio+2200+2500+2200
Mike Zimmer+2800+2500+2500
Matt Nagy+2800+2500+3000
Mike Vrabel+2500+2500+2500
Ron Rivera+1600+1900+1400
Pete Carroll+2500+3000+2500
Matt LaFleur+2500+3000+2500
Mike McCarthy+2500+3500+2500
Urban Meyer+2800+3500+2500
Mike Tomlin+3000+3500+3300
Kliff Kingsbury+3300+3500+3300
Jon Gruden+5000+4000+5000
Dan Campbell+4000+5000+3300
Nick Sirianni+4000+5000+4000
Zak Taylor+5000+6600+4000
David Culley+5000+6600+5000

What Are The Expectations For The 2021 New Orleans Saints?

But that was when they had a future Hall of Famer at quarterback in Drew Brees. Without him, the Saints are still a good team. Many of the same weapons are still in place on offense, the offensive line is one of the best, and the defense should be one of the top units in the league again.

So, the Saints deserve credit for having a good roster. But without a quarterback to put everything together, that may not mean much—which is why their preseason Super Bowl odds (+2800) are higher than they have been since 2016 (+8000).

By the odds, it looks like there is potential for the Saints. But oddsmakers probably do not want to set the bar too high without more clarity about the quarterback situation. The question, however, is whether the bar is set low enough to start the season for Payton and the Saints to impress voters enough by the season’s end.

Betting Recommendation

Compared to the previous six winners, Payton’s odds are low enough (+2500) for him to have something to prove to voters. Stefanski had lower preseason odds last season (+2000). Harbaugh (2019) and Garrett (2016) both had +2800 odds.

Rivera’s started at +4000, and McVay’s preseason odds tied for worst in the league at +5000.

However, when you look at the Super Bowl odds for the Saints compared to the teams of the past six winners, the expectations for the Saints may not be low enough. Garrett’s Cowboys had the lowest in the bunch at +2500 back in 2016. The rest, however, had odds of +4000 and up.

None of them went on to win the Super Bowl, of course. But, according to the odds, they should have been nowhere close to the postseason. Due to questions surrounding the quarterback position, the Saints are not considered contenders for the postseason.

But if Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston work out, that will quickly change.

Does that mean Sean Payton has a good shot at winning COY this season? No, not at all. But if the offense does not miss a beat and the Saints can win the division, he has a shot.

What does that mean from a betting perspective? Look at Payton as a decent dark horse candidate, but a lot will have to go right for him to win. So, if you are going to bet on him, do not bet too much. 

However, it would not be a bad idea to skip your morning latte for a few days and put something down.

About the Author

Travis Pulver

Travis Pulver is a lifelong football fan, something he says comes naturally having been born in the football-crazy state of Texas. Through the years, his love of sports has extended into baseball, basketball, golf, and rugby. Life currently finds him in Indiana with his wife and two kids.