The New Orleans Saints are tough to figure out. Ever since the scandal known as Bountygate, the Saints have been in a downward spiral, with players departing and rumors circling the team concerning head coach Sean Payton’s future.

Staying in Town

It was as recent as this season that the Saints were said to be exploring other coaches and talk of trading their head coach even came up. None of that ever came to fruition, however, which leads the common NFL fan to believe one of two notions: either the Saints never wanted to part ways with Sean Payton to begin with, or at some point they realized what they had was better than what they could get if they let him go.

It doesn’t matter which narrative actually rings true. What matters is the Saints ended the back and forth rumor mill binging by committing to their guy for the long-term, signing Payton to a huge five-year, $45 million deal.

The move keeps Payton in New Orleans and as the third-longest tenured head coach in the NFL, just behind Bill Belichick (New England) and John Harbaugh (Baltimore).

Even with the NFL’s history of hiring and firing head coaches as quickly as the seasons changed, Payton was able to brave two straight losing seasons and an ugly scandal to secure his financial and competitive fortress of solitude.

Right Move?

The big question, of course, is whether or not it was the right move.

Either way you look at it, the answer appears to be “yes”. Payton came into New Orleans with a mission and a plan back in 2006, and it immediately started working, as he got the Saints back on track with a 10-6 record and a trip to the NFC title game. New Orleans took a mild step back from there, but three years later they were 13-3, had the most explosive offense in football and were first-time Super Bowl champs.

It’s not easy to part ways with the guy who gets your franchise it’s first ever Lombardi Trophy, and while the Saints have had their miscues since winning it all, the offense has remained. Philosophy lapses, close losses and a terrible defense have largely hurt the Saints more than anything else, but it remains debtable that Payton is still one of the brightest minds (and best coaches) in the game.

Instead of just saying it, New Orleans made an investment in Payton as the guy who is tied to Drew Brees and can still build a winner for the now, and can also start over and develop one for the future. It’s anyone’s guess if New Orleans will finally shake off two straight 7-9 seasons and reclaim the NFC South crown, but no one denies the definite possibility with Payton and Brees still teaming up together.

2016 Title Odds

That brings us to the here and now. As weak as the Saints have looked on paper over the past two years, this is still a very good offensive team that can dominate at home and has a chance against just about anyone if they play their cards right. Getting a healthy Mark Ingram back will give their running game a boost, their offensive line should be as stable as it has been in years and another year of free agency and draft moves to beef up and under-performing defense could potentially push that unit over the top.

The NFC South has gotten better, as the Panthers made it to the Super Bowl last year and the Buccaneers and Falcons are both looking like they’ll be better in 2016. Even with all of the possibility and Payton entrenched as the team’s leader, Vegas doesn’t see it. The Saints boast just 55/1 odds to claim the title next year, and that has them behind even the Jets, Bills and Lions. Heck, the Falcons are in their own division and have better odds (50/1).

But Vegas doesn’t always get it right. After all, Carolina wasn’t expected to make it to Super Bowl 50, but they did. The Broncos certainly weren’t picked to get their – let alone win it – but they did both. The NFL is a volatile, unpredictable league and it’s certainly one where appropriate consistency is encouraged. Keeping Payton in tow gives the Saints continuity that not every franchise has, and considering how great he’s shown to be, it’s potentially the exactly right move. That doesn’t guarantee the Saints will win it all in 2016 or even make the playoffs, but given their weak odds, it does make them a very fun bet.

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