Sean Payton

USA Today Sports

Payton’s coaching tree could sprout multiple branches soon

Mark Menard
April 12, 2018 - 8:56 pm

Winning championships will always be looked at as the chief demarcation of success for football coaches at any level, but take a step down and perhaps the next most important piece in building a legacy is the so-called “coaching tree.” How many new head coaches, and more importantly how many successful head coaches, were spawned from beneath your wing?

With one Super Bowl ring on his finger and as strong a chance as he’s had to contend for another coming in 2018, Saints coach Sean Payton is already a championship winner. Factor in the Saints’ run of five playoff appearances in eight seasons, and you’ve already got the basis to argue that Payton is one of the best football coaches of his generation. Now that he’s weathered a three-year roster rebuild, he seems to have the core to be a perennial contender for the foreseeable future.

But what about Payton’s coaching tree? At 54 years old, Payton appears to be years upon years away from sitting back and contemplating his legacy in the NFL, but his current staff could have a number of future head coaches in its ranks.

Payton would agree.

“I was talking to one of the other GMs just in conversation,” Payton said at the March owners’ meetings. “I think we’ve got three or four guys who could be head coaches on this staff.”

Asked to elaborate, he started with the most obvious choice, defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Allen’s already been a head coach at the NFL level after a stint leading the Oakland Raiders.

“D.A. certainly has shown that potential and does a great job and is continuing to do a great job for us,” Payton said.

While Allen’s tenure in Oakland was lackluster, he’s revitalized the Saints defense in the last few seasons, turning what was once a bottom-of-the-barrel laughingstock into a unit chock full of young talent, including All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan and defensive rookie of the year Marshon Lattimore.

Payton went on to single out a few other members of his current coaching staff.

“You look at a guy like Aaron Glenn,” Payton said. “You look at a guy like Dan Campbell, Pete Carmichael. Joe Lombardi’s been an offensive coordinator. I like this group as a staff. Ryan Nielsen, our defensive line coach, has been outstanding. We hired him a year ago from NC State. I’m not gonna hit every coach here.”

Payton went on to drill down a little further on Nielsen.

“I think he’s a tremendous teacher,” Payton said. “He’s got a lot of energy. He’ll really spend a lot of time with the player. All the things you’re looking for in a good young coach. I think the relationship aspect of investing himself in each player, knowing them, knowing their families, but on top of that really being an expert at his trait. He’s really made a difference in that room, night and day difference.”

Payton also wasn’t shy about pointing out the place Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone once held on his staff.

“I’m claiming him,” Payton said. “Listen, he’s a real good coach. He did a good job in Buffalo, too. They were just a little dysfunctional over there. Fortunately for him, he overcame it and is doing a good job in Jacksonville, but I’m a big fan.

“You wanna see your guys have success like that.”

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