With Sean Payton suspended for the entire 2012 season and expected to remain out of contact with the team, the Saints are facing a serious challenge until next April. The NFL expects Payton to be nonexistent to the team, but that has not stopped the team from honoring him in his absence.
According to the Times-Picayune, the Saints have been leaving a vacant chair at various team functions this offseason and will continue to do so throughout the season. The team leaves an empty seat on buses and plane rides as well as in meetings and other team activities. Interim head coach Joe Vitt, who is suspended for the first six games of the season, says Payton will be missed in the same way any other coaching legend would be missed.
“How would Pittsburgh react if Chuck Knoll was gone?” Vitt asked. “Or how would Dallas react if Tom Landry wasn’t there? Or San Francisco without Bill Walsh? Sean’s put those kinds of numbers up. He has that kind of recognition in the league. Nobody can take his place. … We recognize the challenge we are facing.”
As Shutdown Corner pointed out, Payton has won one Super Bowl to Knoll’s four, Walsh’s three, and Landry’s two. He also has 67 NFL victories whereas Knoll and Walsh each have over 200 and Landry has over 100. Clearly he has not put up “those kind of numbers,” but Vitt is right about his importance to the team.
New Orleans has plenty of talent, but it will take a lot of effort to fill the leadership void left by Payton, Jonathan Vilma and others. It’s going to take a lot more than an empty chair to keep the Saints focused in 2012.Google+