Sean Payton’s personnel decision, not so smart

  • Luke Willis
(Michael DeMocker, / The Times-Picayune

(Michael DeMocker, / The Times-Picayune

Leading up to the New Orleans Saints’ pivotal division match-up against the Carolina Panthers, Sean Payton looked to make a statement by cutting Kicker Garrett Hartley and benching left tackle Charles Brown who both have been struggling. Payton was praised by many experts during the week saying that this will send a message to the team and help them play better.

Hartley, who was coming off a game in which he missed 2/3 field goals, was replaced by Shayne Graham who was signed earlier in the week. Brown, who had also been struggling in the recent weeks, was benched in favor of rookie Terron Armstead who made his first start on Sunday. Graham’s debut with the Saints went very smooth as he connected on both of his field goals in the game. As for Armstead’s… not so much.

Armstead lined up across Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and was absolutely manhandled  from the get-go which lead to Saints quarterback Drew Brees being sacked 6 times. The Saints went on to lose the game 13-17.

“I gave it everything I had,” said Armstead, who said he felt “terribly upset” with the outcome of the game.

“I had a couple of mistakes that need to be corrected.”

Although Armstead took a lot of the blame for the sacks, Drew Brees put some of the load on himself after the game.

“Some of those were on me,” Brees said. “One of them in the first quarter, especially.”

It took some half time adjustments like lining up fullbacks, tight ends and extra blockers for Armstead to really settle in and have any type of success. Protecting his quarterback wasn’t the only thing that Armstead struggling with. To top it all off, Armstead was also called on a couple of false starts.

The entire situation was a mess and even though the players seemed to take all of the weight from the loss on themselves, the blood is clearly on the hands of head coach Sean Payton. Sure, Payton is highly regarded as a football genius who loves to take risks (see Super Bowl XLIV second half kickoff), but Payton might have outsmarted himself with the decision to bench Brown for Armstead.

Brown played particularly well against the Panthers in week 14 where he pitched a sack-shutout on Greg Hardy and held him to only one tackle. The Saints won that game handily 31-13. This added to the performance yesterday has left a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if Payton is as ingenious as they thought.

After the loss yesterday and the surging Cardinal’s win at Seattle putting them only one game back from the Saints, they’re playoff spot is not secured as they have given up the Division lead as well as the NFC’s no. 2 seed to the Panthers and slip into a Wild Card spot.  The smartest decision for the Payton and the Saints at this point is to put this whole thing behind them and prepare for the Buccaneers.


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