Annnd, that'll about do it. Honestly, other than out of respect for the job Frank Reich has done on the heels of his starting quarterback calling it quits a couple weeks before kickoff, is there any reason not to award Sean Payton the 'Coach of the Year' trophy prior to the mid-point of said season? I suppose it would an endless source of incessant bitching off the board for the stupidity spewers on sports talk television, but I think they can probably stand to have one topic that's not really up for all that much debate left without cyclical, repetitive argument.
In all seriousness, the undermanned schooling that Sean Payton and the Saints gave Matt Nagy and the Bears in Chicago on Sunday was merely the most convincing lecture offered during what's been a month-plus long master class in both coaching and leadership. The backup quarterback-led bullying of what was supposed to be "the best defense in football", without Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook, was simply an exclamation point on a 5-0 stretch that not only kept a 'Super Bowl or bust' season afloat, but may have realistically made for smoother sailing.
What that offensive and defensive clinic wasn't, however, was the most impressive thing that Sean Payton has orchestrated since watching the longtime lifeblood of the franchise that had just entrusted him with its uncertain future under center, by way of a contract extension, fail to grip a football. In my opinion, that title is reserved for whatever he said and/or did to motivate and challenge a team that he helped build to withstand a crisis at quarterback - in a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency sort of way - to prove him right in its construction. The last of what was initially and understandably bleak body language got left in Los Angeles along with the player whose injury could have easily derailed the dreams of a less relenting roster. Putting the kibosh on any lingering self-pity, above all else, is an accomplishment that speaks to the culture of a team that has largely been made in the likeness of Sean Payton's personality.
What we've seen on the field since is a fluid formula whose lone constant, outside of Michael Thomas' inability to be guarded and the defense's ability to step up and captain the ship through unforgiving waters that would have drowned them in the past, is that it has equated to victories. The game scripts haven't been the same, but the endings have been more dependably happy than those of rom-coms. That's a testament to a complete team that has hardly played mistake-free football, but instead played supplementary football in finding a versatile variety of ways to make up for those mistakes. It's also a credit to opponent-specific game plans, on both sides of the ball, that have made Sean Payton, Dennis Allen, & Co. look as though they were slipped the world's most elaborate cheat sheet prior to the biggest test of their respective careers.
Still, the execution of those game plans wouldn't be at all possible without a level of belief and buy-in that's done the near impossible in making Colin Cowherd's claim that a team that rebounded from the 'Minneapolis Miracle' would have its spirit shattered by the 'NOLA No-Call' out to be the stupidest fucking thing he's ever said. At this point, you can just definitively call that take the worst of all time, as not even the worst case scenario coming to fruition was able to break this team's will.
On both the field and the sidelines, the Saints' biggest advantage resides between their ears...which says quite a bit given the amount of god-given physical talent wearing black & gold ever weekend. They haven't just been resilient in rallying around Teddy Bridgewater, whose sprinkled in just enough dimes during his first extended stretch of play since 2015 to collect the interest of a fat chunk of change this upcoming offseason. They have appeared completely unbothered in being without the services of someone who has long been their beating heart. They haven't just been coached towards the top of the NFC without their future first ballot HOF quarterback. They've been galvanized in a way that allows for their future first ballot HOF quarterback to step back under center for a team that barely has any body fat in being more solid, strong, and intimidating than any he has predominantly done the heavy lifting for over the course of the last 14 seasons.
Hell, the only reason not be consider Sean Payton to have already lapped the pack for 'Coach of the Year' is because he somehow made the somewhat miraculous midseason maintenance of a Super Bowl contender, that was assumed to have lost its soul, look far too easy despite facing a schedule that was supposedly tough.