After being handed a season-long suspension in 2012, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton was forced to watch helplessly from afar as his team bounced through an up-and-down year that saw them finish 7-9 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008. It would make sense then that on his return he's reclaiming as much control over his team as possible. Payton announced at a recent press conference (via ESPN) that he would be resuming play-calling duties for the team during 2013.
Since 2011, the Saints' playcalling has been in the hands of offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael. Six games into that season, Payton suffered a broken leg during a freak sideline incident, forcing him to scale back his gameday duties. Carmichael continued that role through 2012 while Payton served a year-long suspension for his part in the Saints' bounty scandal.
Payton was careful to explain that the move is not an indictment of Carmichael's abilities, stating that his assistant has been "outstanding" in his role. Indeed, the Saints' offense has thrived under his control. During the 2011 season, during which Carmichael called plays in the final 10 games, New Orleans ranked first in the NFL in both offensive yards per game and passing yards for game. Their 410 yards per game in 2012 was good for second, while their scoring clip of over 28 points per contest was third-best in the league.
Payton's reclaiming of the play-calling duties is instead centered on his effort to get back to doing something he enjoys.
"It's something I enjoy doing," Payton was quoted by the Associated Press. "It's just a matter of getting back up to speed and getting familiar with all the elements of it."
Of course, he's not so bad at steering an offense himself. In the five seasons leading up to the play-calling change in 2011, the Saints finished as the top-ranked offense in the league in three of them, including their Super Bowl run in 2009.
Drew Brees, who has been the driving force in the team's offensive attack since joining on in 2006, said he's pleased to see his head coach back at the reigns.
"I thought Pete Carmichael did a phenomenal job," Brees said, but added, "I love the fact that Sean is back and he's taking the reins and he's going to be the voice in my ear."