The New Orleans Saints are in that glob of teams scratching and clawing to keep their place in the playoff hunt.
But when they take the field on Sunday, they’ll be doing so without their head coach:
#Saints coach Sean Payton tested positive for COVID-19 and is out Sunday.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 17, 2021
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports Saints HC Sean Payton tested positive for COVID-19. And with it being this close to game day, the positive test will keep him out of coaching Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers. In March 2020, Payton became the first high-profile NFL person to contract the virus. And in doing so, Payton made public pleas to listen to health experts in these times. I imagine this most recent positive might lead him to double down on that sentiment.
In Payton’s place, a worthwhile name worth stashing away is taking over on an interim basis:
Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will assume head coaching duties in Sean Payton’s place Sunday due to a positive COVID-19 test for Payton.
— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) December 17, 2021
ESPN’s Jenna Laine reports Saints Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen will serve as the team’s head coach on Sunday. That is a noteworthy decision. Follow me for a moment here…
Allen, 49, has been the Saints’ DC since 2015 and could be a popular candidate to make the rounds on this upcoming offseason’s head coaching circuit. In a year where hot-shot coordinators have been unable to separate themselves from the pack, we might see an offseason coaching rumor-mill starring candidates with previous experience as a head coach. This collection of coaches features the likes of Leslie Frazier and Todd Bowles, in addition to Allen — who was the Raiders’ head coach from 2012-14. So if an Allen-led Saints team is competitive (or even triumphant) against the Buccaneers, it could help boost his résumé. And considering the Bears’ current situation, it’ll be worth keeping tabs on that game just to see what happens.
Having that perspective, it seems as if Payton’s absence on Sunday Night Football could impact a multitude of things. It starts with the Saints’ own playoff push. And it extends to the Buccaneers’ hunt for the NFC’s top overall seed. Throw in Allen’s coaching stock, and this thing’s got legs! With both teams playing for something, and an interim coach perhaps playing for more, there is a lot on the line in this one. And yet, it stinks that COVID is finding its way to impact games. It has been a hellish week the NFL has been having on that front. And with that in mind, we’ll continue monitoring situations around the league.