And so the 2015 season officially came to a close Wednesday afternoon when Sean Payton announced he would be staying as coach of the New Orleans Saints.
All that were missing was a group hug with owner Tom Benson, his wife Gayle, GM Mickey Loomis and club president Dennis Lausha and a rousing rendition of "Kumbaya,'' complete with roasting marshmallows around a chic gas-lit campfire.
Give me a break.
Am I missing something fundamentally important here?
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Why all the joy and rapture in 7-9 ville?
Read my lips:
-- SEAN PAYTON WANTED OUT OF HIS CONTRACT!
-- HE WANTED TO BAIL OUT ON A POTENTIALLY DETERIORATING OWNERSHIP AND ROSTER SITUATION IN NEW ORLEANS.
-- HE AND HIS AGENT, DONALD YEE, WERE GIVEN PERMISSION BY BENSON TO ENTERTAIN OTHER JOB OFFERS.
-- PAYTON ONLY RETURNED BECAUSE A SUITABLE SUITOR COULDN'T BE FOUND IN MIAMI, SAN FRANCISCO, NEW YORK OR ELSEWHERE AROUND THE NFL TO SATISFY HIS FINANCIAL EXPECTATIONS AND THE SAINTS' STEEP AND PROBABLY UNREALISTIC COMPENSATORY DEMANDS.
-- IF OWNERSHIP WANTED PAYTON TO STAY, WHY GO THROUGH ALL THIS SONG-AND-DANCE AND DOG-AND-PONY SHOW?
-- IF A SUITOR HAD COME CLOSE TO MEETING THOSE DEMANDS, PAYTON WOULD BE LONG GONE AND LOOMIS WOULD BE NECK DEEP IN A COACHING SEARCH.
Period. End of story.
Other than that, it's off-season business as usual in Metairie.
My advice to Payton now is to get reinvigorated and go out and earn that $8 million a year salary. Pour your heart and soul into returning the Black and Gold to those glory years when playing well above the .500 mark was the rule rather than exception, and playing deep into the postseason stood for something and wasn't just a pipe dream.
Begin by reshuffling the millions around for quarterback Drew Brees so the team has some deep breathing room in terms of the projected $153 million salary cap next season.
Then go about making the defense championship worthy.
Speaking of the defense, this unit has yielded points and yards in biblical proportions in 2015, 2014 and 2012 with all three seasons ending at 7-9. Last time, I looked the defense is supposed to play a complementary role to the offense and special teams.
This season, the Saints allowed 413.8 yards per game (31st in the NFL), 29.8 points per game (32nd in the NFL) and surrendered a pro football-record 45 touchdown passes.
In 2014, the Saints allowed 384.0 yards per game (31st in the NFL) and 26.5 points per game (28th in the NFL).
In 2012, when Payton had to serve a season-long suspension for his role in the bountygate scandal, the Saints allowed an NFL record 440.1 yards per game (32nd in the NFL) and 28.4 points per game (31st in the NFL).
Beginning with the 2012 season, the Saints have been historically bad on the defensive side of the ball. In fairness, they finished fourth league-wide in 2013 in total defense (305.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (19.0 points per game) under coordinator Rob Ryan, who was fired after 10 games this season and replaced by defensive assistant Dennis Allen.
In summation, this year's team with Payton on the sideline was no different than the team without him on the sideline in 2012.
7-9 ... out of the playoffs .. and a horrific defense.
When Payton came off his season-long suspension, Benson rewarded the coach with a five-year, $40 million contract making him one of the highest paid coaches -- if not the highest paid -- in all of professional sports.
Now that Payton has professed his undying loyalty to the same organization he seemed intent on abandoning at season's end, I can only imagine what's next.
A lifetime contract and a New York-size slice of Benson's billion dollar sports empire?
Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at Sports@sunherald.com.