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Saints coach Sean Payton has long liked receiver Dez Bryant. When Bryant was cut by the Cowboys, the two stayed in touch. Not only does Payton admire Bryant's skill, but Bryant also brings to mind one of Payton's favorite players.
"He reminds me of Shockey," Payton told B/R.
That's Jeremy Shockey, the former Saints tight end, who, like Bryant, was as talented as he was fiery.
Now, with the addition of Bryant, the Saints can boast of having, quite possibly, one of the most talented offenses the sport has seen in the past five to 10 years.
They have a Hall of Famer at quarterback in Drew Brees. Running back Alvin Kamara is the second-best running back in football to Todd Gurley. Kamara's backfield partner, Mark Ingram, rushed for 1,043 yards in 2016 and 1,124 yards last season. (On any other team, Ingram would be a star.) Mike Thomas is a top-five wide receiver. Tre'Quan Smith is a promising rookie pass-catcher. And then they sprinkle in tight ends Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill and versatile weapon Taysom Hill.
To that group the Saints have added Bryant, who from 2012 to 2014 posted three consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 yards receiving.
Many franchises would thank the football gods in the matrix to have just Brees. Or just Kamara. Tom Brady would give up his lifestyle guru to have Thomas.
The Saints aren't a Dream Team; they're just dreamy. But, like any group of stars, the key question surrounding them is whether all of this talent can be managed. Could all of these egos collide in the locker room? Could a volatile personality like Bryant disrupt a team that is 7-1 and a favorite to reach the Super Bowl?To Sean Payton, Dez Bryant reminds him of the fiery demeanor and physical style of play Jeremy Shockey once brought to the Saints.Bill Feig/Associated Press
Many times throughout NFL history, these types of all-star teams have failed miserably. The 2011 Eagles added defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive end Jason Babin, running back Ronnie Brown, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, tight end Donald Lee, guard Evan Mathis, wide receiver Steve Smith and quarterback Vince Young.
That roster, as B/R's Dan Pompei pointed out, featured 10 players who had made 25 Pro Bowl appearances. Oddsmakers viewed the Eagles as a good Super Bowl bet.
They finished 8-8.
What they didn't have is Payton.
If there is anyone in the sport not named Bill Belichick who can mesh all of these blazing personalities into a symphony of elegance, it is the man who has coached the Saints to 184 wins over 12 seasons.
Arguably the best play-caller in the game, Payton has been getting personalities to mesh for years, and it's the least discussed part of his skill set. The only coach who is better at it is Belichick, who operates a virtual conveyor belt of players and personalities in and out of Foxborough.
As Brees told reporters after the Saints signed Bryant:
"I think this locker room is one of the best locker rooms I've ever been a part of as far as the type of character and type of leadership. ... We've been able to build a culture that we have is because of the type of guys we bring in here.
"Listen, there's all kinds of different personalities ... Everybody when it's time to work, it's time to work; when it's time to have fun, it's time to have fun. I think everyone complements one another. I think we all want to win, so at the end of the day, if we can bring somebody in here who can help us win, then that's great."Payton and Drew Brees have tried to establish a locker room in New Orleans that allows for players to be themselves as long as they work together on game days.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Bryant should work out well in the Saints locker room because Payton and Brees have set a tone in which he can be successful, establishing a culture that allows for different personalities so long as they are all on the same page each weekend.
Payton likely will utilize Bryant the way he did Marques Colston, who played for the Saints from 2006 to 2015. Colston would line up in the slot and not outrun defensive backs, but outmuscle them. And with someone as accurate as Brees to throw him the ball, Colston became a difficult cover, tallying at least 1,000 yards receiving in six of his first seven NFL seasons.
If you're a defensive coordinator, Bryant wouldn't rank high on the list of threats to account for against New Orleans, and that should draw a lot of single coverage from third- and fourth-level defensive backs. Bryant will eat those coverages for breakfast.
That promises to make for a lot of spoiled meals each week for any team that lines up against the Saints.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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