Payton admits ‘following’ Jimmy Garropolo as Saints eye Drew Brees successor

Sean Payton is tasked with stopping Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers offence on Sunday.

But the New Orleans Saints coach is clearly a big admirer of the young signal-caller.

Payton, being tipped for Coach of the Year after guiding the Saints through a stretch without star quarterback Drew Brees, is starting to plan for life without Brees as the 40-year-old enters the final stretch of his career.

Back-up Teddy Bridgewater is favourite to step up further down the line although a sensational move for Cam Newton has also been touted.

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Payton has now revealed he "followed" Garoppolo closely before he entered the NFL during his last college season with his former alma mater, Eastern Illinois, as they started to consider life beyond Brees.

Garoppolo has since found his NFL landing spot in San Francisco and established himself as the starter, with his big-money five-year deal signed last year set to keep him where he is for quite some time.

But he has continued to impress Payton whilst leading the 49ers to a 10-2 record, despite still having some critics.

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Speaking in a conference call with reporters ahead of Sunday's game with the 49ers, Payton said: “I really followed his last year, partly because it was an evaluation on our part, and then I also just followed him and the success of the team.

"We trained with the Patriots three or four times and I had the opportunity to spend time and visit it.

"He is playing very well. He is playing extremely well.

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"He is someone who is extremely precise. The ball comes out of his hands quickly. He is athletic in his pocket where he can move, climb and throw off-balance.

"The only thing you are looking for in that position is:" Can you win? "And he has clearly done it at the university level and is doing it now at the NFL level."

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Both sides enter Sunday's game 10-2, but the Saints have already clinched the NFC South with the 49ers second to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West.

Ahead of their huge showdown, Brees also praised Garoppolo's performances so far this season.

Brees added: "He's played very well, since he got there two years ago as the starter there towards the last half of that season and I know he got injured early last year, but man, he's played very well.

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“Yeah, I think he's got good poise and composure. I think he throws the ball very well. He's a very good passer. I think he anticipates well. I think he processes it well, just from what I see.”

"That whole team in all phases, right? Great quarterback play, great running game, great defence, good special teams and hence why they are 10-2."

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