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LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady watches warmups before the first half of LSU's football game against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. LSU won 46-41.

It might be easy now to think Joe Brady's move from the New Orleans Saints to the LSU Tigers' coaching staff was the best decision in his career.

A year ago, LSU's 30-year-old passing game coordinator was an unknown offensive assistant in New Orleans, a position that Brady himself described as being "an assistant to an assistant," where he'd never called a play before.

Then, former LSU assistant Jerry Sullivan retired, and Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron came calling.

Brady had a decision: stay in New Orleans, a team coming off an appearance in the NFC Championship Game, and work for one of the game's top offensive minds in Sean Payton; or take what he'd learned to Baton Rouge and help reconstruct LSU's offense in tandem with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger.

Brady signed a three-year contract Feb. 3 with LSU, a deal that paid him an average of $435,000 per year, making him the seventh-highest paid assistant on Orgeron's staff.

"The last thing I told Joe was he was making a mistake," Payton told reporters Friday. He laughed and added, "So much for what I know."

Now Brady is one of the masterminds behind the hottest offense in college football, a Tigers team that leads the nation with 48.9 points per game and produced the program's second Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Joe Burrow.

LSU blasted Oklahoma 63-28 in the Peach Bowl semifinal, when Burrow threw seven touchdown passes in the first half, and the No. 1 Tigers (14-0) are the favorite to beat No. 3 Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 13.

That game will be played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, right where Brady's decision began.

Payton said that LSU's offensive has been "impressive." He noted Friday the team's ability to have balanced success in both the run and passing games.

A reporter pointed out that LSU's offense resembles much of what Payton's offenses have done in New Orleans over the past decade.

Payton demurred, saying he's not familiar with "the whole dynamic" that's going on in the coaches offices in Baton Rouge. Nowadays, Payton said, anyone can have access to the NFL's deep library of game film.

Anyone can search for third-down, red-zone game tape and study what the pros are up to.

"I'm sure every college pays the subscription and then adds that, so they can look at offense, defense," Payton said. "All that is available."

That's exactly what Brady does.

Brady told The Advocate in a sit-down interview in December that he studies every touchdown that was scored in the NFL the previous weekend.

"That's my Wednesday thing," Brady said.

Such studying produced the touchdown reception Justin Jefferson scored against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, Brady said. A few weeks before, the New Orleans Saints used the same play to set up a touchdown pass to Michael Thomas.

"It's a copycat league," Brady said, "and we did the same thing in New Orleans. We studied what other teams were doing."

So the Payton's influence on Brady remains, and the success has stretched across both major football programs in Louisiana.

LSU will play in its first national championship game since 2011, and the Saints will host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL Wild Card round on Sunday at 12:05 p.m.

"We're their biggest fans," Payton said of LSU. "We're excited for them, and it's a good time to be a football fan in Louisiana."

New Orleans Advocate | Times-Picayune sports reporter Luke Johnson contributed to this report


Email Brooks Kubena at bkubena@theadvocate.com.