Sean Payton’s vision comes to fruition with New Orleans Saints
Posted on Feb 4, 2010 in Local Issues, Sports
MIAMI – Calm and calculating, Sean Payton moves through the ballroom of a downtown hotel. Occasionally, between strides, he nods at well-wishers and slaps hands with people he knows.
sean_payton26.jpgTed Jackson/The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton answers questions during interviews at the InterContinental Miami on Wednesday in preparation for Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday.But he doesn’t miss a step. The coach of the New Orleans Saints has somewhere to go.
Since his arrival in New Orleans in 2006 as a rookie head coach, Payton has been on the fast track to success, refusing to slow down for any distractions.
So there was no chance that the coach was going to break stride for any small talk Wednesday, not with a practice to get to, not with all the preparation still needed before the Saints take on the Indianapolis Colts in Super XLIV on Sunday in Sun Life Stadium.
“Sean is Sean,” Saints defensive end Will Smith said. “Sean is still laid-back, calm, very efficient in being on time for everything.”
He’s been on time for just about everything except reaching the NFL’s championship game.
That appearance came early, considering where the team was four years ago coming off a lost 3-13 season spent on the road because of Hurricane Katrina. But to some of his closest confidants, Payton couldn’t have reached the Super Bowl soon enough.
Always known as an offensive mastermind — sometimes an offensive mad scientist — few knew how much Payton paid attention to the smallest of details.
Lost in the designs in his playbook was Payton’s desire to build a football team in the mold of past championship teams, but with the flair of his own potent offense.
“From the first time I met Sean in 1997, the one thing that has stayed consistent was he has tremendous passion and intensity, ” said Donald Yee, Payton’s agent. “He has a rare ability which I don’t see in that many people to fashion a vision of the bigger picture and at the same time manage the smallest of details to execute the vision.
“Going into this season, he felt that the program was maturing and that the culture was changing. And with a little bit of luck he knew that the organization could experience a lot of success.”
Payton’s football knowledge stems from his record-setting days as the quarterback at Eastern Illinois. He bounced around in the Arena Football League, the Canadian Football League and had a three-game stint in the National Football League as a replacement player in 1987.
His knowledge also stems from his time as a college assistant and his early time as an NFL assistant. He got his first NFL job with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1997, and by 2000 he was an offensive coordinator with the New York Giants. But two years later, his play-calling duties were stripped.
Undaunted, Payton pushed ahead, joining the Dallas Cowboys in 2003 and setting himself up for the job in New Orleans.
“He’s always been very confident in what he is doing, ” Yee said. “And from the time he arrived in New Orleans he had a very, very precise vision of exactly the type of team he wanted.”
Payton said he picked up those qualities along the way by working with highly regarded coaches like Bill Parcells, Jon Gruden and Jim Fassel.
Parcells, though, had the biggest influence.
“He knows how to win, and I learned an awful lot in a short period of time, three years, ” Payton said. “I look back on my career, and I was touched by so many people that were successful, and they’re a big reason why I’m here right now.
“I’m humbled by that. When you think about that opportunity for a young guy to work for a Hall of Fame coach, it’s invaluable.”
That’s not the only experience Payton is drawing from this week.
Payton has often thought back to a painful day eight years ago when he was the offensive coordinator for the Giants, who earned a trip to Super Bowl XXXV.
The Giants’ offense wasn’t able to do much that day in a 34-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. And the sting continues to pain Payton.
“There’s a lot more nightmares about that Super Bowl than there are fond memories, ” Payton said.
Still, the experience only will help the Saints this week.
“From a scheduling standpoint that has helped him in being able to tell the players, ‘Hey when I was there with the Giants, these are the things that you can expect, ‘ ” Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said. “That experience for him is valuable to talk to the team about.”
The message is clear, though, the players said.
While the Saints said they can sense the magnitude of the game by just being in Payton’s presence, they also said the coach appears as prepared as ever for Sunday’s game.
They wouldn’t expect anything else.
“Obviously, the sense of urgency is higher, but as far as being in practice and being in meetings, he’s pretty much been normal, ” receiver Lance Moore said. “And that helps make everything normal.
“You kind of feel it resonating from him. He was with the Giants in the Super Bowl, and he told us you don’t want to go to this game and lose. Almost to make it worth it, you have to win this game. You can just tell almost by his demeanor that he wants to win this. This is the first Super Bowl appearance by the New Orleans Saints, and I believe he wants to be the first head coach to win one.”
That much was obvious from the time he signed his first contract with the Saints.
“All of us aspire to be successful, ” Payton said. “And when you start the season and you go into the locker room and you hand out goals and you — I mean, you — generally at the end of those discussions, somewhere in there is a Super Bowl championship.”