New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and QB
Head Coach Sean Payton
“The roster moves first: we signed
Can you discuss the roster moves?
“The idea with Matt Giordano was to help in special teams. He’s someone that we were familiar with and really the last few weeks has been rehabbing what was a groin. He was last in Atlanta’s training camp. That would be the significance of his signing. In regards to Julius Jones, it’s really just an additional back. I’ve seen it perceived as that we’re disappointed with the other two and that wouldn’t be the case. It’s really to have depth right now. We’ll see where Pierre (Thomas) is at this week. The swelling has continued to go down; there’s still some soreness. It really just gives us depth at that position and if in the case that Pierre is unable to go this week, Julius would be the third halfback up and involved in the rotation.”
Does he play special teams?
“No, he does not. Giordano for special teams, Julius Jones for running back depth.”
Chris Ivory has a court date in Washington that could fall during the season. How are you dealing with that?
“That’s something that way back in the draft we were aware of. It’s something that we’re completely on top of. It’s an incident that goes back to when he was at Washington State, if I’m not mistaken. He’s handling that with his attorneys and we’ll continue to follow it and make sure that if there’s anything we can do on our end to support it we will. Right now there’s really nothing new in regards to that other than just keeping track of the progress on it.”
Has the league been in touch with you guys about the situation?
“All parties have been on top of this since prior to the draft.”
Can you talk about releasing Carney and going back to
“In an ideal world, it would have been nice to kick them both this week. The challenge was that the moves I mentioned earlier make it difficult. In the end, it really became a challenge to carry the second kicker. Garrett has done a good job of responding. I thought he kicked exceptionally well today and had a good week last week. It just became too much of a challenge to carry the extra kicker.”
Is that a move that might have been made even if John hadn’t missed the kick last week? Were you ready to go back to Garrett?
“That’s a good question. I think just paying attention to how Garrett is kicking and how he has responded, without getting into the hypothetical, with the two needs here it just became challenging with that extra specialist, especially with the additional injuries.”
Did you mention
“If not, I should have. Roman Harper did not practice with a hamstring. We held him out.”
Having watched more film, what have you done in the past 48 hours to better put your finger on the struggles of the offense?
“I think I was able to put my finger on it Monday. We have to be more efficient in the red area and do a better job with our ball security. Our rushing statistics the last couple of weeks have gotten better and I think that’s important. When we’ve been clicking, we’ve had balance and we just haven’t been throwing the ball. The two specifics would be the tight red and the turnovers.”
Is there a risk to getting too far out of balance with the run and pass?
“Certainly there are games that dictate one way or the other but usually we’ve complemented each other pretty well that way. We do a lot of play-action and that’s effective when you’re running the ball efficiently. That’s something that we’ll continue to work on. The encouraging sign is that in the last two weeks we have run the ball more efficiently per carry and we’ll continue to work on those points of emphasis.”
Do you feel like isn't the feared unit that is has been?
“I think each week we’re going to get our opponent’s best shot and you make what you do of each game. In our league there are a lot of good players and I don’t know if feared is a good word that teams have or people have. Certainly there is respect, and that’s something that’s earned and it’s not carried over year to year; it’s earned each week. What’s most important are the wins and losses. I think that aspect of it is something that is pretty common. Each week you have to go out and earn what you’re going to get. No one’s going to give it to you or concede anything. You can see that each week when you look at the games and each week you could pull a number of examples out. It’s something that we have to earn each week.”
How much did your familiarity with Julius from your time together in Dallas factor in the decision to sign him?
“I was with him when we drafted him. But in this case, I think he was the number one graded player available. He became available when Seattle had made the trade. I’m quite certain that had he not been with us in Dallas that this same thing could have taken place. Now I know the player in regards to what we’re getting and that certainly helps. He did a good job today. He’s very smart; he’ll pick things up very quickly and he’s healthy. I was encouraged with the snaps he got today.”
You’ve been so good as a red zone offense over the years. Did Arizona do something special or did you just have breakdowns?
“I would never want to discredit the good play of another team or of an opponent but we saw the looks that we had seen. There are two thoughts; are you getting more pressure in the red area or are you getting their coverage of choice? We got a lot more coverage. It was nothing of getting a new look. We weren’t efficient enough, whether it was throwing or running the football and we didn’t take advantage of some short fields. On the second drive, we put a good drive together and scored a touchdown off a play-action pass to (Jeremy) Shockey, but it’s those other opportunities that we’re talking about.”
There seems to be a feeling that although the Bucs are 3-1 that they aren’t a legitimate threat. Why are they a good team?
“At the end of the day, they’re 3-1 because they’ve earned that. They’ve played some very tough games and battled back last week against Cincinnati. To answer your question, number one is that their quarterback is playing well. He’s a guy that’s tough to sack; he’s a guy that can scramble – we’ve seen him make plays with his feet. He’s also a guy that’s a threat to scramble to prolong a play and he’s really dangerous that way. He has real good arm strength; he’s playing with a lot of poise and confidence. They’re taking the ball away on defense. They’re second in the NFL with interceptions. They have very good team speed on defense and you can see that. It’s a young team that is playing with a lot of confidence and you can see that on tape. Raheem (Morris) and his staff have done a very good job with a lot of young players getting them ready for this season and it’s evident. They are playing well. It’s not a result of anything other than that. I think it’s something that they’ve earned and they’ve done a good job to start the year the way they have.”
In terms of won-loss, you’re better off than you were at the start of the 2007 season but you’ve had some similar offensive problems to that season. Do you see anything in common?
“I don’t know that there are any similarities to ’07. I can recall the beginning of that season and obviously starting off 0-4 the way we did, but I think it’s a different team. Clearly the personnel is different. The key is today’s practice, tomorrow’s practice. The key is the process. If you asked where do the answers lie, they lie within the workweek. That’s the one thing that I like about this team that we have now; the leadership, the focus and the poise and understanding that obviously it’s a long season. When we put up the pertinent statistics and areas that we need to improve and point to how we’re going to play this game, they understand completely all of those things. It’s something that all of us look closely at and say that collectively these are the challenges that everyone discussed at the beginning of the year. No one said it was going to be easy; it’s going to be a tough challenge and I think we’ll be up for it.”
With Gay’s headaches coming back, is there concern that this issue could be prolonged?
“I don’t know that the feeling is that it could be prolonged but certainly we have to pay attention to the symptoms.”
Was there a reason you’ve improved in rushing defense in the last two weeks?
“I think the one encouraging statistic from the last two weeks would be the rushing numbers on both sides of the ball. That was something that we pointed out early in today’s meeting. Defensively those rushing totals are way down and offensively those rushing numbers are up. That’s important for us as we go into the meat of this schedule. If we want to have success, that’s going to be critical for us.”
As a head coach, when do you look at personnel and think of making changes? Is it subjective to each position?
“Clearly not now. Normally the answer would be at the end of each season we would spend a lot of time going through our roster, grading our players, but clearly it wouldn’t be now.”
As far as making moving a starter out of that role, when would that happen?
“I think that gets evaluated every week, with success or without success. The challenge all the time in our business is to constantly look at if we’re doing the right thing with the right people; to evaluate what we’re asking them to do and then if we feel like they can do it. That’s something that is always ongoing.”
With Randall’s headaches, is this an in-house decision or does he get evaluated again?
“This was our decision today. This was not external.”
So he doesn’t have to go out for an evaluation?
“No, he had already been through that. This was really just paying attention to how he felt this morning and deciding to hold him.”
Would you say that injuries account for the lower ranking of the running game this season as compared to last season?
“I don’t want to point to injuries. It’s an area that we feel we can improve on; it’s an area that we feel like we’re going to improve on. We understand the importance of that aspect to what we do offensively.”
What kind of message did you have for the Vandebilt High School team when they visited here?
“It was just this past Friday, they came out to practice – they had a game over on the West Bank – and just thought it was a good idea. Someone had approached me at the fundraiser the week before about having their team possibly come by. More importantly than anything else, it was our players being around them, being there to talk with them. Some of the parents of the students lost were there as well and it was I think part of the healing process for them and really us letting them know that our thoughts are with them. More than anything else, I think it was a chance for them to be around our team. I had a chance to spend maybe 10 minutes talking with them. Anytime you do something like that, it doesn’t just benefit the other group. It always seems to benefit yourself as well and you feel good about doing it, so that was an easy decision for us.”
What is the process of working on being more efficient on offense? Do you go back to square one?
“The aspect of square one would be the fundamentals; ball security, blocking, the little details. It’s in the hard work. So to answer your question, to some degree it is the fundamentals of what we think wins, so extra attention to ball security drills, extra attention to the penalties, extra attention to that tight red zone. Those are the ways that all of us know how to correct something; to make sure that we don’t sugarcoat it or avoid it, we address it head-on and work to improve it.”
Is that introduced in your practice plan, the extra attention to certain things?
“You might change the amount of reps that you give a certain period. That’s something that we’ve done throughout the years that I’ve been here. You might have a team period of eight plays that goes to 12 because you want to have more of an emphasis that week on a certain area. Clearly the red area would be one that we want to make sure this week that we look closely at and work to be more efficient with.”
You said that the answers lie within the workweek. Has what you’ve seen during the week not been there on Sundays?
“No. I just finished telling them that if we keep practicing the way we practiced today and if we keep coming to work the way that we prepare and work at it, the rest of this stuff will take care of itself. So, no.”
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Do you see any similarities in your early season struggles as a team in 2007 and these struggles? “No, I think that we learned a lot from that ’07 season and maybe some of the challenges that we would face this year like that year coming of the ’06 NFC Championship game and you feel like the next step is the Super Bowl and it’s just going to happen. Obviously that’s not the way it goes. It becomes more difficult. Expectations were obviously very high going into that ’07 season, just like now, but we got into a situation there where things didn’t start happening for us and we started to press and put way too much pressure on ourselves. I think we recognized that and acknowledged that’s what happened back in ’07. We’re not going to allow that to happen now. Obviously there is a sense of urgency now because we are not at all satisfied with the way we played offensively, especially here the first five weeks. We are a lot better than what we’ve shown and we will continue to make improvements and I’m very confident we’ll get right back on track very soon.”
There has been a track record with you that when you have had a subpar performance you have followed it up with an outstanding result. Is that your feeling this time? “Are you talking about me personally or talking about the team.”
You personally. “There’s always that competitive side that says you’re only as good as your last performance and so whether it was a poor performance or whether it was a great performance, the fact of the matter is it’s behind you or what can you do the next time out. For me personally obviously things have to be better.”
Do you personally kick yourself for a while after a game like that? “Yes. You talk to us on Wednesday when it’s the furthest thing from my mind right now as I’m thinking about the Bucs, our next opponent. That Monday, Tuesday, yes, it’s frustrating and disappointing to feel like offensively we gave them 21 points. We’re fighting there at the end and had a chance and you just feel like that’s a game you should have won. We committed the cardinal sin of offensive football which is turning the ball over, especially when you give up two touchdowns to their defense and don’t even allow your defense on the field and defend it. Our defense played great. They certainly played well in the first win.”
How important is it to get the offense a little more balanced? “It’s very important. That’s something that we emphasized last year in the offseason going into the season. We had great results. We had one of the top rushing teams in football last year and I feel like anytime you can be balanced and there is a threat of not only run and then short intermediate passing, but that also sets up play action passing down the field and the passes and big opportunities. All of those things are important to being an explosive offense. I feel like we’re getting back on track with the run game. I’d say the first three games we were not where we wanted to be. We’ve rebounded ad run the ball pretty well these last two weeks, but that just needs to continue to improve.”
You guys were more successful when you were more balanced in ’06 and ’09 than in ’07 and ’08 when you were less balanced, is that oversimplified? “No, there’s a lot to be said for that. It does a lot of things. Like I said, it sets up opportunities in the passing game. Number two, it shortens the game and keeps you on the field longer, it keeps your defense off the field longer. There’s a mindset that goes with rushing the football where we pound these guys and are pounding them, I think there’s something kind of demoralizing to a defense when you're pounding and pounding. All of a sudden the fourth quarter rolls around and that’s when you can see the run game play dividends, when you finish a game and keep your defense off the field, prolong drives and it results in more points, all those things.”
How do you get back to that? Is it play calling? “No, it’s execution. Early on, there was a missed assignment here and a missed assignment there. We weren’t as exact as we needed to be. The thing about the run game is that it’s the slightest game of inches. Any mistake or misstep can result in a negative play which should have been a very positive play. We’re just getting back to the fundamentals in a lot of ways.”
Are the expectations of both the people and of yourselves of the offense perhaps too unrealistic? “There’s a lot of things that go into that. Certainly offensively I don’t know where we finished offensively as far as the history of the NFL in regards to yards, touchdowns, all that stuff, especially in those first 13 weeks. I think it was top ten, top five all time. That’s not going to happen every year as much as we would like it too. It’s just like one year you go out and throw for over 5,000 yards. It’s not going to happen every year. One year you might throw for 50 touchdowns. It might not happen again. Now there is still a level of play, a level of execution that needs to be there. You’re not going to always have the ball bounce your way, as was very obviously on Sunday, but you still need to be able to take advantage of the opportunity that you’re given and win the type of game that is being played. Sometimes that game is a shootout. Sometimes a game is a field position battle through the fourth (quarter) and a defensive type game. You’re managing all that. A game with special teams. Whatever happens you have to take what is given, and find a way to win by executing.”
Did you set the bar too high? “No, I don’t think we set the bar too high. Keep in mind our objective is to win. If that means going out and putting up 400 plus yards a game, great. If not, then I’ve been a part of putting up 500 yards and lost. That’s no fun. You put those yards up there, but we gave the game away. There have been other games where you put up only 300 yards, but you were fighting tooth and nail for every one of those. You take a couple opportunities and that’s all you were given, but you finding a way to win. Those are the ones that feel good. Let’s not forget that. It’s about winning. It’s not about numbers or stats. That stuff is sexy. That’s fun to talk about when you are winning, the records that you’ve broken. It’s winning.
Do you go back to look at those last four years where you were well above the league average in red zone efficiency? “Within the framework of what we do, our system, it’s not like we’re dreaming up a bunch of new plays. We have new ideas, but you have your base offense, the things that you do, the things you hang your hat on. I think you look at red zone. You need to be able to rush the ball effectively in the red zone. You have to be able to take care of the football in the red zone. You’re not getting penalties in the red zone. How do I say the margin of error really shrinks once you get down there? It’s just tighter quarters so everybody has to become more accurate. The routes need to be run more efficiently. In every one of those areas we’ve kind of failed ourselves. It’s really coming back to the fundamentals of this is what we are going to do; this is what we are going to do well. Let’s not overthink it in a lot of ways. You kind of simplify it.”
By the time you were finished talking in Phoenix you were discussing the importance of this division game and how they really count as two games. Is this an absolute must win? “There’s no must win games until you get in a position where you have to win to make the playoffs. If you lose this one and win the rest of them obviously you’re doing pretty good. That’s not the point. The point is that it's one game at a time and you never want to put too much pressure on yourself. It’s a divisional game on the road against a team that’s playing pretty well, who’s 3-1 in contention in this division right now, who we’ve gone back and forth with every time we’ve played. We’re 4-4 against these guys in the twice a year we’ve played them the last four years. Obviously it’s been games that have been tight and tough. Every divisional game you just understand the magnitude of what it means for you.”
A lot of people have asked about what is wrong with number nine, whether it’s health, stress over a coming newborn. Is there anything wrong? “Everything’s good.”
Is there an update on your status Sunday regarding your child’s potential birth? “He could come at any moment. Officially due next week but it could happen any moment. We’ll wait and see.”
Can you talk about some of the suggestions you might have gotten from people online about names for the son? “Yes, that kind of took on a life of it’s own. My wife and I have about five names that we like and we’re just trying to narrow it down. I’ll just throw something up on Twitter and see what kind of responses I get. 6,000 responses later, we throw something up on ESPN and other places, it kind of almost turned into if you make a large donation to the Brees Dream Foundation you could pick the name (laughter).”
What do you think of the suggestions? “Honestly a lot of them were good. There were consistencies. There were five or six names that seem to come up a lot and that are on our radar and we have written down as possibilities. What I think is great is that obviously when the baby does come and we do name him and announce that there will be a lot of people taking credit for that name.”
Do you have a game plan in terms of naming him? “Yes. Most likely. Baylen got his name two days before he was born. It was kind of made up. It came to both of us. Those next two days we just sat around the house talked to him through my wife’s belly as Baylen to see how it would sound. It grew on us. That became his name and I can’t imagine calling him anything else, so it’s probably going to be the same thing for this guy.”
Do you have any suggestions to share? “Somebody put something in my locker today that is a pageful of people calling in to the Saints facility giving suggestions. It is probably 70 B names on there. Anything you can imagine.”
Are you going to be consistent and give him a B name? “Not necessarily. We have some B names, C names, D names.”
Can people twitter those? “We’re up for C names and D names. Let’s make this fun.”
Are you surprised about the impact you can have with twitter? “Yes, it’s crazy. It is crazy. That was very innocent. I’ll go on twitter and respond to fan questions and that kind of thing quite a bit. For example I went with my wife to eat last night and a couple people came up to the table…We thought it was one of our last date nights for a while. A couple people came up to the table to say hello, so I got on twitter to check out baby names and if anybody else has responded. Sure enough there is a guy who says 15 minutes ago I just saw Drew Brees at Rock and Sake, great guy…It lets you know how much people are following twitter and following you, responding to the things you might say on twitter. We got 3,000 responses to baby names like that and then it just kept growing, growing and growing. The more people saw it on TV, it became more. People calling the organization, sliding names under our gate and in our mailbox. It’s been wild.”
Do you enjoy the interaction? “I think it’s cool. I think it’s great. I guess you feel like there’s pressure to come up with a really great name. You just feel like there’s a lot of people that are interested in your life, our family, what you do off the field, who you are. I think that’s great.
Even though it’s been only five games, does it feel like some things haven’t been bouncing your way this season? “Yes, like for example our defense causes four fumbles and we don’t get one, just by chance the play at the goal line where the ball gets knocked out. That’s potentially a 14 point swing. Our defense takes it 99 yards; instead their offensive lineman is right there. Maybe that was the case last year where we were able to fall on that one. It is what it is. That kind of stuff happens. There were plenty of other things in the game that we should have done much better that would not have even made that a factor.”
Do these things go in cycles? “I don’t think so. A lot of it’s just a mindset. If you believe good things are going to happen to you and you’re used to working hard and doing things the right way. If you believe the way I practice is the way I’m going to play on Sundays then you’re going to have a great week of practice then you can go out on gameday thinking I’ve done everything to prepare myself for this moment now, so I can relax and go play. The more that you feel that way on gameday, the more good things happen. When things happen like on Sunday, you feel it wasn’t our day. Now we have to fix these things we did wrong, but it wasn’t our day. We’ll get them next time.”
What do you think of Josh Freeman from having worked with him? “He’s a big, talented guy. You don’t find many guys that mobile and athletic for that size. You see him avoid a ton of sacks. He can extend plays with his legs, not only scrambling and throwing, but taking off and running. A young, talented player that has all kind of potential and is playing well at this point.”
Can you talk about working out with him? “We worked out together for a week back in San Diego with a guy who I work with out there who came down, as do a lot of quarterbacks. There are a ton of quarterbacks there working out. It’s kind of neat for all of us, because all of us try to get to the same place. We’re all in different systems with different players, so you just talk shop and talk football. It’s fun.”
Is not having Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas one of the problems with the offense? “We could sit here all day. We actually have had better rushing statistics the last two games, but does that have anything to do with those two? No. I think a lot of it is our attention to the detail, the way we’ve made more of an emphasis the last two weeks and how we’re going to make more of an emphasis of it and what they’re trying to decide to take away. Every week you try to improve in every week. Every Sunday we do our best. We don’t always improve on those things. We’ve gotten a little bit better. We took a step back in terms of turnovers and red zone efficiency has not improved yet, but it will.”