<span>New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Being a head coach for the first time in the situation you're in, are there some people you're going to consult with or talk to about this?
" Typically I try to do that in a number of situations, and I've been fortunate to have been around and been and worked with a lot of good coaches that have been in a game like this, for instance, so always you're looking to reach out and make sure you have all your bases covered. Periodically in the meetings or during practice you'll cover some things that will take place in this game that are different than normal games. The pregame is much longer, halftime is much different. There are a number of things that from a scheduling standpoint today's media requests and the media requests throughout the week are different, and so I think they're pretty resilient, and they adjust. This is a team that we've gone and traveled because of hurricanes and relocated, so I think we'll handle that aspect of it well."
How do you prefer to handle when to give the team the specifics of the game plan?
"How do I prefer? "
You know, this week, next week?
Did you do that in stages?
"Different aspects from an emphasis standpoint, and you've got more time because of the time between games, and so you look closely at how you want to introduce it."
Did Jeremy Shockey go see Dr. Andrews? Are you concerned about him?
"No, I'm pretty confident that he's progressing. He had no setbacks. He did, just to check to make sure and have one more opinion looking at the MRIs and the results and the feedback was good. So that being said, he's a guy he's one of a handful of guys here that you work to rehab and get ready. But from a standpoint of last week, there were no setbacks where he went backwards with the reps that he had in the game on Sunday."
You were with Jeremy Shockey in New York for a time. Talk about that experience of going through and winning the super bowl. He said he was happy for the team, but it was just hard for him. What do you think it means for him to get the opportunity to get back to the Super Bowl again?
"I think certainly there is a competitive side to him that makes him unique and different. I think the one thing is this additional time for him to get healthy and he was close to 100%, yet because of the amount of practice time he missed, wanted to be careful. I didn't want to play him too much. So he got some quality snaps and yet we went more with Dave Thomas. I think this additional week will help him because there weren't any setbacks in his case with his knee. His toe's fine. So I think the competitive side of Jeremy Shockey is something especially when you take a handful of these guys that are going back to a city where they played college football at and, you know, we're going to practice at Miami, the University of Miami's facility, the Hurricane's facility. That is unique."
Is it a matter of him just overcoming pain and playing through it?
"I think it's like some injuries, a lot of injuries, the time from when the injury occurs to when it begins to feel 100 percent."
Does he need anything, a scope or anything?
Is the idea of trying to get as many hits as possible on Brett Favre and Kurt Warner, is that harder to affect Peyton Manning in that way and harder to force turnovers against this team in general?
"He's the least frequently sacked quarterback in the league, and has been, and does a great job of that. The clock in his head and his decisiveness and where he wants to go, those are things that are part of what makes him a great player. So those are certainly challenges. With the way he gets rid of the football, if you look at his sack totals, it's tough."
Is that still something you'd try to do that?
"We try to do that every week. We don't ever go into a game and say this is a week where we're going to really try not to hurry up the quarterback, we're going to let him have a lot of time to throw."
But sometimes you can sit back in coverage because it's so ineffective?
"Then what you're asking is are you going to pressure him with linebacker dogs or blitzes in other words, so you try to mix things up. But he's too talented to try to do one thing specifically, whether it's pressure or just sit back in coverage. I think he does such a great job of handling offense at the line of scrimmage, and a good portion of their play book at the line of scrimmage, and putting their running backs and putting their tight end and receivers in good positions based on the defensive look that I think that if you're stagnant, then it becomes a lot more challenging, and obviously he's extremely effective. "
Do you think there's any rhyme or reason to why they also have the fewest turnovers year in and year out?
"I think that there's ball security. I'm sure it's a point of emphasis. They do a great job on defense of forcing turnovers. They have great team speed. When you look at what they're doing in the postseason and the points allowed defensively and what they're scoring offensively, you know, it's been amazing. And really to look at not just in this season but the body of work that that organization has achieved and the success they've had is amazing. They do a great job."
With regard to what Peyton Manning does, how much do you have to pay attention to things and how do you decipher certain things?
"I think the mistake is trying to listen to or trying to guess what the various code words would mean. I think the key is alignment assignment and knowing with each play your call on defense, your responsibility on defense and just executing your job. Obviously it's a lot easier said than done. Not only is Peyton on top of what he wants to get to, but you can see that same awareness with the receivers in Dallas Clark and the running backs. It's a team that's very intelligent, very smart as well as talented, and at times they make it look easy. "
Do you buy into the notion that the Super Bowl could be a paralysis by analysis game? Or do you think it's just another game with more time to prepare?
"Well, it's obviously a significant game, but I don't know that you buy into the paralysis by analysis idea. I mean, I think that you try to get in a routine, as difficult as that is, with the number of things that come up. You try to handle those, have a good plan, have a good plan this week in regards to how you handle the schedule next week and really focus on the football part of it. I think if you can do that and everything else can remain secondary, then I think you're doing well."
Manning is difficult to sack as you said, but you only have one sack in two playoff games, but there's no question you've physically assaulted both quarterbacks. What's been the effect of that from what you've seen?
"Well, I think any time you can get pressure on a quarterback and change the hurry up the time in which he has to make a decision, then you help yourself. We've seen obviously we've seen some real good quarterbacks in the postseason, just when you started and then looked at the NFC, and I said this last week, the six teams in the postseason were all Pro Bowl quarterbacks or guys that have played in a Pro Bowl, and certainly in the AFC you see it, as well. There was the one young player who had a great season with New York. But I think that there's always an effect over the period of a game if you're having the ability to get to the passer, whether or not it results in a sack, it changes and can affect the clock in his head."
The Super Bowl experience, the Colts got there in '06 and the Steelers won last year and they were there in '05, do you think the experience?
"Well, if you looked at last year and you looked at the Steelers' roster compared to '05, there's a lot of turnover. In other words, and certainly I think it helps to have the experience, Indianapolis having played not too long ago in this game at Miami at the same practice facility, same hotel. There's a probably a lot similarities in their routine or schedule, and which for us this will all be new. Now, we played in Miami this year. We'll be in the same locker room as we were earlier in the year. I think our players are familiar with the stadium and the field, and I think the field is important in regards to knowing what type of shoes to wear, et cetera. You know, there are a handful of guys on this team that have this experience of having played in a Super Bowl and a number of guys, certainly the majority of guys, have not, and no different than they had not last week played in an NFC Championship game."
Do you think because you are the underdog and they have the experience, does that allow you maybe do you think your team to play free and easy?
"You know, I don't know that. I think hopefully by game time your players are comfortable in the plan and they've got confidence in their assignment. I think any time they understand and have confidence in their assignment, I think it allows a player to be more relaxed, and I think the concern and the things you've got to pay attention to just strategically as a coach is being careful there's not too much to where they're having to think through and get past all that along with the distractions. And so I think it gets back to the confidence during the week and what they're doing from an assignment standpoint."
Special teams is obviously going to be important in this game, and at the end of the season you made some adjustments on special teams. How much better are special teams now since you made those changes?
"Well, they've been very instrumental in our two wins, and probably not enough was written about last week's win in regards to the kicking game and the significance of Pierre Thomas' kick return in overtime and Courtney Roby's return in regulation, our ability to cover the punter, I've said this, is having a Pro Bowl type season when you look at his hang time and his ability on kickoffs to you take a returner like Minnesota had last week, and every time he catches a kickoff, he's a threat. For us to start on the 20, that's pretty big. And the field position in these games is no different than the turnovers and the mistakes are all critical as it pertains to winning and losing."
The bond between the team and this city, especially the fans and the team, seems to be kind of unique compared to some other NFL cities. Why do you think that is and that relationship is so strong?
"I think logistically it's probably a city that is a little bit closer to the players in regards to where they live. It's not like you drive away and pull into smaller areas. I think the players become and are more visible just from a logistics standpoint in regards to where they live, number one. I think the history certainly is something that I couldn't appreciate not having been from here or lived here, and I think many of our players would say the same not having been from here or lived here. And yet it's been one of the this team has been one of the things that, Pryor to us being here, there's always been an attachment, if you will, or a special bond. And I think we've got great sports fans. I think they're outstanding when visiting people come. I think the people in this town appreciate and understand the importance of tourism, in other words, the importance of people feeling like they really enjoyed the experience in New Orleans. So there's a lot of things that make it uniquely different. You know, and certainly with the success we're having, then it just draws that much more attention to it. "
Indianapolis is talking about flying back and forth in between the Pro Bowl and the entire teams' arrival. What's your opinion?
"No big deal. Our guys are going to go down Sunday, we go down Monday morning and they'll meet us at the hotel, so I don't see it being a big issue, other than they're not traveling, I guess, with us. We talked about whether we wanted to fly them back and then turn around and put them on the flight, and I don't think really when we looked at that closely it made sense. Just from a logistics standpoint, I'm sure that those guys are all honored to be represented in that game. Jonathan Goodwin is playing in it now, Roman Harper, are on the roster, and last week I gave them the good news bad news scenario, and the good news was they were now on the Pro Bowl roster, the bad news was they weren't going to be able to play in the game. I'm sure it's a great honor for all of them, and it's a small that's probably like 35th on the logistical issues this week."
Are you guys doing anything Sunday, practice or anything?
"No, we're not."
Is it a players' day off or do they have a walk through or anything?
"No, players are just getting their stuff in line, so they're off. Monday we'll practice in Miami."
Do your players talk to guys like Darren Sharper and David Thomas about how to get ready for Super Bowl Week?
"I think so. I think they've already done that during this postseason. Periodically you try to remind these guys about the laundry list of things that are going to come up during the course of the week. And you know, having been in this game as an assistant coach, sometimes it's hard to go through all the things that logistically are different, and yet our job as teachers are to try to as best we can educate them on really what's coming up and I think most importantly having a good schedule that has balance in it and the players know exactly the plan each day and it's not changing. That's the one thing that we've been able to do when we've relocated, for instance, is come up with a clean schedule and make sure we adhere to it and get our work done."
When you have a guy like Brett Favre and you have a guy like Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner who's seen every kind of coverage that can be thrown at them, how key is it to make it a physically grueling experience for them, as well, minus just having the clock in their head?
"I think that, again, you have to, from a mental standpoint, do your best to change the looks and not show the looks consistently, and I think the obvious is for both teams, the ability to get the opponent into long yardage situations, make them more one dimensional, put them in a long yardage situation and then effectively either hurry the passer, pressure the passer, and try to change the time in which he's operating. That's a challenge certainly with Peyton, and it's probably his ability to decide and deliver accurately is second to none. And that becomes the challenge.
Guest speakers seemed to have some messages that really resonated with the team. Did you do more of that this year?
"Probably the same amount. I think probably it becomes more of a story when you're winning and there's not a lot of interest in the 8 and 8 guest speaker."
Can you talk about your running game in the games that you've won by a lot and you've rushed for over 100 yards?
"I think the balance has helped us this year. I think it's helped us not just offensively, but I think it's helped us from a team standpoint. Looking to play a complementary game, time of possession, being able to gain 4th and a yard last week and have confidence to run off tackle behind, whether it's Jahri (Evans) or (Jon) Stinchcomb or Carl Nicks. I think that that group, and (Jermon) Bushrod and (Jonathan) Goodwin, that group has, not only in pass protection, has done a real good job. We talked about this really earlier in the year about reducing the amount of scheme in regards to the running game and yet becoming more efficient when we do choose to run it. And I think that's part of staying on schedule, part of staying in manageable 3rd down situations and part of playing a complementary game with your defense and not really becoming just so one dimensional. I think that's something that has helped us this year. "
Will we see more of Mike Bell?
"We'll see. Last week we didn't have as many snaps looking back when you count. Some games unfold in a certain way. We had a lot more snaps to defend defensively. We didn't have as many snaps offense. Mike has done a good job, he's healthy, and there's certainly a presence when he runs that's unique maybe to Pierre (Thomas) or Reggie (Bush) or Lynell (Hamilton).
The cornerbacks played at such a high level this year. Talk about how that helps you guys do things differently defensively.
"I think when you can get good corner play, certainly it allows you to have more confidence as a defensive play caller, coordinator, or just from your plan to do more things. And I think having those guys healthy, we were fortunate really when you looked at Tracy's (Porter) injury in St. Louis, for that not to have been as serious maybe as we would have thought and to get him back, and in the same way in Jabari's (Greer) case with the sports hernia, and it worked out where those guys were almost full strength heading into the divisional round and probably close to full strength. I think it goes without saying, when you can get consistent and steady good cornerback play, that's pretty important in a league where so much comes down to getting off the field on 3rd down. There have been a lot of guys factor into that, Randall Gay playing in the nickel, Malcolm Jenkins the same way, and the same with the safeties. "
You talked a lot about how much the Millsaps training camp experience contributed to the success. Has moving it back down here made a difference this year?
"Our experience and the question was just about us going to Millsaps in '06, '07 and '08, our experience there was just outstanding. It provided us in '06 especially, that first year, to take a team and try to eliminate maybe some of the distractions that can come up in training camp, and there was some uncertainty in regards to just the logistics here in New Orleans, and it provided us that place, it provided a good teaching setting. And so after three years we felt with this team the idea of coming back here we were really fortunate for three years with the rain and the weather there, when you look back at it, I can't recall we had one practice I think in three years where we couldn't go because of rain. But having not as much about the rain, but having the ability to get inside periodically out of the sun I think is the one thing about having an indoor facility, the grass field certainly. The concern here when you have training camp is you don't have that dorm room or the ability for the players to get to and from their meetings and the practice field on foot or scooter or what have you. They're here in cars because you've got to go to a hotel. But I thought the transition was smooth, and I think the breakup or the change sometimes isn't a bad thing. But our experience in Jackson was wonderful.
A parochial question. Talk about your time at Indiana State?
"Wow. It was my first job really. I was a graduate assistant in 1988 and '89 at San Diego State, and when you're a graduate assistant, or GA, you're looking for an opportunity to become a full time coach. I had played at Eastern Illinois and Indiana State was a team that was in our conference, and the head coach Dennis Raetz at that time was someone that I was familiar with because he was the head coach there when I was a player. It was 1990 that he really went out there and gave me my first opportunity as an assistant. So I had two good years there and learned a lot about coaching. It was my first full time job. "
Would you talk about what winning the Super Bowl does for a head coach? And have you thought about that at all?
"Not really. I mean, I think all of us aspire to be successful, 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. In other words, it seems like the season has gone for a long time, and it is a long year, but as you set goals as a program, and that's why it's probably a little bit more awkward to answer that just as a head coach. But as a group, as a team, you set goals about doing something maybe that you haven't done before and separating yourself, and winning seems to do that. And I think for all of us, not just coaches, but players, as well."
Can you describe what it's like when you're in a locker room after a game like that when you were with the Giants and when you didn't win?
It's disappointment. It's disappointment in that you get close, you get to the final game, and yet you come up short. The pain of losing, sometimes people will try to make the comparison, which is the feeling of success greater than what is the pain of losing, and certainly they're extremes. I think that all of us that have that competitive drive to win and to be successful, certainly in this league, you look towards a Super Bowl championship as that measuring stick to say you're the best. "
Since you came and Drew Brees and Reggie Bush, you guys all came at a real tough time for this city and these people, what has your experience been like getting to know the people here and being so hands on in the community, and what's that feedback from everyone that you've seen?
"Well, the feedback is great. The experience is great. Certainly when you go back in 2006, there were a lot of challenges that went into really relocating families here, assistant coaches, bringing their families here, bringing your family here, when so much was in disarray at that time. And then it became the same in regards to acquiring free agents and drafting players and really building a program from the beginning or from the ground floor up. But this fan base we have has been so supportive in everything we've done. There's a lot of different memories that you'll take with you forever in regards to things that were uniquely different. The first game back in the Superdome in 2006 all the way through a win like last weekend in the NFC Championship game, those things all I think those are all things that make this a real good job and make it uniquely different.