<span>New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Thursday, January 21, 2010
How important is special teams to the game overall as a phase?
"It's significant when you look at it and we talk about it all the time. Every snap offensively, defensively and in the kicking game can impact field position and can lead to a score like it did last weekend. I think those are all parts of what makes up the entire game, so it's significant. I think, just as the turnovers are, the field position is critical. I think the kicking game always is important."
Pete Carmichael doesn't get a lot of credit outside of the building because you are an offensive-minded coach. Can you tell us what an asset he is to you?
"Pete does a great job handling the meetings. Oftentimes, I'm not there preparing the lists. He deals with Drew on a day-to-day basis. H's extremely bright. He's got a great grasp of what we're doing and the changes we might make week to week in regards to what we're seeing defensively. He's invaluable. He's had two opportunities to leave his coordinator elsewhere. Prior to becoming a coordinator here, I think he's been very instrumental in (Drew) Brees' success and I think Drew would tell you the same. He's done a great job."
Along the same lines can you talk about what Joe Lombardi brings to the table on the offensive staff?
"Joe, day-to-day, is hands on with a lot of our self-scout. He'll take a peek at ideas maybe that are coming from outside the framework of this game where he might see certain things tendency-wise or certain things around the league. He does a lot of tape study. He's very sharp. He also was involved in the quarterback meetings and is very involved in the pass list with our week-to-week game plan
"I said this a week ago, I'm fortunate as a head coach to have a good supporting cast and a good group of assistant coaches. With the amount of training that goes on in the offseason, training camp and during the regular season, you've got to rely heavily on your coaching these guys being great teachers.
"We've been fortunate. I've been fortunate to have had that here and had a lot of continuity. Some change, but a lot of continuity as well."
As a coach, have you learned anything about budgeting time and avoiding distractions?
"I think our guys understand the distractions and challenges and they handled it well last week and they're handling it well this week. This game itself is most important, remaining focused and putting together, really, a good practice each day, the proper film study, still doing a good job in the weight room. We have a good routine, a good schedule. We pay close attention to not allowing that to be interrupted. I think the leadership in this team has really done a great job in handling that aspect of it.
Can you talk about Jeremy Shockey. First of all, he plays with such emotion. Do you ever try to reel that in or encouraged? Secondly, what does he do to a defense even if he doesn't get six or seven catches a game?
"In regards to his emotion, it's important for a player to be himself. And that is something that I think he's done ever since we had him as a rookie in New York, so we're very comfortable with that. There is a confidence level he brings to the huddle. When you have an inside player, be it a running back or tight end, someone that can challenge linebackers, the safeties there is a presence, the target presence. Generally the reception is made by a tight end closer to the quarterback than the receivers. So there is a lot he brings just in regards to what you're doing throwing the football in the red zone, third down, as well as in the running game.
On special teams, it would be daunting for some to make a debut with some younger kickers and punters. How did they respond?
"No question. I think both those guys are playing at a high level. When you look at the season Thomas has had in his rookie year and the versatility he's given us, not only as a punter, but someone who has kicked off and done a great job of it. Garrett is someone who hit a big field goal for us last week. He's performed consistently. He's got real good leg strength. Those guys are doing very well and handling it really well.
What happened yesterday injury wise with Darren Sharper?
"It was really just us omitting it by accident. So there was nothing more to it than all of a sudden going back through the list and saying, wait a minute. He didn't take place in the reps, so it was just omitting it and adding it."
Is it the same lingering soreness?
"Yes. We've done the same for a few weeks with him now."
Much has been made about the return of Jabari Greer after his absence and how that's helped the team. Could you sort of speak not just about the bodies out there, but how they work together?
"When you look at cornerback depth and you talk about guys start the season with for a number of weeks. Play together and then you have an injury or setback. Then you have another injury. Obviously it's important to your team when you get your starters back. There is a lot of communication that goes on defensively. Those guys are on top of what we're doing from a scheme standpoint.
"The one thing that becomes a little challenging at home with the defense in general is the communication because of the crowd noise. It's a plus, certainly for us, and an advantage for us. Yet you've got to rehearse that and drill that. And typically we do a lot of crowd noise work for the defense when we're playing in home games such as this week."
How important is it how things have come together as an organization with you and Mickey Loomis based on that the two of you didn't have background together prior to you coming here. How does he understand what kind of personalities you need to run your offense and adjust to what Gregg Williams needs schematically?
"You know, he's been vital obviously to our success. He's someone that gave me this opportunity to be a head coach. We have a great relationship. And he's done a great job from a leadership role between the coaching aspect of it, the scouting, the pro personnel, college personnel. "
"He's got a great temperament for his position. I trust him dearly and respect him a ton. He's done a great job of really putting this together. He's had great vision going all the way back to when this club was relocated from San Antonio back to New Orleans. You really can't envision what it was like in '06. Through this time he's been real steady, and he's done a great job."
Did that experience in your first season as a head coach kind of help prepare you for the changes or weird directions the season would take?
"Well, we've been a team that because of weather maybe has been displaced. A year ago we practiced in Indianapolis for a week. We've had training camp locally here. We've headed away. I think our guys have handled change as well. They understand the distractions that oftentimes come with playing in the NFL.
"From a scheduling standpoint when the season starts, you might have a Monday night game. You might have a Saturday night game. All those things I think the more you can get into a routine and in advance give the players and everyone the plan as to how you're going to handle those things, specifically a game like this, I think the better off."
Is there any mentality you want him to run with the next few weeks?
"He's a guy that's played in big games like this before. So he understands the tempo and the intensity of playoff games. His rookie season he was in a handful. So there are a number of players, a lot of players that have been in these type of games. Certainly last week it gives them experience.
"This one, again, will be a game that will be intense and hard-fought. I think he's prepared for that and he understands how he has to play."
Can you talk about your experiences with Brett Favre?
"The first time that I saw him play in person, I was at the Philadelphia Eagles. It was 1997. They had just won a Super Bowl, I believe, in '96. It was a close game at Veteran's Stadium. It ended up coming down to a last second field goal. He was at Green Bay at that time. We had lost to the New York Giants on the road to open the season and that ended up winning a close game where they missed the field goal. It started raining late in the game I've seen for a long period of time you studied certain offenses. We do to this date look at the teams that are performing at a high level in the league. Certainly Minnesota's one of those offenses that you look at throughout the season and try to stay on top of trends. It's a team you study closely, be it Green Bay, New York or currently Minnesota. He does so many things well. When I broke into the league, I broke in under a west coast offense, and so it was normal to look at the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers, the Kansas City Chiefs with Paul Hackett.
"When you studied these other teams that ran similar systems to see what they were doing to have success, and I've got in my on office right now a ton of Brett Favre cut ups that go back 20 years. Go back 15 years not 20 years go back 12 years, 13 years, 10 years. Depending on play type there is a whole offense that I really came into my first year in the league under Jon Gruden and have seen really a guy like him execute it. And he's been phenomenal. "
Can you talk about the advantage of playing at home?
"Well, I certainly think it's an advantage to play at home. I think the noise level will be fantastic. I think the energy level will be tremendous. First NFC Championship game ever played here. So all that being said, I think that's exciting for the fans."
Do you recall the game where the Superdome reopened and recall the energy?
"Sure. I think anyone who was at that game will always remember that. Last weekend's energy was fantastic. The challenge for the fans is throughout four quarters to maintain that. They'll do a great job."
Can you say anything particular about Drew Brees, about what makes him so successful?
"It's very detailed. It's been said a number of times the way he plans his week, the amount of tape study, the way he practices. There is a routine he has. Taking care of his body, everything from the physical, the mental, all of that that goes into a game on Sunday. You look at the three hours of the game, and it doesn't come close to when you compare the hours it takes to prepare and really prepare well all of those things he does extremely well. Well, it's more than just watching tape. At practice when the defense is running their reps, he's got the receivers going through each play. He'll go through and by the end of the week every call on the play list he'll have a real clean grasp of the questions that could arise that come up during the game. We'll review that list like we always do Saturday night in our last meeting and going through the final reminders. He's thoroughly prepared. "
You mentioned you bring in people that you need. You have so many veterans from other teams you're trading from free agency. Is there any sign that you want to do things his own way?
"I think it starts with identifying what you're looking for. Secondly, having a vision for the player. I think it's important that you have a clear vision as to what you want the player to do and communicate that. So it's that and then relying on the people that see these players on a day-to-day basis. Our scouts that are in the field Rick Reiprish and his staff when it comes to the college side of it. And Ryan Pace and the pro personnel department when it comes to acquiring a Mike Bell or a Courtney Roby, or a person that is available from another team. So a lot of tape work goes into that. A lot of man hours go into that. As long as the vision is clear as to what we're looking for, and then, B, what we're looking for this player to do, I think you have a chance."
Antoine Winfield hasn't had the best season due to injury. What do your wide receivers need to do to exploit some of the weaknesses that they've had periodically?
"Well, I would say he's had a pretty good season. He's been nicked up, but he's a guy that's got great instincts. You can see he's got good football awareness. He single handedly came up with a number of big plays last season that helped them in their win. We have a ton of respect for the way he plays. He's as physical a corner as we see in our game. In run support. He's got a great ability to diagnose plays and recognition formations. So I think he's a challenge whether he's playing in the base or he's playing in nickel. His instincts, his football IQ and his toughness are things that you see week in and week out."
What is the biggest point of emphasis with Adrian Peterson?
"I think you've got to get 11 hats to the ball. He's got a terrific burst. He can get on the edge and circle the defense, I said that yesterday. He's got great vision, and he's an elite runner. Someone who has tremendous speed, but he also has power. And he's a challenge in the passing game when they decide to check it down to him. You know, he creates problems in space, so he's a tremendous player."
Is there a certain point in time during the week or during any stretch where you feel like you've got to push? Is there anything that triggers that emotional edge you try to give your team?
"Yeah, I think it varies week to week. Some weeks are different than others. We try to change things up. Really look closely at preparation as to the goals for that specific game and it can vary."
Did any of your mentors give you what you were looking for in that regard as motivational, kind of X's and O's?
"You know, I've said this. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of real talented coaches and watched. Any time you're coming up young in the profession, you pay attention to the guy that's you're working with on the staff with and working for as head coaches. And I've been fortunate in that regard. "
With the Vikings last year to this year, do you see a similarity in how they upgraded their passing game to a particular balance and how you upgraded your running game to get more balance?
"Well, the two things you see is number one you see a program that has consistently gotten better from a personnel standpoint. You look at ten Pro Bowl players. That's certainly a credit to Brad and everyone involved there in the department in regards to the acquisition of personnel. They are a team that can beat you throwing the football, can beat you running the football, and they're a team defensively that is playing as well as anyone right now."