The television and ice cream binge is over.
New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton and his staff are in evaluation mode, with the critical eye pointed toward the Saints’ roster as they chart the pros and cons of players from last season.
But, Payton said in his season-wrap news conference Wednesday, like almost everyone else affiliated with the Saints in any way, he took a needed pause in order to put to rest the 2018 season and, in particular, the sequence of events that likely prevented the Saints from winning the NFC Championship Game and advancing to Super Bowl LIII.
“I would say, honestly, after the game, for two to three days, much like normal people, I sat, probably didn’t come out of my room, I ate Jeni’s ice cream and watched Netflix for three straight days,” he said. “There’s certain vices you gravitate to. For me, it’s probably sugar.”
The sugar rush, of course, didn’t alter the final result: A 26-23, overtime loss to the Rams in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And Payton and the Saints have proceeded to take the necessary steps to move on.
“Much of what we told the team, obviously there are disappointments you go through relative to your season,” he said. “And this one, where it happened in the postseason, we’ve got to be able to get past that. And we will. We’ve got good leadership on this team.
“I don’t know that you ever completely get over it, but I think you do get past it. And there’s enough resolve, I think, that this time away is healthy. And when it starts back up again in the spring, and we’ll look at that calendar, you get back at it again.”
Payton, who is a member of the NFL’s Competition Committee, said he expects the committee to address the situation that helped end New Orleans’ season – a non-call for pass interference, or helmet-to-helmet contact, or both, with 1:45 remaining in regulation and the score tied at 20-20. A penalty would have given the Saints first-and-goal, and with the Rams owning one timeout, New Orleans could have milked the clock for a chip-shot field goal with less than 20 seconds left.
He spoke with Al Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, immediately after the game and that Riveron was “brutally honest” in his assessment of the play, that a penalty should have been called. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman was fined for the helmet-to-helmet contact against Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.
“It’s very common in our league for certain events to take place and then, man, there’s a reaction in the offseason where we look at it,” Payton said. “Oftentimes, we find our own flaws because of some loophole. If you look throughout the history of our game – the forward fumble by the Raiders – there’s been these events that, at times, potentially change rules.
“I like the fact that I’m a part of that committee and I know every offseason, the members of that committee, we all sit down and really try to grind on how to make this game better, safer. And then present it to ownership and the other coaches. So this year will be no different. Certainly, there’ll be topics like this that are brought up. The topic is one thing; the solution is the more challenging thing that we’re all looking for.”
Payton said that, as of Wednesday, he didn’t have a specific rule alteration or addition that he would advance. Before doing so, he said he likely would speak to other coaches and NFL personnel.
“I think that we’re further along now with technology, but not anything specific right now (in terms of a proposal),” he said. “I think talking to your peers and your fellow coaches and people in the business, there are a lot of great ideas.
“You take what happened in the kickoff, and how we took the special team coaches – we took a lot of people that were experts in that area – and sat them down and I think they came up with a real good solution this offseason. This (possible rule change) specifically pertains to timing, timing of games, how much can be reviewed. And that’s a little bit more challenging.”
Payton said it wasn’t important who made a proposal, as much as it is that a proposal receives support.
“It’s not as important as who proposes it, because typically there’ll be groups of teams talking about (an issue),” he said. “So it’s not as important as who, as it is really the quality: Is it something you agree with and you think will pass?”
He said he understands the passion of the fan base, and how it has been difficult to move past the loss. His advice to them would be similar to what he told the team.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Payton said. “It’ll take a little bit of time. But it’s why we like this game.
“Football is like life. It’s not always going to be how you planned it, it’s not always going to be fair and sometimes you get punched. You get up. There’s that toughness and grit element that’s involved with this game that I think fascinates us all with it.”