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Payton Recaps Lions Game, Previews Titans Contest


New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Monday, December 5, 2011

Opening Statement:

"Just on some thoughts on the game yesterday, there were a lot of good things.  One thing that was pleasing was the week before we committed 11 penalties and it was something we wanted to address.  I thought our players responded pretty well to a number of situations in that game where maybe there was a point at which a post-play scrum escalates and there's offsetting penalties.  I thought we did a really good job of keeping our poise.  We ended up with three penalties.  If you just look at yardage differential, it's close to 80 yards or 70 yards in yardage differential.  That's really no different than yards differential in the kicking game or offensively or defensively.  If you believe in hidden yardage, then you equate 100 yards to a touchdown and you equate yardage to points.  You have to.  I was encouraged with that aspect.  I think there are a handful of things we have to continue to work on.  I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we've gotten on a run here and won some football games and yet we've won despite not being consistent in some areas.  I though we gave up some big pass plays yesterday that weren't necessarily earned catches.  Those are plays we certainly need to be better at or in better position to defend.  I thought offensively again, this has happened now in a handful of games where we have a chance to put the game away and we're unable to do that and turn the ball over on downs.  In the kicking game, we've got one of the better returners in the NFL and we're having trouble getting him some yardage both in the punt return game and in the kick return game.  I think he's been closer in the kick return game.  I thought he was close in Atlanta.  I thought last night we had a couple of opportunities, more than that the punt return aspect or element of what we're doing.  Those are things specifically that you point to that you want to look at with your team in that quest for improvement and trying to be the best team you can be.  Our effort was good and our energy was good.  It was an important win for us.  We go on the road for two weeks now and prepare to play what seems like has been a while since we've played on grass and outside."

Do you look at the wins that you've had recently over teams that are fighting to get into the playoffs as an advantage certainly with the head-to-head competition?

"I thought when we started the third quarter of the season, every one of us just on paper looked at four good football teams.  When that quarter began, it was Tampa Bay who was playing well, Atlanta, the Giants, and Detroit.  All four of those teams played or were playing good football.  The goal was to see where we stacked up and where we measured.  I like the way we responded to that.  We still have a quarter of the season left.  We have another important stretch of games here now with two being on the road and two at home.  Those are good football teams and you get some confidence when you play well against a good football team and you're able to win."

Are you better than you were last year?

"We'll see.  We got on a run last year similar to what we're doing now.  We won however many games in a row.  Ultimately, the great thing about our game is we get to see.  In other words, we don't finish with a how would you evaluate that performance.  We finish with a tangible here you are and here's what you did in the postseason and then we could just throw it up on the wall and it sticks.  I think we're a work in progress.  I think we have some areas where we're better.  I think there are some areas where we're not playing as well particularly, but I do think we're playing with confidence and I think that time will tell.  We'll have a chance here to see how this team stacks up to not only last year's team, but to team's prior period.  That's the great thing.  There's a turnover element to our league every year.  The teams are different.  There's turnover with the staffs.  This team this year gets to make its own mark.  That's exciting."

Would you like to see your team play better on the road?

"We've been a good road team.  Let's step away from the home wins.  We've been a good road team.  We've won on the road.  We've lost a tough game at Green Bay and we've lost a tough game at Tampa and St. Louis, but what's more bothering is just the areas regardless of whether it's home or away that we just need to focus on.  I like our road routine.  I like this team in regards to how we travel and what wins when you travel.  To answer your question, I would lose more sleep over some fundamental things that happened to us both home or on the road as opposed to the overall record.  Some of our tough losses happened on the road this year, but I think our history shows that we can travel.  More importantly, it's the specific things within the framework of a game that I think lead to winning and losing regardless of whether you're at home or on the road."

How will Curtis Johnson handle his duties now after his press conference today?

"I think with Curtis, and we've had conversations with both him and Rick (Dickson), and the plan is he's going to remain with us through the balance of the regular and postseason.  It's different from a couple of years ago when we lost Doug Maronne to Syracuse with two games remaining.  In this case, we have four games remaining.  There will be a balance where he can begin to put together a staff.  He's very organized and will be able to multi-task very efficiently and effectively to benefit Tulane.  That's kind of been the plan in place.  You guys know how I feel about him, and I don't know how many good decisions Tulane football has made in the last ten years.  This (Matt) Forte was one of them.  I'll say this, the hiring of Curtis Johnson will be another one.  I'm excited for his opportunity and for Rick in seeing some of the strengths and the things they're looking for in their leadership.  Just knowing CJ the way I do and having been with him at San Diego State, and working with him here and with the Giants as an intern for us and his relationship with high school coaches here, I'm biased but that's an outstanding decision and I'm excited for him and it's well-deserved.  We'll miss him.  He's been exceptional.  The good news is he won't be too far away.  I think it's a great decision by Tulane and they're lucky to have him."

What would your response be to someone who told you that Johnson's never been a head coach before?

"It's silly.  It's ignorant.  That's what I would say.  Vince Lombardi has his first head job somewhere.  All of us have our first head job.  This is my first head job.  I think it's silly and there are a lot of head coaches that have been prior head coaches that were hired based on their experience.  I think part of the thing about hiring is being able to project and I thank Mickey Loomis every day for having some vision for a young coach and some understanding in what he was looking for in a personality and a temperament and all those things.  I think the best advice, and currently my alma mater is going through a coaching search, Eastern Illinois is.  I've just briefly spoken with the athletic director once and she's wonderful.  I said, 'Barbara, don't worry about winning the PR battle the day you announce the hire.  Worry more about year two, year three, and year four.'  Auburn wasn't worried about the PR battle when they hired Gene Chizik.  In fact, that was probably a moved a lot of people looked at and frowned upon, but three years later they're pretty happy they hired him.  I think that's the best advice and I think Curtis is more than ready for this position.  He's prepared really his entire football career for this position.  Here's an opportunity to meet somebody who's an extremely intelligent person and a loyal hard-worker, but more than all that he has a lot of those things tha light up a room.  When it comes to recruiting, this is a guy that has recruited and signed Ed Reed, Reggie Wayne, Marshall Faulk, I mean arguably the best football players that have ever left this state have gone with a certain school but the common denominator as been Curtis Johnson.  We're talking about Hall of Fame football players here that have followed Curtis Johnson.  I think you'll see it to some degree that same type of success in regards to recruiting, in regards to dealing with people, you'll see that with him he's as consistent as anyone I've ever known.  You guys would probably say the same thing after seeing him operate on the field over six years."

 Do you take pride in finding the right coaches under you and moving them on?

"Absolutely.  Yesterday, we had a chance after the game to talk to our players and the last note I made was I wanted to make sure all of us congratulated Curtis.  There's a bit of you that's excited about that.  It means you're not getting any younger.  Just as we value the evaluation process of bringing in players, we talk about that probably a lot more with what we look for in our draft selections or our signings.  Those are important decisions.  Those same things apply to bringing in assistant coaches and it all fits.  We have to have teachers.  We have to have guys that are motivated.  If you were looking at one position group in the last six years that has been probably as steady and with varied injuries, and I'm talking about Jamal Jones, Terrence Copper, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, and just on and on, and yet every weekend we would all say there's been a pretty steady performance.  I would argue each year it's gotten better and better.  At some point you look at the guy who's working with them.  You recognize this has been pretty special.  I know that room will miss him as well.  I know how his players feel about him."

He gets on guys, but they can also tell he cares about them.

"Absolutely.  I think that's very accurate.  I think he's on them hard, and yet when practice is over and we're finished meeting, two of them are in his room just in there.  I think they truly feel like he cares about their progress and well-being.  I think that's been part of our success of what is really an unusual position group to begin within our league because it's not the normal one, two, and three.  There are four guys that play a big role and do it pretty effectively."

Do any of the Titans' strengths stand out more than others?

"There are two things that you would look at immediately: it's a team that's quietly gone under the radar and is playing good football and I think in league circles we would recognize it, look at the tape and see that these guys have won a lot of football games and there's been a formula, and certainly Mike (Munchak) has certainly embraced being steady on defense and having that balance offensively.  I think Chris Johnson is playing probably his best football of the season.  Those would be a few of the things, and then just getting back to being away from the dome and travelling and being ready for another itinerary.  If we went back this four-game stretch that we talked about in this third quarter, three of these games were at home and the fourth one was on the road but all four were played inside.  It's transitioning to the cleats (grass field), to the elements (outdoors), to a different team in the AFC, a team that's playing well.  Those would be the initial thoughts before we really identify the pertinent statistical information.  Those would be the challenges."

How much of Matt Hasselbeck do you remember from the playoff game last year?

"I think he's a guy that is experienced and understands the pressure packages of defenses.  It's going to be hard and it typically is hard to fool a veteran quarterback like that where he just gets hit and doesn't realize he's unprotected.  He has an ability to get the ball out.  Even in the game at home last year that we won, he had a tempo and a rhythm in that game.  He's a quick decision maker and I think a good leader and certainly a guy that you have to recognize can beat you with his arm.  I think there are some valid points there of concern where you recognize he's a veteran player who has won football games."

Did you get to watch any of the SEC Championship and what are your thoughts on LSU making it to the National Championship game?

"I watched a little of it but not a whole lot.  The significance of the history of their program and understanding this is the first time they've finished 12-0 and unbeaten in the SEC, that's amazing.  Just in the framework of the history of LSU football, so the opportunity to embrace that and potentially win a National Championship and then put that record against any other prior team is pretty strong.  Les (Miles) and his staff and his players have done an outstanding job and we pull for them.  Sometimes we're able to catch the games, sometimes we can't.  That'll be exciting and certainly for the city that there's the Sugar Bowl, the BCS game, the Final Four and then the Super Bowl.  That's pretty strong when you really look at the season they had and you just match it against their history, that's the thing I think is always exciting is how you separate yourself and I think they've done that."

Will you be on the sidelines with no crutches next week?

"I'm probably another week.  I could walk without them like I'm walking right now.  I just don't know if it's safe to do that on the sideline, but we're getting close.  Hopefully it's sooner than later."

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