New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton held a season wrap-up press conference at the club's practice facility on Monday to discuss the club's 41-36 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs as well as review the entire 2010 campaign. Below is a transcript:
Opening Statement:"Having a chance to look at the game tape, it's disappointing when the seasons ends. The season ends with a finality when you lose a playoff game like that, the conclusion that's nobody's ready for. What's even more difficult for players and coaches alike is the following day watching games and knowing that the season's over. You're not playing anymore. One of the things that will come up certainly in this meeting is all the uncertainty regarding not just our team, but a number of teams in our league as the season concludes of free agents, staff, coaches, none of which is our policy to talk about. I hope you understand that in regards to the questions. Typically we'll report and hand out the information at the appropriate time. Clearly now is not the time for me to sit here and answer questions about prospective free agents and decisions we're going to make the offseason. As always we'll do those things and then alert you after the fact, not before, the same way with any personnel, players or coaches."
How different of a plan can you have this offseason given the labor situation?"I think with the continuity, if in the event of a potential lockout, it would benefit teams that have that continuity as opposed to teams that (don't). I think one of the challenges will be for the turnover of coaching staffs during this time frame. That would be challenging. I think the continuity we have and will continue to have will help mitigate that to some degree."
Do you just continue business as usual until told
otherwise?"Yes, clearly that's where every team's operating right now. Maybe we're getting ahead of the horse. Yes, we'll be in the midst of our evaluations. We'll be in the midst of our cut ups and scheme review and then we'll be in the midst of the Senior Bowl."
Did the players watch film with you after a game like that?"This was us (Coaches) having a chance to look at the game tape, like any week, only it's different. We won't necessarily sit down tomorrow with the team. They'll come in. We'll have a team meeting. We'll kind of outline a few things, make some notes. In regards to the last game of the season, it's still having a chance to watch it and as you look at that tape, you want to look at things you could have done better, things we didn't do as well as you had hoped, make sure we put it to rest and put the grades on it."
Now that the season's over and the seasons after for Super Bowl clubs have been looked at, do you think there's something there where they haven't won a game the next season?"That wasn't at the beginning of the season. That really wasn't the direction in what was written about a Super Bowl champion. I think more of it related to are they going to be able to win and have success. Obviously I'm proud of the fact that we won 11 games and came back and despite some of the adversity, played real good football and in the end didn't play well enough in the postseason. But that if my memory serves me right was something that was dismayed or put to rest with the 11 wins."
Do you guys still think you are in in your window of opportunity?"Yes, I think so. It's tough when you come off a season with all the success of a year ago, there's that exceptional and that experience plays a factor. You expect to have success. It's always a little tougher to swallow. Ultimately that's the sign that you have in fact changes a direction of what's expected, but to answer your question, I think everyone of these guys will take advantage of the time away, re-energize and when the time comes, get re-focused again to that commitment of winning football and trying to win another championship."
What are you concerns with the special teams in the coverage or return game?"I respect to the game we just played, it was the return game. I felt that was one area, where I was hoping to get a little bit better boost from in that game. We struggled. I thought we covered pretty well. We elected to kick off a certain way early on and as that game changed, our plan changes. We just weren't able to break a return or create field position with a return."
Were you happy with that aspect at all this season?"Like anything else, we just keep looking closely at how we improve it."
Now that there's finality and you don't have any competitive advantage can you talk about where things stand with Malcolm Jenkins, Jimmy Graham and Reggie Bush?"I think with Malcolm, we're just going to continue to monitor his knee. There's some swelling. Fortunately for us, the news has been good. What we'll do is look closely in the next couple weeks. We'll keep paying attention to the swelling in his kneed. I'd be ahead of myself if I said we're going to scope it because I think there's a good chance nothing will have to be done. We'll just continue the rehab. Jimmy, it will just be the rehab. That should go pretty smoothly."
What about Reggie?"If we were playing this week he would be out. He's going to need two to three weeks, nothing surgical. Just the contusion from where it was injured before."
How about Pierre Thomas?"There's nothing new now. He's going to see Dr. Anderson who is probably one of the best if not the best foot and ankle guy and someone that's done a lot of work and treated our players. He's also had a chance to see Pierre earlier in the year. We'll go from there."
Is Chris Ivory in that same boat?"Ivory is having a lis franc procedure like we mentioned last week with Anderson."
Do you know when it's taking place?"I don't have the date on that."
Is it important to take a step back and look at both the good things and bad things that happened were not the whole picture of this season?"When you finish with a tough game like that, I think it's always wise to step back from it and understand it was one game. It was disappointing. It was a playoff game. But, as we go through the process of going through all the evaluations that take place, all the offseason studies, I think it's important you spend some time. I think there were a lot of good things, a lot of positives. Like I said before, I like this locker room a lot. There were a lot of things they were able to accomplish. We have a high bar, certainly a high standard of what our goals are. I think that time is important, when it comes to any aspect of what you're doing, whether it's scheme evaluation, play evaluation, staff evaluation, all those aspects are critical to our program. We take them very seriously. I think it's always wiser to distance yourself from the last game played."
Is there anything that sticks in your craw as an aspect of the game that didn't go as planned?"You don't know how a game's going to unfold. That ended up becoming a game that became more high-scoring than we had guessed. Certainly we had opportunities in the red zone. We gave up some big plays defensively. We weren't able to create field position in the return game. Those were the three things that I think that anyone watching would have seen. That's why you line up and play it. That's why you get ready and adjust. Like I said, after the game, you credit Seattle. They did a real good job."
Drew Brees said that sometimes there is a game that ends 13-10 and coaches are yelling at the defense and sometimes there are games that end 41-36 and coaches are yelling at the offense. Were you yelling at the offense?"I wasn't yelling at anyone after the game. During the game there's a lot that goes on, but I think the one thing that you always have to pay attention to and Bill (Parcells) certainly taught me this is that games sometimes go in a certain direction. If a game becomes a wide open affair you might have to score more. If a game becomes a closely contested low-scoring game, you might have to defend one more time. Generally I think in your business you look for targets and cause and responsibility. In our industry you look closely and there's areas in all three phases and I think the message after the game was we won 11 games this year as a team. In some of those games we played better offensively or defensively or in the kicking games and maybe in some of those games we didn't. This game we just lost, we lost as a team and when you watch the tape that's clear."
Has Denver requested permission to speak to Gregg Williams?"Yes, today they sent a fax in. I'm not certain when that will take place. We'll kind of report that as it goes. Like expected, when our season concluded, they went ahead and asked for permission."
Are they the only team that did?"Yes."
Were there any other teams that asked to speak to any
*other of your coaches? *"No, they were the only one."
Do you anticipate that considering the success of your staff and what they've accomplished?"Yes, I think always and I said this to you before, when those faxes come in…You don't really hear about all of them because generally we don't report them or divulge when they come…When they're coming in for your coaches that's a good sign. That means that people value what you're doing. That generally comes with winning. I've always said be leery if three or four years comes by and nobody has had any interest in any of your coaches. That's probably a bad sign. It was good to see Doug Marrone have success this year at Syracuse and it's always good to see guys that have been here that have been a part of what we've been building go on and have success."
You've sought advice this offseason about defending a title from other people. What did you personally learn from that?"I think it's one of those things that the advice you hear is what you're expecting to hear. You know going in these are going to be challenges, but the knowledge doesn't diminish the fact that those challenges do exist, whether it's from the scheduling, from the early part of the season handling the teams that you play and understanding you're going to get their best football team. But you do learn a lot about your team. I thought from some tough losses early on and we fought down the stretch and to get down to the 11th win in Atlanta, you learn a lot about your players and like I said, I felt like the one thing we had for us this year and going forward is the right type of guys in the locker room. Guys that are physically and mentally tough. I think when you have that you have a chance each week when you play. They know how to win and so coming off a successful season as successful as a year ago was, their goal and our goal was to turn the page, move forward and work towards that process again and again it ended short in the playoffs, but I'm confident in that group of guys and obviously with every season there's change. That's the most important aspect of your team, the locker room and your leadership there."
You had some of the least roster turnover this past season of NFL teams. Without getting into names, is it kind of daunting?"I don't think it's daunting. I think it's pretty common if you begin to look at rosters and you might tie some of it the collective bargaining agreement. I don't think it's daunting. Daunting was '06. This is another challenge. We'll be ready for it."
Was that something that affected other Super Bowl Champions, how everyone wants your players and if free agency returns?"I think each year you pay attention to your roster and you look closely at where your teams are at. One of the first things I'll tell our players tomorrow is don't believe a word you read in regards to this free agency. It will be the first thing that begins to pull at them. Come see us. We won't have and for good reason, we won't have any contact or any comment in any way, shape or form, about the direction we're going with any of these players, specifically. They'll know that anything written or talked about will be purely conjecture, speculation and so that way they'll know to come see me directly, come visit with Mickey (Loomis) and we'll discuss in a case by case basis if there are any questions. That line of communication is critical. All that stuff written between now and when that period comes to an end, which may be longer than earlier because of the potential CBA will be just guesses and so I think that's important for the players to know, because those things can pull at the fabric about what you're trying to build. There's no one in here who's going to talk off the record about any of our free agent players. There's nobody in here who will be talking off the record . Any source is going to be someone other than someone who will know the direction we're truly taking."
Because the bar has been set so high for yourselves, in any way does Saturday's loss minimize what you accomplished this season as a team?"No. One team is going to finish this year with the joy and the thrill of having won the whole thing and then there's going to be disappointment for the others. Certainly when it happens in your first playoff game, it's disappointing. Other than that, we don't have to put a stamp and a final grade and a final mark on a season; it is what it is. We won 11 games; we made it to the playoffs; we lost our first-round game. How do we get better? How do we improve? How do we become better next season than we were this year? I think that's the world we live in."
After the game, how fast were you able to go from lamenting the loss to thinking about next year? Was it more difficult to do this year given the success of last season?"I would say that it probably stung a little bit more considering where we were last year. I would say that it hurt more. I don't know that it hurt any more than the loss in Chicago that eliminated us in '06. You play to get into the postseason; you play to get in the tournament and to have an opportunity to play past when everyone else is playing. When that finality comes, there's that raw emotion that comes with it of frustration, of disappointment – all the things that accompany losing. I think the same exists for the players, just as it does for the coaches. It'll take a while; it doesn't taste good but it will go down and then you get on to the challenge ahead. There's a lot of work that we'll have to do this offseason and we recognize that completely. We'll be ready for it."
To be clear, you've given Denver permission to talk to Gregg Williams?"Yes. That's standard protocol; technically you can't deny permission for a head coaching job. That took place today."
Will any procedure need to be done on Drew Brees' knee?"No."
Were there any injuries Saturday that might require surgery?"I don't know that there was an injury Saturday that might require a procedure that wasn't already possibly going to be in the postseason protocol. I don't think that anything that took place during the game was something that was going to alter the offseason surgery plans."
Will Anthony Hargrove need a procedure in the offseason?"I don't know that yet. We'll see."
Looking at your injury list, do you think that's a good argument against going to an 18-game schedule?"There isn't a lot of control that we as coaches have over that, but that certainly is a strong and valid point and something that both sides are looking closely at as we talk about making this game safer."
You were vocal last year after the overtime rule change was enacted by the owners without the coaches being around. What will the fallout be among the coaches?"All of us understood why that rule was on the table and why it was discussed and a change was made. This season, I think there were 19 games that went into overtime, 17 of which had two or more possessions. Nonetheless, it was passed and that is a rules committee and an ownership decision. I think it was more of just the process. Getting back to the way it was done, we can't control that. That aspect of it is part of owning a club and making those decisions. That probably was something that I went on about a little bit too long. Hopefully that's something we can look at and at least make the regular season the same as the postseason. In other words, it's very rare to have a rule in place for the regular season and then in the postseason it's different. We'll see how this offseason goes pertaining to that specific overtime policy."
Did Julius Jones suffer a concussion?"Yes, a mild one. I think that the recovery time for him would be fairly quick."
Is that the same for Junior Galette?"Yes. He too had a mild one, nonetheless it was one that kept him out immediately following."
If you were playing this week, would you be curious to see how you would field the running back spot?"That's a good question. I thought that Julius and Reggie (Bush) both played real hard at the start of that game. That would be one of our challenges if we were still playing though."
You talked about the Senior Bowl. When in the timetable do you start to focus on the draft?"It begins right at that week when you start getting your first exposure to the players. We'll have a meeting later this week where we'll go through the Senior Bowl rosters, we'll go through the assignments of coaches and scouts while we're there and what we're looking to accomplish. Then that begins and always stays with you. To answer your question, as soon as possible, along with the free agency grades and paying close attention to not only our team but the rest of the league. The first order would be your own team, and then free agency and college draft. This will be an opportunity at the Senior Bowl where you put your eyes on them for the first time in person."
Are there any areas specifically that you're looking at?"I think I'd be ahead of myself right now, without really having covered step A here."
Other than a possible Gregg Williams departure, are you planning to be bringing the entire coaching staff back intact?"Yes, that's our plan. I thought they did a fantastic job this year. I was not only proud of the locker room, but proud of the way those guys responded after a long season the year before. Part of having success is having the right teachers and I have a group – oftentimes I'm hard on them, especially on game days – but I have group that are very good teachers. They're very good communicators. We've had stability and I think that has been a big reason why we've had success."
After watching the film, is there anything different you saw on Marshawn Lynch's touchdown run?"It was a real good player making a real good play. Obviously you're frustrated when you watch it. Part of when you lose a game in the playoffs is that you're going to end up seeing a lot of highlights that aren't necessarily highlights for your own team. Each week we get a memo from the league office saying that if you win the game, NFL Films wants to come into your locker room and film the postgame celebration. Your finality is when you're in the locker room and they're not there with you; they're on the other side of the field. That's part of it. Again, it's not pleasing but that's part of what we do."
The run is being characterized more for bad tackling by the Saints rather than a great run by Lynch. Does the film bear that out?"It's a combination of a real good player on a real good run and I'm sure that we would look at it and say that there are some tackles in there that we would like to have made. But you don't want to diminish a play that a player made like that; you hope that you can tackle better and you hope that we're not in that situation where you're looking at one specific play because clearly in that game…that one stands out because of the yards gained and the type of run that it was, but there were so many other plays that had more of an impact on that game than that one particularly."
In Gregg Williams' case, do you speak with him before he interviews with another team? What has he meant to your program?"Yes, we just spoke about it for 20 minutes upstairs. He's been a huge part of what we're doing. The leadership that he provides and the enthusiasm…we have a close staff and guys that understand and are unselfish. It's about the team; it's about all of us having success and I think each coach – certainly Gregg – understands that I want what's best for them. I want them to have these opportunities and I want someday a list of coaches that have all come through here and worked for us and gone on to have success. That's just a sign that we're finding the right type of people. I think he's going to have that opportunity and I think he's going to be very successful when he does have it. Selfishly, there's a part of you that doesn't want to see it happen on your watch but I also recognize that he's too good a talent. If there's any way, shape or form that we can help him, Mickey (Loomis) and myself and the group here will help him. I think that's something that over his career that he has earned. Back to when we brought him in on an interview and I had never met him really or gotten to know him at all personally in the profession, I knew how difficult he was as a defensive coach. I think he's going to be a great hire for a team that chooses to hire him. He's someone that I couldn't recommend highly enough."
But he's under contract through next year though?"Yes, all of our coaches are."
When you meet with the players tomorrow, will you be able to give them an offseason schedule with all of the uncertainty?"Yes, we'll have the whole calendar. They typically don't get it tomorrow, though. Typically, tomorrow's meeting is 20 minutes long and we discuss some of the upcoming challenges. I'll talk specifically about the challenges of this offseason compared to the years where we've met before. Generally, about a month in we'll mail them the whole calendar. We'll do that just as we always would, and the rest of that stuff is out of our control."
You've mentioned 2006 a couple of times. Do you think that the journey that the core group of guys here has taken since then gives them any more incentive when making decisions?"The one thing that we try to pay attention to is creating an environment that makes it attractive for a player and or coach to come work in. We recognize that there are some challenges here that quite honestly existed long before Katrina in regards to living and schools and all those other areas that maybe you might battle versus another free agent or coach looking at other jobs in this league. What we've tried to do is to create an environment…it's a small circle in our league, so the players and coaches very quickly understand how you do business and how the locker room is, how the coaches' responsibilities are and I think that reputation quickly spreads – good or bad. That's something that we've tried to create here and I think that has helped us when it comes to the potential signing of a player or coach, that reputation of what we're about and how we do things. That takes a lot of work and it's something that you can't just talk about; it's something that you earn and something that you have to work at all the time."
*Are you going to watch the National Championship tonight? *"I didn't realize it was tonight."
Do you have a favorite?"I don't. (Mickey) Loomis is all over Oregon though, so I guess I'll pull for Mickey's alma mater. That will be an interesting game. I really haven't followed much of the college game. I've seen a few of the bowl games, and I like their replay set-up a lot. It's pretty efficient to me."
What was the plane ride home like?
"Disappointing. A lot of sleep. It was really just as you would expect. Everyone was tired and you expect to be and so when you're heading back from a tough loss like that, it's just quiet and a lot of sleeping."