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Q&A: Sean Payton reviews the 2014 season

Video and quotes from Coach Payton's press conference on Monday, Dec. 29, 2014

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Media Availability
Monday, December 29, 2014

Opening Statement: "We pretty much finished our team meeting, staff meetings this morning.  (We) Kind of reviewed the game yesterday and then you really go through that transition into physicals, interviews with players and kind of move into that offseason. Obviously we find ourselves in that position where there's frustration. There is disappointment especially with the postseason beginning.  It stinks not being involved.  I am disappointed for our fans.  I think we have a great fan base and yet there were a number of things we have to clean up and be better at moving forward in the next season.  I'd also say this and we have been pretty consistent with this year to year but anything we do from a personnel standpoint involving players or from a coaching standpoint involving coaches will be announced and talked about at the appropriate time.  Today would not be the day to do that.  There will be a ton of evaluations spent on my part with what we are doing starting with me.  Mickey (Loomis) and I will have plenty of time to kind of go through the roster and get things corrected for the upcoming season.  There is a lot of work we have to do obviously and a lot of things we have to be better at and that is what we will put our time and energy towards."

Is everyone up for evaluation?

"Listen, every element of the program, I think it is important that we do that.  I think we have to look starting with ourselves and then going through not only the coaches, not only the players.  There's a lot of things that you want to make sure that you look closely at and we will take our time and do that."

Was maturity issues part of the problem?

"All of those things become more heightened with losses.  You pay more attention to and typically I would post and we would have an idea based on club fines.  That wasn't unnecessarily higher than the norm but I think that there is an element to what has brought us success here, success for a long period of time and all of a sudden when you have a season like this you have to look closely at hey, let's make sure the little things are being taken care of.  It is one of the topics we talked about in the team meeting."

I asked some players what some of the bedrock principles are of this organization and I got one answer from a veteran player and another from a younger player.

"That needs to be the same answer.  Smart, tough, disciplined guys that number one, do not beat themselves.  There is a path and there is a, I guess you would say, a traveled path that we understand.  That is the thing we are not going to deviate from and it is validated.  Look, every year you look what is winning and it is validating not only with our history but in the success of other teams."

What makes you confident that Rob Ryan can turn the results around next year?

"Number one, you just heard what I said at the beginning, I did not mention anything about Rob Ryan.  I did not mention anything about a specific coach.  I will say this again just so you are clear, now is not the time for us to discuss a player, a coach or his future.  It is not.  With that being said, you really can't take my answer as such and draw a conclusion from it.  Does that make sense?"

Is it a delicate balance between how a coach does this year versus how good or bad a player does when it comes to making an evaluation?

"I think the trick is making sure if you said what's the challenge, making sure that when there are changes made it's the right change with regards to everything from are we just changing to change?  Training camp, I think smart, disciplined, tough, that environment can exist anywhere but those types of things that you discuss that come up in regards to our team.  So making sure that it is the right decision based on your gut and what you feel like should be fixed or potentially not messing something up that maybe currently sits in place."

What did you mean by training camp?

"The idea that, hey, where we are at with training camp.  I bring up something as to the facility or as something as to practice.  You want to make sure you are looking closely at any type of change or any type of decision and make sure you are not making it and it is like well that really wasn't the issue."

I was just curious if you reevaluated this year's decision about training camp?

"No, no, no, my point is though that would be almost an excuse if that makes any sense.  I think what is important is we are looking closely at ways to fix the things that kept us from winning games and making sure that we are not fixing something that wasn't a part of the problem.  And I think that is the challenge every year when you are looking at your team's evaluation."

What's it like being a coach on "Black Monday" when you have so many people you know in the coaching profession?

"A lot of these guys I know well and a lot of them obviously are good football coaches.  Some of them are in organzations that may not be as functional or may not be capable of having the success until other areas are figured out.  But it varies with team to team.  It is always the unfortunate side of this business and yet it appears this year there probably won't be as many openings as there has been.  It is tough to see guys that you know over a long period of time go through something like that.

Will you reach out to them?

"Absolutely.  I would reach out to every one of them at some point."

What do you lay out to players in the meetings?

"Number one it would be between the player and me, not to you.  Number two it would vary based on the position and the player and where he is at.  Shoot there will be veteran players that I am going to meet with here in about five minutes and there will be some younger players.  Over these next few weeks those meetings will take place because we will have a lot of players still here in town.  But probably any significant meeting would take place after we've gone through the evaluation process which would be in the next two weeks of every player on the team."

Do you think things need to be overhauled or do you think a few changes here and there will bring you back to where you want to be?

"Well there is probably a place somewhere in the middle there.  We have to look closely and I've said this, we have to look closely at the teaching, the coaching, we have to look closely at the players, we have to look closely at the talent and it is probably somewhere in the middle.  If that is a fair answer because that term every year, overhaul, represents a whole new rebuild and yet the idea that we are just going to make one or two changes and things are going to be better, it is not that easy either."

What view do you use to evaluate the offenses statistical results this year?

"The numbers were real good on third down.  The numbers were good in the red (zone) area.  The total offensive numbers were good.  The turnovers were poor and I thought the rushing numbers ended up probably just where they're at, a little bit better than the middle of the league.  I think ball security and especially in the last half of the season I think hurt us at times.  I think we have to be a little bit more consistent.  Third down numbers were encouraging but overall there is a team element to winning games and I think the balance helps the defense.  I think the ball security helps the defense.  We have a real good punter, someone we feel like can change the field position for us and a good coverage group there.  I think that it has not been about stats for us, it has been about wins and losses and really like I mentioned to the team today, there are some muddy hands in this room and they probably go across the board, not just on one side of the ball."

Some have mentioned that before you were a team that waited for a team to make a mistake and you kind of became that team.

"I mentioned this year, there were games where we were that team that jumped offsides on fourth and two.  We were that team in a hard fought game (and) lost the turnover battle.  That was two, three weeks ago.  Those are some of the things that we have to look closely at and us as coaches, the technique, who we're doing it with, those are all the things that we're going to be evaluating in the next couple of months."

How do you feel?

"It stinks losing.  Honestly there's a pit in your stomach.  I hate it.  It's because so much time and energy's put into that upcoming season and the process and really it's one thing to be removed from the process for a year without any control.  To be in this position and having this meeting on the eve of the week of the first round of the playoffs, it's been awhile.  It is not something that you want to experience again.  It is something that drives you.  It fuels your fire if you will.  There is nothing worse.  It is a bad feeling.  It is the opposite of how it feels when you have success and you win in the postseason. There is a euphoria that goes with that.  That disappointment is something that motivates you."

Can you say how badly Jimmy Graham was hurt?

"There was no secret.  He got injured in that first Tampa game and then he was just having to work through and manage, eventually, to what degree, but there was nothing.  It gradually got a little better but I honestly think that he was having to deal with that for quite a while.  I think he would be able to answer to what degree it was still potentially affecting him later in the year.  It was significant for a good middle point of the season though.  Obviously it affected him but to what degree it was causing him pain yesterday or the week before I wouldn't know that."

Is he a surgery candidate?

"I don't think so, not that I am aware of."

Are the fines a collection of the little things or were they major issues in that regard?

"No, there was nothing with regards to the fines.  When I mentioned that there was nothing that was uniquely different.  It is just look, when certain things reoccur our failure to, the thing that comes right to our attention first is man, being in a position three or four games to win a game and not be able to secure that, that is the first thing.  Being able to finish, we weren't able to do that effectively this year and had an opportunity in a number of games to do so."

Were any of the same elements this year present in 2010?

"Honestly and I say this in a very humble way, I hope that none of us feel like the 2013 season was one where we are ready to have a second Mardi Gras parade.  We made the postseason.  We had a chance to win the division and we couldn't finish at the end at Carolina.  We got a playoff win, I recognize that was a big deal, but our aspirations are higher than that and yet there was some success.  I think that even on the last six weeks of that season we had some up and down games."

Were you happy with what you got out of your 2014 draft class?

"I do not know that you can go in expecting that in year one.  I think in two to three years it will be very evident.  I think Brandin (Cooks) obviously we saw a lot of the things we are looking for.  (With) Stanley (Jean-Baptiste) we kind of understood and kind of know when we made that selection that we were going to work to develop (him) and we'll have a chance in the next year or so to see how that measures out.  After that I always think it is difficult after the first year to look closely at.  I think as time wears on we will know."

What do you take away from this year being able to consistently win on the road?

"That is a good question.  That leads me to road/home.  Chances are with our team this year we had a couple good road wins and yet I mentioned this before, I don't know that a ton of time spent on the home or road thing in regards to wins or loses is the answer as opposed to playing better football and more consistent football.  What is important is down the stretch, a game versus Atlanta with potentially the division at stake.  A game versus Carolina, closing out a San Francisco game or the Cincinnati game, those were all home games and pivotal points in our season.  I think the home and road thing really was more of a reflection of just the up and down inconsistencies of this team."

Is it an oversimplification when some of the guys were saying we were one play away from winning these four games earlier in the season or are there larger issues to look at?

"Let's not kid ourselves.  Yes, we were a play or two away from winning those games and yet that repeated itself a handful of times.  The year before we were a play or two from potentially losing a few games and we did not.  Now, does a team gain some success from some tough early wins? Absolutely but I think our ability to finish, that would be one thing that was not present, (and) that was not consistently good enough."

Is there anything you would have done differently from a coaching standpoint?

"That will be part of the evaluation.  It is important. I'll take a good look everything from putting the roster together from the offense, the defense to our kicking game, the acquisition of personnel, the draft we just had.  We'll spend a lot of time on the draft process.  Obviously that's something we have to look closely at if personnel's an area that we have to be better at in certain areas then we have to look closely at how that process is unfolding.  That gets back to all the elements here in the next couple of weeks."

When it comes to evaluating players that you want to come back, do players have to be realistic with the season they had and wanting to be here and taking a lesser amount of money if this is the place they want to be?

"That is pretty typical every season.  There is a pie that gets split up and the thing about our league is that is quickly adjusts.  The player that is outperforming a contract quickly adjusts and vice versa.  That is pretty normal every year regardless of whether you had a successful season or not.  That is something that happens with each team."

When you are starting your offseason early, do you feel like you have the luxury of taking more time with these players and evaluations?

"We will have a little bit more time like for instance a year ago. A good challenge when you are in the post season you don't cut corners, you have those evaluation meetings.  We will have more time with that than with regards to, what would typically happen here in the next two or three days is I will put a calendar together that will take us all the way through training camp and it is just league dates, staff schedule, evaluations, cut ups, OTAs, mini camps and then the start of training camp.  That will be something would be a week or two extra based on the fact that we are not in the post season."

Is Wesley McGriff leaving to take a job at Vanderbilt?

"I heard the report.  I'm not aware of any of that and I'm sure knowing Wesley, he and I will talk.  Again, that is one of the many reports out there."

So as of now he hasn't left the staff?

"No."

Are there some areas of the team that you would like to have younger and faster personnel?

"That's a broad question.  Fast is always good.  I cannot think specifically.  I think that we're young in some areas we're older in some areas.  I think the consistency thing, it's a production business.  It's a result-oriented business and you know what, that can come from youth and that can come from age.  The speed thing, a lot of it starts with when we are born and then you can obviously work to fundamentally be quicker but I think that sometimes the big challenge in this evaluation process is balancing the experience.  I know this, I know what wins and it is smart, tough, reliable, dependable players that you know exactly what you are going to get on game day.  I know the opposite of that can result in the inconsistency and some of the things we saw this year."

How important is that final meeting with the players?

"I think it is important and yet I think what is more important will be the first meeting they are back together for the OTAs."

Are you curious to see what happens with Ryan Pace with all the General Manager positions opening up?

"He is really good at what he does.  He's a big part of what we do.  Curious would not be the word.  Guys like him, they are talented.  He is very talented and I know he has been promoted here deservedly so a few times.  I know this, I get fired up when he comes to see me first thing this morning.  His mind is already racing.  I know he is all in.  he is all in with us.  It is not a one year quick fix.  The key is that we are doing all the things necessary to ensure that we are not sitting here upset at some undisciplined things we did a year ago next year or looking back saying it is happening again.  We have to be brutally honest in a number of areas."

Do you see parallels with this year and some of the past years?

"Look, the 2006, 2007 parallel, I do not know what our record was in 2007, 7-9, We started off losing a four in a row.  But I do not know if it's a direct parallel.  There are a lot of things that we have to look closely at and those are the things that matter most here.  We'll do that in the next few weeks, the next coming months.  We have the right people making these decisions fortunately I'm one of them.  I am anxious to get started on it.  Again, nothing we do is going to be with the idea that we have to win next year, it is going to be what is best for the future of this organization.  When you are making those decisions you are generally doing the right thing."

Would you say it's an unfair assessment that you put all your chips in the middle, win or bust so to speak?

"It's a mythical term because every year we're pushing all of our chips to the table and reloading.  I don't even know how to answer the question.  We are trying to build and we have been able to build a sustainable program that competes year in and year out for championships and obviously this year was disappointing but number one we do not have chips and there is no poker room.  It's about winning games and being consistent about doing that.  I think that the stability that we have had both from an ownership, general manager, head coach, those are things that give you a chance.  They do not guarantee it, they give you a chance.  But as you look around the league there are places that are dysfunctional that every two or three years they find themselves back to square one.  Being functional that you just cannot take for granted.  It requires a lot of work, attention to detail and that is where we are at."

I think a lot of that is because of your salary cap going into the offseason.

"But that would not be uncommon two years ago.  There's going to be change though.  We are not just going to patch a few holes here and throw the ball out there next year.  There is going to be some things that we look closely at and that's part of the deal."

How is Jairus Byrd doing with his rehab?

"He's doing really well and fortunately, to his credit, the type of injury he had and the rehab he's going through, he's doing extremely well.  He was in today. All of them were in today.  We expect a full recovery."

Are you surprised with all the production you've gotten out of Josh Hill this year?

"He sure has but he played well last year.  He's going to finish this season or did finish this season leading our team in tackles on special teams.  He's exactly what we are looking for because each week you know exactly what you're going to get.  He's talented.  He can run.  He's young.  But he's consistent.  Those are the things that allow you to win."

Can you talk about how Hill is an offensive player making special teams tackles?

"It is not the norm.  When you get one it is a pretty good thing.  When you get a tight end that potentially is going to be your special teams player of the year that is a good thing.  He is one of those players had he went to the combine he probably would have been drafted.  If you just took his numbers and plugged them in, height, weight, speed, vertical jump, broad jump, production, they are pretty impressive.  He was a great addition for us, a great sign for us a couple of years ago."

Would it be fair to say it is rare to see a player who came in last year as a rookie and grow?  Josh Hill had as many touchdowns as Marques Colston this year.

"I think it is hard to find a special teams player and a tight end to begin with like that and then certainly to sign his as a free agent out of college would be unique."

Did Kenny Stills have anything major coming out of the game yesterday?

"No my understanding was it was cramps and he was able to come back in."

Do you think this team needs more guys like Josh Hill?

"Here's the thing, that would be an area where we would be, any team always every year is made up of various personalities, backgrounds, demographics.  That would be chasing, that evolves with your collection of other things that are most important."

Do you guys get any chance to unplug and take time off?

"Yeah we will always have a schedule where absolutely.  One of the things, like I mentioned, we will put the whole schedule out there that it will be calendar weeks where they are away talking about the coaches and weeks where they are back in working on the draft, working on our team.  There's a certain element that is based on the league dates, owners meetings, draft, free agency, all of those things."

Do coaches have to search their souls and asking questions about themselves if they still want to coach?

"Yeah each guy is different.  I think if I am going to answer your question, do you still have the energy after doing it for nine years?  Absolutely.  Every year you get excited about it.  I'm in a good position right now with a lot of the people I'm working with.  look, having had a year a year ago, I think that you drive in your mind is racing 24/7 on some decisions you're going to make on the roster, on things that Mickey (Loomis) and I are going to want to visit about, that is kind of how it goes at this time.  I think each situation is different with players and coaches when they get into the middle of their careers.  I think with each guy is different."

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