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Q&A with Saints Head Coach Sean Payton

    <span>              <span style="">Yesterday Drew was talking about how when he first came here he had a lot of options.  They were thinking he wasn't going to play again, but you guys believed in many him as much as he believed in himself.  Why was he the guy you wanted to come in and rebuild this team with?  </span>                   

"Well, initially when we got started he wasn't available. So if you went back and you tried to reflect on January, we were looking closely at the draft. February, again, the same way. We're looking closely at the three quarterbacks in the draft. We were selecting at number two, and so the study, and not in any order was the Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Jay Cutler debate, looking at those three guys to see if that evaluation fit. Shortly after the Combine, and I believe it was the last day of the Combine I think it was that we heard that Drew was coming out of San Diego. Then that discussion and evaluation began and I think once we felt strongly that his rehab and his injury was something that he was going to be able to overcome, I think that provided flexibility with the selection at the two spot. And at that time whether it was Reggie Bush or Mario Williams or A.J. Hawk or whoever it was. In other words it changed a little bit of your draft strategy with the signing of Drew Brees.

"But to answer your question, I think it was predicated on all of the research in regards to how we felt he was going to be able to rehab. In other words, he's someone that is different. We felt that he was going to put in certainly the necessary time to heal. And there certainly was risk involved in that decision, but we felt it was worth it. Then when we were able to do that, it gave us flexibility with the second pick."

With all the media coming up and all the distractions of this game, how do you think your team is handling the families, traveling, tickets?

"I think pretty well. And I think that I know over the past 20 years this game has been played with a bye, and it's also been played without a bye. And there certainly are two sets of dynamics when that happens. We've tried to as best we can this week not only to practice and focus on the introduction of the game plan, but also the idea that, hey, let's try to before we leave on Monday, have all those things handled. There are business meetings that take place with the players' wives and coaches' wives and organizational members. A guy once told me that those closest to you can become your greatest distractions and so much from the agents to the family members.

"The more that you can kind of get all those people taken care of and alert them to your schedule next week then their expectation level and certainly we want all our family members to enjoy the experience and yet understand that it's a training camp mentality for us. I think that the bye certainly helps in that aspect. I'm sure without that you're into the next week without a bye. I'm sure it's that much more hectic, yet there are probably some benefits to that as well. I know they've done it both ways."

What was the process with Jonathan Vilma? Was it in any way like Drew when he came on board?

"There were some similarities just in the aspect of here it is, the injury again. It was a completely different injury, yet the confidence in the rehab and, you know, I think most importantly does the player fit? Do you have a vision for the player? I think in Jon's case we did, and it fit the scheme. We met him at the Combine, had a chance to visit with him there, and we were able to on eventually work the trade with New York."

You've been around quarterbacks your whole career. What is unique in terms of his competitive approach to Drew when he's playing a game against another really high career quarterback?

"I think some of that comes from an early age, after being around him now for four years, you are able to really gather more information about his high school career, for instance. How he was in college. Even at his mother's funeral and I said this to Drew after she was eulogized, the competitive nature in his family you get a better grasp as to how he was raised and how he thrives on not just the sport, but the competitive nature of sport and being successful.

"When you get guys like Drew or Peyton Manning or a number of these players that have been in the postseason. When you go back and look at their careers as early as high school you see that their teams are always winning. It kind of follows them. And it followed him into college when they turned the program around at Purdue. It followed him with Marty Schottenheimer at the San Diego Chargers, and it certainly followed him here."

You mentioned when you were getting ready to play the big game against Tom Brady that you looked forward to those opportunities to play against marquee quarterbacks. Why is that?

"I don't know. I think it's just that competitive nature and measuring stick of wanting to do that. The one thing about him though is that it's about winning way more than it's ever about statistics. Last week I don't know, was it 185 or 190 yards in the championship game? It didn't matter. It was about winning.

"I think the first thing that position has to be is a winner. There's a lot that goes into that. There is a lot that goes with that. They're measured by that first. The two quarterbacks playing this week clearly are winners."

How much can a Super Bowl win – especially against a guy like Peyton – validate a quarterback?

"I think it's about the team. Certainly when you look at a quarterback, I think the winning part of it is maybe a more fair analogy. You know, there have been a lot of great quarterbacks in our game that never had a chance to even play in this game. Yet when we compare or talk about or history writes the story of, you know the Super Bowl championships seem to be an important chapter in that story."

This is an unusual road trip and destination. What is your biggest concern about the preparation for this game?

"I think for us we've had a lot of experience at the relocation thing. We've had training camp away last year with Gustav. Ironically we were in Indianapolis for a week prior to playing Tampa Bay. Where we literally bring computers, video, phones, we bring everything and set up shop. There are a lot of people in the organization that are familiar with that. You know, London a year ago, we brought everything. We went a week ahead of time and we've talked about that. When you look in the last couple of years, and I'm not going as far back as San Antonio with the old team and the old coaching staff. I'm just talking recently. We've done this a lot. It's not exactly the same yet there are similarities logistically when you're talking about setting up your training camp type routine in a hotel. You know, James Nagaoka on down. I can't give you all their names. But this is something they're used to. They understand what we need. All of us are creatures of the itinerary. We take this, once we establish it, it becomes something that is important in the week. The routine is important. So that experience, I think, it's helpful."

The big thing right now everyone's going back and forth on the whole "Who Dat" stuff. Do you know about the history of it? Do you care about it?

"Boy, I don't know. I've read a little bit about it. I don't know enough about it other than it's I think the people who are running these small businesses, you know, I think we're fans of those people. I don't think anyone can own "Who Dat" personally. So there are some specifics with it as it pertains to business sales and that's something that I'm not as familiar with. But I think that's for everyone to enjoy."

How will you handle the distractions of the nightlife in Miami? I know these guys are grown men, but how do you handle that? Can you share with us?

"We'll have curfew for a number of nights and I won't get into the specifics. like the make up of this team in that I haven't had to as a coach worry about what they're doing when they leave the building.

"And that goes back to the process in the evaluation in the information of who we're signing and do they fit? The point being is that football is first. There will be plenty of time to on celebrate this and enjoy it with family members and all those other people, but football truly is first. It's different if you're coming to this game when you're not a participant, there is a whole different itinerary for you. We've talked and I've talked to the injured reserve players that aren't playing in the game. I think the leadership on this team understands the possible distractions that could come up. They understand that there are things that maybe they're not aware of. But I think the key is the rest, the schedule, making sure they're getting plenty of sleep. I think they have to do a good job of saying no this week to a lot of different people. If they can handle that, which I think they will, then we'll be fine."

So those guys will adhere to the same guidelines as everybody else?

"They better. We've covered a lot of these things in the early meetings this week and talked about our expectation level. And I've told them I like the locker room. It's never been an issue. Certainly there will be more challenges this week than maybe there have been before. But this is a championship game. It's for the Super Bowl. So all those other things, they'll have opportunities down the line to enjoy. But the week you're playing in it I don't think that's the time. I think they understand that."

Is Pierre Thomas perhaps the guy that's come on out of nowhere, never been given anything, and he's worked for everything?

"He's one of a handful of players. I think you see this not just with this team. I think you see this throughout the league, you know. The evaluation process isn't perfect. If we loved Pierre Thomas when he came out of Illinois, certainly we probably would have drafted him. He was signed as a free agent. To his credit, he came after we had already drafted another running back from Ohio State in the fourth round. He's someone that's earned everything he's gotten. We've tried to once the players get here talk about just paying attention to what we see on the field and not really focusing on how they he got here. Because once they're here that's unimportant. You know, it's a business as to how we acquire the talent. But once they're here, I think the locker room and the players count on us to play the best players. He's someone that has worked hard to get to this point. I think you see similar players on Indianapolis' roster; guys that have worked hard, that maybe overcame their early evaluation processes as to where people visioned or had a vision for a player and became good players in this league. Those are always good stories."

Can you put your thoughts on Kurt Warner and his career in some approximate perspective?

"Hall of Fame career. I heard he might be retiring. But he had had an amazing career. His accuracy and ability in big spots to play well. When you really look back, when you're talking about a guy who is going to go into the Hall of Fame that at one point was out of football, was in the Arena League, you know, there was a period of time where he was playing this game at a level that no one's ever played it at before.

"He has a great deal of respect amongst his peers. Players and coaches and personnel people in this league that have studied any tape and seen him play and win a championship, it's truly amazing. After the game he's a first class person. After the game last week we got a box of Fairy Tale Brownies sent from Kurt Warner just congratulating us. Today I got another box. He said it was good luck for you last week, so here's another box. My wife told me to leave the Brownies at work, she doesn't need them anymore. But he's had a special career. I think this league's better having had a Kurt Warner play in it. When you look at, we were talking about Pierre Thomas when you look at his road traveled, it's unbelievable."

Gregg Williams made a comment on national radio station about getting to Peyton Manning and having "remember me" hits. Has that been overblown?

"I think so. I think both defensive lines want to get to the quarterback. That starts in training camp. So yeah, I think much is made of that. Obviously we want to have a good pass rush and get pressure on the quarterback. I think that's a great example of Super Bowl week."

You've talked about how exciting this is for the fans. But how about for Tracy Porter and Randall Gay, who grew up watching the Saints?

"For those players from this region and a handful of these guys that played at LSU and some are from here that went on and played college football like Tracy at Indiana and somewhere else. They have family, a lot more probably family here locally that are rooting for them. I think for all these players, they represent or are part of a family, a group of people that somewhere are pulling for them. Whether they're at the game or watching in another state. It brings a lot of happiness to a lot of people outside the building. So I think in the case of those local players, I think that applies."

Can you talk about getting pressure on the quarterback? How critical is it not just to have pressure on the edge, but get it from the middle so he can't step out of the pocket?

"I think the term pressure, are you getting it with the four man rush? Are you getting it with the blitz scheme? There's all sorts of ways. If you're able to hurry or get pressure within your four man rush, and Indianapolis does a great job of this, then the pressure for the quarterback is greater in that he's under duress and there is still the full allotment of secondary and linebackers in coverage. Are you with me?

"When you choose to bring linebackers, safeties on or corners, then there are less people, obviously, in coverage. So whether it's outside or internal as you're describing, all of those things are key aspects to affecting the quarterback. I think if you were describing Brees and Manning, and I'm not talking in any comparison, both those players scramble or adjust to throw. In other words, there are weeks when you play a game and you might say the quarterback possibly scrambles to run or in a certain direction will look to run. But I think in the case of these two players, both of them have taken the ball and gained some yards and slid. But I think both are adjusting in the pocket to throw. So you hear that term anymore. We want to get him off his spot. It really is just saying, hey, I think when you look at a guy like Peyton Manning if he's able to go three big in a hitch and five big in a hitch in the gun and one step in a hitch, and he's not moving from the spot, then certainly he's a lot more comfortable as opposed to having to adjust in the pocket. So the inside portion of your pass rush is equally important in regards to that spot three and a half yards behind the center."

Can you talk about some of the personnel decisions you've made since you got here, and how does that process evolve? Do you have more of a say with that now than you did coming in?

"I'm proud to be a part of the process. One of the things I was asked yesterday about taking this job, and it was the comfort level that I shared with Mickey (Loomis) in our vision that we shared in regards to not only what we were looking for as a team, but the process at which we go about it. And I think Mickey has done a great job of putting the pro personnel department just how we want it and the college draft process just how we want it. So it's been a real good team effort.

"The evaluations as you go through the draft or you go through pro free agency rarely are everyone going to see things the same way. Yet one of Mickey's greatest strengths is his ability to listen and really be slow to any quick decisions. I think he does a great job with that. He's obviously had a great vision as we've put this together. Most of the attention is drawn on the first pick or the second pick of the draft. But the Jahri Evans that first year in the later rounds, and Marcus Colston, and Roman Harper with the two, and Pierre Thomas was a free agent the next year. I could go on and on.

"I think to build a team you've got to be able to do well on day two. You have to be able to find Mike Bell and Jeff Charleston, and you've got to kind a Courtney Roby along with those Jon Vilmas and Malcolm Jenkins in the first round. I think that the supporting cast here in Rick Reiprish who has had a ton of experience in evaluating college players and Ryan Pace who is a bright young talent in the personnel department, with their group and Mickey and myself, it has fit.

"When someone says do you have a good job? When you enjoy coming to work, and certainly there are distractions and there are things that aren't always perfect, but I think that part of it in regards to working with people you trust and you know that they're working as hard and their expectation level is as high as that of your players that you're asking or your assistant coaches, I think then you get a lot of oars in synch, going in the same direction."

Who was your best mentor in learning how to pick talent?

"(Bill) Parcells was outstanding. He knew exactly. Forget the selection of players. He understood the question of what's our vision for? And does he fit what we're looking for and Bill had a great way of painting a picture as to exactly what he was looking for at every position. So when you can identify that, you're not just randomly trying to gather players. And his experience – he has got a tremendous memory that he can reference since he first entered the league. He can recall draft selections, workouts. I know that talking with him the other day, he was all excited because he had gotten four linebackers already evaluated for the draft. When you hear someone say that, you realize, regardless, man, we're behind right now (laughing). But our guys are working hard. From that standpoint those that are looking at the Senior Bowl and evaluating those players. But he was outstanding in that area."

The defense in Indy doesn't get a lot of recognition or it's maybe starting to now but overshadowed by Manning. But what are your thoughts on how they've developed? And what will you show them offensively that is different than the previous two teams have shown them in terms of experience?

"I think they have two elite rushers. Two as good as there is in this league type of pass rushers and defensive ends, not just pass rushers. When you talk about their defense, they have great team speed. They understand their scheme extremely well. They're very well coached.

"When Tony (Dungy) retired and Jim (Caldwell) came in, obviously he's done a great job handling that transition. And Larry (Coyer) and the staff there have done a great job with this defense. There are some players that you recognize maybe or are more familiar with. There are other players you're not as familiar with. But they eliminate big plays. You don't see a lot of those on tape. They tackle and run to the ball extremely well. I think their linebackers are guys that stand out when you watch sessions on film and you watch, you know, his pursuit. But it's a team that defensively just looking at what they've accomplished in the postseason you can't win 14 games straight and not know where they're at. Kind of lose track of the wins right now at this point in the season.

"But to have the success they've had, there's generally three units doing well. I know that the offense gets more attention, and that is just the nature, I think of our league. But they're playing championship level defense. You watch them create turnovers and get to the football, it's impressive the tape you watch. You look at how they handled the Jets running attack last week. A team that was number one in the league in rushing the football and they mixed coverages well. They hide and disguise well. They're a tremendous challenge."

As you guys get ready to go to South Florida, how important is it for your offense to have Jeremy Shockey part of it on the field regardless?

"Well, he's a starter. He's a guy that when he's healthy he's certainly a factor for us. It is a good question. You want to be at 100%. He felt better today. He is doing a great job with his rehab. He didn't have any setbacks. We were fortunate last week. He had the recheck with Andrews, it went well. I was encouraged just seeing him moving around. He handled some walkthrough work today. But certainly as a guy that can run like Jeremy and be a factor in the passing game as well as the running game, to have him healthy and playing is a big plus. And part of what we do."

What are the qualities that have enable Darren Sharper to have a season like this in his 13th year?

"He has stamina. To play double digit seasons as a safety is rare, because it's a collision position. You know, there's a handful of positions that it's hard to have longevity at and that's one of them. I think he takes care of himself. He has good instincts. He's one of those players that the ball kind of finds him. I think that those things have served him well. His weight's right where it needs to be. In the offseason he spent time getting it down to that 210 range.

"A player in year 13 or 14, quite honestly, after their first four or five years are battling the attrition of time. When they play that long in this league, they have to take care of their bodies and rest properly. Maybe do a lot more than they had to their rookie year or their second year or third year."

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