New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton - Post-Practice Media Availability - Thursday, January 17, 2019
How is Sheldon (Rankins) doing? Obviously, a tough injury.
"He's doing well. Of course he's disappointed. And he'll have the surgery, it'll be a fairly lengthy rehab. But it's something that he'll be able to fully recover from. So I think that, just the frustration of getting it this far and then being out (is what's tough)."
What are the challenges of replacing a guy like him?
"I said yesterday, I feel like he's had his best year here. The other players have to step up. He was an active part of our front and you go from there."
Your team has done a really good job stopping the run this year. Where does this challenge rank in terms of teams running?
"I think it's one of the top running team's in the league. Certainly, the top running back (is Todd Gurley). C.J. (Anderson), obviously since he has been there, has done a great job. So they are well-coached. They're very disciplined with what they do and Sean (McVay) and those guys on offense, it's pretty consistent. And so it's winning the line of scrimmage. It's being in the right gap and understanding the fits.
How are you feeling about the health and depth on your offensive line right now?
"Good. I think everyone was full today."
You've been here a long time, obviously, I wonder when did New Orleans start to feel like home for you and why?
"Well, the first reason you click with the city is you win, right? It could feel like home, I could love it here. And if you're not winning then somehow you're not clicking with the city. That's good question. Probably after three years, four years. When we came in '06, it was right after Katrina. So there weren't a lot of cars coming in. There were a lot of cars leaving and putting a staff together, putting a team together (was a challenge). At that time maybe there were three hotels open. The airport was desolate. So at that time it wasn't a real good comparison to where we're at now relative to the recovery. But we weren't really winning any jump balls when it came to signing players. And I always remember that '06 team, and the '06 staff. Most everyone came with a promotion. In other words, I received a chance to be a head coach and Gary Gibbs received a chance to be a coordinator. Pete Carmichael received a chance to coach quarterbacks. Right down the line. Then with the players it was a lot like that. We signed Scott Fujita and it was like we'd have a little celebration in the office with party hats and then on to the next free agent. So a lot's changed, but somewhere in that time it's hard to pinpoint the exact year."
That first quarter against the Eagles. Do you think that was rust? Do you think that's something you put behind you that now you're moving forward?
"I think it's football and we didn't execute as well as we would've liked and yet, fortunately, we were able to get it going. So you work on the specifics, you work on the details and you also credit Philadelphia. There's two teams that are trying to go out and execute a plan."
You're really big about trusting the process, pounding the rock. With the Super Bowl right there, how do you get the younger players that might not have been there before to understand that Wednesday film review is just as important as the game on Sunday?
"That's a great question. I think there's still that taste in your mouth from last year getting (so close) – not where we're at today, but getting where we were a week ago and that feeling of disappointment when it's a long season, and you get into the postseason. Here we are now. I don't know how many games (it's been), how many preseason games, training camp and we're down to the final four. So, there's a sense of urgency at 9:00a.m. (team meeting), at 10:00a.m. (position meetings). There's a sense of urgency in the walkthrough, in the film room, the scout team this week. It's all different and it really starts with two things: You're not the most important player. In other words, you teammates are, right? Your teammates are. And the second thing is you're the most important player. They're counting on you. You're the most important player. So I think that's what good teams have. That accountability or that feeling of wanting to perform extremely well, not just for yourself but really for your peers."
Do you see similarities between you and Sean McVay?
"We spell our first name the same way (laughs. We both cut our teeth in this league under Jon Gruden. He was a tremendous (coach to learn from) – sometimes you can't control where you're at for your first job, but when you're fortunate to be around some coaches like John (Gruden) or like Bill (Parcells). Sometimes that's just good fortune. And then your bloodlines are pretty good. And I think I wouldn't speak for Sean (McVay), but I'm sure he feels the same way. I was young right out of coaching college football. I wanted to coach in the Big Ten. And then all of a sudden here I'm at the Eagles. That (Rams) staff, there's a ton of guys that we're friendly with and that we know on that staff. Guys who we have worked with and Sean and I have a real good relationship. He is an engaging guy, a fun guy to be around."
One thing that's made your offense so unique is your shiny toy Taysom Hill. Yesterday when I talked to him he said he hadn't even played some of the spots that you've had him play and how much work goes into cross training and going to different rooms and asking guys how they play their position. What was the catalyst for turning Taysom into what he is for you now and how impressed have you been with the ability that he's had to sort of step up in some of these roles?
"I'm going to work backwards here. His day starts with a team meeting and then he's in special teams. The quarterbacks have begun their meeting and then when the special teams is over he's up with the quarterbacks. We kid him. You could easily have him meet with the receivers or the tight ends. But I'd say, specifically to not acquiring him, and I've said this before, I believe this, he is going to be an outstanding NFL quarterback. I think it was week six or seven, there was a week last year where our inactives were plus 1. In other words, we had a few unhealthy players and Taysom was the one guy (available and healthy) and I said to Mike (Westhoff) you know, why don't we take a look at him in the kicking game? He runs well. He's big. And not really knowing, but man, right away in that practice, you just you felt his speed and then, all of sudden, play after play in the kicking game started showing up on tape. And there is a little bit of – every once in a while you're around a player you just feel brings the energy to the rest of the team. And he's one of those guys, when he makes a play on offense, you can feel the bench react and he is very unselfish. And so that began the things that he could do relative to some of the quarterback snaps. Last week he threw a ball to (Alvin) Kamara that was perfect.And so you receive some advantage looks periodically when defenses decide to make an adjustment. (At) Minnesota, in the first drive he hits Mike Thomas on a long play. But I think that the best way to describe him outside of his skill sets and those are extremely athletic, is he's got that – Teddy (Bridgewater) has the same way, there's something about those guys that elevate the play of others and they're good teammates. They're exciting to be around. And so we constantly you're looking at what else can he do? He's very smart."
He said he can play defense. Are you going to surprise us one day with that?
"He plays defense when he's covering kicks and punts, so yeah, I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't a guy that couldn't play safety. He's extremely athletic."
Taysom (Hill) didn't have much of a chance when he ran the deep route and Drew Brees underthrew him, but how are his hands?
"Outstanding. Outstanding. Really good. He runs fast, but a little bit like Fred Flintstone (laughs). His arms don't bend."
You guys scored a touchdown out of the most personnel groupings in the league this year. The Rams were the least. I think they were at 3 and you were at 13. How do they just stay unpredictable when you know pretty much what guys are going to be on the field?
"Well, it's not who's on the field, it's what you're doing with them on the field. And I think Sean (McVay), they do a great job of, 'Man, here comes the weak zone, the wide zone. Here comes the weak zone fallback. Here comes the play action off of it. Here comes a screen off of it.' And there are so many of these concepts that start off looking the same that are different. They're in tighter splits. They spray the releases. They have speed. So when you combine a great scheme with extremely talented players, it doesn't matter if there's 14 different personnel groupings or two, there's no prerequisite there. You follow me? That's a really, really good well-coached system. It works."
With those receiver splits, do you feel like you can give your defensive staff some hints on that just because you've been doing that for so long?
"These guys are different. They're playing, a lot of the game you're going to see the tight splits, more than anyone in the league (with) Sean (McVay) and those guys. So you begin to release differently. It's harder to get your hands on some of the receivers. You take a big split in man coverage today and the further you away from the football the corner is closer to the sideline. Now when you take a really, really tight split, it's hard for that corner to get the same reroute. So they're outstanding with it."
In terms of your game planning, obviously the first time you played the Rams, Aqib Talib wasn't active at the time. How does that change how you're going to attack their defense?
"I think the thing that changes a little bit more than just Aqib is in the last six or seven weeks we've seen a lot more zone from them. The first time around and even last year when we played them in Los Angeles, we saw a ton of man. So they are playing more zone coverage. And so that changes some of the route features, maybe some of the progressions or some of the things you want to do, they'll play a good share of man to man as well. So typically Aqib (Talib) is to our right and (Marcus) Peters to our left and those guys both have I would say offensive skill hands. They have exceptional ball skills. We have to be smart. We have to recognize the coverage as best we can give the quarterback some early tells where he'll know what coverage it is. I do think you're playing a lot more zone."
What does Benjamin Watson bring to this team and I guess leadership wise?
"Well he's been here twice so I would say there's probably half the locker room maybe a little less than half was here when he was here with us first. He is a pro's pro. He's an extremely dedicated worker. He is one of those guys that provides wisdom and leadership. That's a tough position to play as long as he's played. It's a collision position. So when you see tight ends play for a long period of time that's the exception it's not the norm because they're dealing with obviously the noise and the running game but they're also catching balls in traffic. You're taking a lot of different traits and you're putting them into a veteran player and I think that that benefits our team."
Veterans guys you brought in the offseason like Benjamin and Kurt Coleman, how do you feel like you have kind of benefited from having those guys?
"I think tremendously. Each one in a unique way. Many of them have won, a few of them have not, but the message was the same in the offseason in their recruitment. We have an opportunity we think to have another good football team be a part of it and the evaluation and the makeup I would say was just as important in those decisions as the skill set."
Last time you guys were in the NFC championship, NFL Films caught you telling Garrett Hartley, that he deserved to be here. Would you tell the same to Wil Lutz?
"Absolutely. Wil has been unbelievable this season and I'd say back to Garrett, he finished the season there was a tough kick against Tampa Bay and I know it ate at him right before overtime but he had one of the most prolific postseasons of any kicker. When you look at the championship game winner and then in the Super Bowl I think he had three – 45-plus (yard kicks). He had a tremendous run there. Wil's been outstanding. We feel like that's one of the strengths of our team right now is in the kicking game both with Thomas (Morstead), with Wil, our coverage units."
Your defense is not just in the Philadelphia game but your defense struggled at the beginning of a lot of games this year and then usually settling down and playing quite well. How much of a point of emphasis is that or not?
"Each week you want to start fast. You want to you'll quickly take advantage of field position so if you're starting on defense you're probably on the 25-yard line and so right there there's a neutral field position. A couple of first downs and it's a plus field position for the opponent. A three and out and it becomes a plus field position potentially. So same way offensively we have had weeks in a row where we've scored field goal or touchdown and then you know some weeks the opening script for whatever reason it is not as good. So clearly when you get into these games you're working on all those things."
With the city and the state and the whole region just going crazy with excitement, do you have a chance to enjoy that at all or are you insulated totally from that now?
"Insulated. Totally. This is probably the only time the day I'm outside really. My car to the office and it's just part of the deal. But you're really in a bubble and you know you have a game coming up your minds racing relative to...am I missing anything? You know when it's all said and done and you've heard this and it's quiet and all you have are your thoughts and you're by yourself. You don't ever want to ask that question was there anything I didn't do to be successful and that is a healthy feeling."
What drives you at this point in your career?
"It's like a drug a little bit. Once you've been to this game and I've told our guys that many of them haven't. But once you've been to it, it's hard to describe. So picture your most exciting thing you can envision outside of certain family things and then times it by a thousand and so it is the one thing talking to Bill (Parcells) this week even ourselves. He didn't miss coaching but he misses coaching in the postseason. There's just you don't how to describe it but it's intoxicating I guess you'd say."
You talk about players keeping their routine the same. What changes your routine? Are the hours longer?
"No. The hours are always long. There's a process. I've said this before, we're teachers so last night was third down. We're working on the lesson plan trying to cover all our bases. Today we present it practice and tonight will be red zone, goal line and short yardage. Tomorrow we'll present it. There's a very scheduled routine if you will. Now some nights are longer because of maybe what you're seeing. Some nights may or may not be as long. But it's a very routine driven schedule and when you play on a Sunday like we did and we're playing on Sunday there's nothing that's different about it we're you know some weeks when we play in the regular season you might have a short week a longer week. But it's good."
You guys seem to embrace expectations? Why?
"It was like agreeing with you guys and then also it was just disarmed. It was all right, we agree."
Talk about your coaching staff and how they have developed?
"Absolutely. Look, Aaron Glenn is someone that the first time - I certainly was aware of the player when he played, but the first time I had a chance to work with him was in Dallas, and then a short time here. There have been a few guys that have been almost impossible to get your hands on to hire, and then eventually it happened for him. Dan Campbell, who I was with in New York when we drafted (him) and then I was with (him) in Dallas (when) we signed him as a free agent, then he had a short stop here. He's been untouchable and (we) finally had a chance to hire him. DA (Dennis Allen)…his story, really…he was an '06 junction boy, he was one of the originals. He was in Atlanta working for Jim Mora, Jr. and he was a quality control coach and I had an assistant D-Line position available, and I know he was also interviewing with another team for the defensive backfield job, which is his position. So on that interview here, I could tell - we weren't, again, winning any ties – and I could tell that he was waiting on this other job and fortunately we were able to hire him. He was promoted here to secondary coach, had an opportunity to go work with Foxy (John Fox) in Denver and then became a head coach shortly thereafter. It's great to have him back. He's done a great job. So for our coaches…Doug Marrone who was on (the 2006 staff). I know Mr. B said to me once, 'Coach, we've got a lot of guys getting these jobs,' and I said, 'Mr. B, worry more about if no one's asking.' You know and I think that's a credit to our staff. A number of guys interviewed this year, and I hope and want to see those guys have those same opportunities I had."
You guys have such an incredible attention to detail when it comes to route distribution and the way you guys tweak certain concepts. How has your communication with Drew Brees changed over the last 13 years about how you guys get where you want to go with that?
"There's new – the language is ongoing. Today we had a 'dazzle'. So at some point last night, I might've said to someone, 'Did we ever dazzle? No. All right, we're going to call this H-dazzle.' So there's terminology that's used that you might look at five teams in the league and they run the same patterns, but if you went to Kansas City with Andy (Reid) it might be communicated a little differently than if you were in New England or you were in Buffalo. So the key's in the clarity though. How do we how do we communicate? Without using too many words, how do we communicate when we teach without using too many words? We have 'Vegas' as a route. 'Ted Ginn, you have a corner. When you're in Vegas, trouble's right around the corner…you've got a corner.' Those things are I think important. They resonate for a player and then they know what to do and it doesn't run together."
With all the tools available, film, analytics, do you have to do some window dressing on your offensive plays to make tendencies a little less clear?
"Yes, I think the first thing is the personnel groupings. If you're in one personnel grouping and one of the things we were able to do during that postseason bye is really look at ourselves. I mean hard self-scout. You're going to have tendencies which are very healthy 70, 30, but you just don't want every time. You don't want to be able to start with that statement every time. You're always trying to avoid that."
Do you have no plans to change your offensive scheme on Sunday?
"I have no plans to change our scheme. I have plans to play better."
Do you think 19 points will be enough to beat this Rams team?
"If they score 19, it'll be enough. We just want to score one more than they do. Each week it's different. We're seeing a different front relative to what we played the last few weeks. We've got to come out and execute and put a good plan together."
With all the personnel groupings, does you feel like it gives you an answer to pretty much every problem that can come up. Do you feel like it can give you more options in certain situations?
"No. Part of it for us has been two receivers come on, one comes off, their tempo, and then there's got to be a rhyme or reason. What do they do best and let's try to see if we can put them in those positions and let's not start with what they don't do. Let's start with what they do and then try to mix it up. But it doesn't necessarily provide more answers. Hopefully it slows down maybe the process relative to what a defense is thinking and it depends each week how people (feel). The last time we played the Rams, it was kind of the first time they treated Taysom (Hill) as a tight end relative to the position. When he was on the field with another tight end, we were getting base defense. So the next home game I ran him out there as a receiver or introduced him as a receiver and they still treated him as a receiver, the next team. A lot if it is how is the other team going to treat this personnel group. That's important."
Everyone has all these theories over what this game is going to come down to. What do you think it's going to come down to?
"I think the cliché, for good reason, is the turnovers are key. Ball security in these type of games (are key). It was the difference last week. Typically, situationally, (it's) how are you doing on third-down? How are you doing in the red area? Which team is playing situationally better football? You have two real good kicking teams. Outstanding kicking teams and I mean punt, kick return, special teams. I think when you really look at it, (it's) that ability on third down. That ability in the red area. Those are usually the details that you can look at after a game and not having seen it maybe predict who won."
One day in training camp you had a really long press conference and said 'this feels like an NFC Championship.' How does this compare now that you're here?
"This is good. I like standing. We have this beautiful press room and anytime you sit down I feel like you all feel like think we can spend 10 more minutes. When you stand, there's this etiquette where it's like he's standing here, let's go. Kind of right where we're at here."
Did you line up Jimmy Buffett?
"No. There are text messages, emails. He's a huge fan. He's from here. Pascagoula. He was a Saints fan long before I was coaching. This has been his team and it's great to see him around. This is the first I've heard of it so I'm not going to ask what he's doing, but I see him all the time at our games."
Do you have a favorite Jimmy Buffett song?
"(He's) outstanding. He Went To Paris."
Sean McVay mentioned that the advantage they have now is that they've playing in the Superdome before and it's not as mysterious to them anymore as a team. Do you think you can ever really get used to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome when you're an opponent?
"I think relative to here's your locker room. Your familiar with the hotel maybe. We had a handful of trips to Seattle, but there's still a communication challenge relative to the crowd noise. We're blaring it every week. We're blaring it with our defense this week and that presents challenges because the defense needs to communicate. When we're on the road, we're blaring it for the offense. But having played in some of the really loud environments and we think we've got one of them, if not the loudest, there's challenges that come with it and just your get off. Sean (McVay) does a good job with it. He'll come out of the huddle quickly and snap the ball. The next time they'll be up at the line so they do a good job trying to counter that with tempo or change of tempo. I think what's important for our fan base is understanding when that the crowd noise needs to begin differently this week than normal weeks. That crowd noise needs begin just as that last play finished. You get 65, 70 snaps of that crowd noise earlier than normal and louder than normal it's difficult."
Having been a head coach for 13 years, have you changed your offensive approach to the game as the game has evolved and in what ways?
"Absolutely. In many ways relative to the run game. Relative to the passing game. There are certain principles that you would still apply and things that you like to run. Formationally, you tweak things, but a lot of it is predicated on who's in the building. You're looking for certain pieces. When we drafted Reggie (Bush) and had Deuce (McAllister) we had certain packages that took advantage of those guys. I can think of a number of players. Jimmy Graham, Jeremy Shockey, Darren Sproles, all sorts of players. Terrence Copper in our first year. Those are just offensive (players). The same thing applies on defense. So it's back to what do these guys do well and it's up to us to have them try to do those things."
Having played quarterback yourself, do you ever wonder what the football field looks like to Drew (Brees) and how he processes things?
"I know this: he processes things extremely well. It's one of his rare traits. (Against) Washington, where that ball went on that pass that set the record, I think the date was 10/18. But where the ball went on that play was uncanny. He's got exceptional vision. Sometimes I wonder. Don't we all wonder what it's like to be Drew Brees?"