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Saints Coach Sean Payton reflects on passing of John Madden

'I would call him a good friend'


Sean Payton counted himself among those that experienced all three phases of John Madden's career, as Payton shared his remembrance of the iconic coach, sportscaster and video game frontman who died Tuesday.

Madden, a Super Bowl-winning coach and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was 85.

"It goes without saying, we've seen in 24 hours how much of an icon he was in this industry," Payton said. "Depending on your generation – there's a generation that sees him first as a coach, and then there's a generation that sees him as an announcer, and then there's a generation that sees him as they guy that has the video game. I was lucky enough to be a part of all of those."

As coach of the Oakland Raiders, Madden compiled a 103-32-7 record in 10 seasons, went 9-7 in the playoffs and led the Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI. As a color commentator for NFL games from 1979-2008, for all four major networks (CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC), he won 16 Sports Emmy Awards. And the Madden NFL video game series has been in circulation since 1988.

"When I first became an offensive coordinator in the NFL with the Giants (from 2000-02), he covered a lot of our games," Payton said. "We had some good teams and he had that NFC, so if you were one of the better NFC teams, you were going to be with (Madden and play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall).

"So my early exposures were a lot of these production meetings, and I think I would call him a good friend, someone that I always felt was so even-keeled, down to earth and real. And very complimentary.

"I was young, extremely young (37 years old in New York). And I know it led to, a few years later, me in Dallas (as assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach from 2003-05) going in to be interviewed by Al Davis and offered the Raiders job. That came from Madden to Al. Because when you're a former football guy and you get to go in and out of every building, like the production crews do, you get pretty familiar with the different coaches and players at each team."

Payton said he best remembered Madden in the television booth.

"I remember him most is the announcer," he said. "I recall when he was a head coach, and yet, through the larger part of my football days, I remember the voice, he and Summerall and the games that they would cover. Years later, I'm in the NFL and he's covering our games and that was kind of a cool honor."

OFF DAY FOR SAINTS: Wednesday was an off day for New Orleans, but players who missed the Monday night game due to Covid-19 protocols should be returning as the week progresses.

"We take the Monday night schedule, kick it back a day," Payton said. "Would we have them all today? No. But with the new protocols, guys are coming back on. They're kind of coming back on like they went off, sporadically. So it was easier to start with, where do we think we're going to be at the end of the week before the game, and work backward. The new protocol is five days from your test, and then the second part of that is you feel OK. You don't want to be with symptoms. If someone's got symptoms still, they wait. So there's a projected add-on day each day for who's coming back today, who do we think is back tomorrow based on the five-day window and they're asymptomatic."

QBS TO RETURN: Among the expected returnees is quarterback Taysom Hill, who'd started the previous three games before sitting out the Miami game Monday. "I want them back in the building. It's Wednesday, and I'm not going to give the anticipated starting lineup for Sunday, ever," Payton said, laughing. "Like, ever. Especially when they're not here yet. But I expect (Hill) back and look forward to having him back, and look forward to having the rest of these guys back."

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