"I'm going to cover a few things here. But I'm making notes last night thinking, like, how do you do this? With Covid? How do you step aside? And I'm not a good writer. And I'm thinking, you know what…and Doug (Miller), no offense, but man, the Zoom angle on my face for the last two years has driven me crazy. So I don't want that to be like a lasting indelible impression on anyone. And fortunately, I think we managed to come up with a good setup here. Just with the space and everything that we've been through, collectively all of us with Covid and, and managing to go about our business."
"Last week, I had a great visit, a tough visit with Mickey Loomis and Mrs. Benson, and Dennis Lauscha, relative to just looking ahead with what I want to do, Mickey and I now we're 16 years (in) and so I think that that was challenging just because of our friendship more than our professional relationship. Mrs. B was awesome. I love this about her. She said, go away for two or three months and come back for training camp, and we'll be ready to go. And I thought that sounded pretty good, actually. But I'm glad that she told me to spend some time away and give this some thought. Because it is a big decision and it certainly affects a lot of people. It's not often you as a coach had that opportunity to possibly leave. That it was something that certainly I hadn't really thought about over the years. We coach, we coach, we coach and at some point, they tell you to leave. And as difficult as being fired is, it sure seems easier to thank everyone and move on your merry way. But this I'll try to hit everything and I'm going to ask or answer every question until you guys are done answering. So I'm sorry if this takes a while but we're not in any hurry."
"So I like watching Netflix, I like watching TV shows I think you guys do as well. And it's Mardi Gras season. And I'm a kind of a "Ted Lasso" fan. And I do have a regret. Fifteen seasons, 16 years here and I've got like the best female owner in the world of sports. We don't do biscuits here in New Orleans. But we do king cake, so Where's Mrs. B? I also have like 100 of them for the media and everyone else that's here to kind of celebrate the Mardi Gras season. I want to start and bounce around here. But I want to start with a series of thank-yous. It is important. And so thank you, Mrs. Benson, there could be no better owner for me to have worked for starting with your late husband, Mr. B, Tom Benson. When I was sitting around last night thinking about how I wanted this to unfold, I Google searched (Drew) Brees and it's like, ah, I hate following Brees. And he brought up some of the same stories. Mr. B was always one of those guys that for every meeting I had with him it was never football-related. It was always about something other than football and he had Tootsie Rolls and Hershey Kisses (on his desk). I go in there we talk about family, we talk about anything other than the Saints, and I miss him and realize the time (we had together). And the timing of me coming here back in 2006 was perfect. And obviously, us having some early success worked out. But I wish he was here and Mrs. B, you've been fantastic. Carrying on everything about his legacy. I know he would be extremely proud and is extremely proud. So he's not here right now. But he is. And so I thank the two of you for being great owners. And I mean that beyond just being owners, I thought about this, I can't think of one time the answer was no. Now it might be like, Oh, we're trying to do something and we don't have enough time to remodel. And so it might have been time-driven, but the answer was never no. And look, that's easy when Mickey has the credit card and I've got the wish list. I'd like to thank Dennis Lauscha president, a good friend. For (all) people talk about culture, and like what's the secret teams (with head coach openings are looking for) right now? Eight teams, nine teams, they're all searching for the right culture that everyone wants to know how. And it's very difficult (to create and) yet, if I was writing a book, I'd say it's also very simple. The alignment of ownership, your club president, your general manager, your head coach, right through your roster. That sounds easy. But like any relationship, they require work, right? I mean, that requires time and energy it requires a similar goal. It requires us all to kind of like lay down our arms and our egos for the best of the team. And if we ask that of our players, then certainly we have to ask that of our organization. So it's sometimes I was fortunate at a young age to really be around some special coaches, my high school coach, my college coach, and then in this league, you sometimes get jobs. It's coincidence, sometimes it's good fortune, sometimes it's not good fortune. But those roots for me, those bloodlines for me, as I look back on it, were extremely, extremely important. And I just met with our staff and I told our young coaches, you have your feet grounded and you know the job you have and these things these good these things that you want very fast will happen but they may not happen in the timing that you want them."
"But the point I'm making about Dennis (Lauscha) is it's like a good baseball team right up the middle from the catcher to the pitcher to the infield, (to) the outfield. We were always in concert. It didn't mean we always agreed but we were always in concert. And for a first-time head coach 16 years ago, that was important and more important now that I look back on it than I ever realized. And so I thank you and appreciate you. We had a lot of trips, we had fun trips, crazy trips, the very first year before we drafted Reggie Bush. We were out selling tickets and listening to '80s music and trying to figure out who knew the words and then when we drafted Reggie Bush we sold out and I'm like, Thank God we don't have to go on those like those frickin ticket bandwagon drives, we've been sold out ever since (laughter)."
"Mickey Loomis, a dear friend, I would say more importantly a friend just as importantly, my general manager and just as importantly, the person that gave me this opportunity. He took a chance on a first-time head coach, and you guys know kind of the batting average and the challenges for these positions. They're hard. Every year we're reminded of that. And I've written about this. I've spoken about it. I had just interviewed in Green Bay with the late Ted Thompson. Man, I thought I had a great interview. And when I landed here it was right after Katrina, in January. And many of you remember that. And I just thought, when I met Mickey, I thought, Man, I like this guy, he's got a heck of a task ahead of them. And I kept looking at my flip phone at the time waiting for that Green Bay area code to come in. And I got the message that evening that they had gone in a different direction. And I remember just throwing the phone into the pillow and thinking holy cow. And it was the best thing that happened. Sometimes, again, you don't have any control over that. And so he, he trusted his gut. And beyond just hiring me, we've had disagreements multiple times. And yet, we've always been in concert. And so like one of my biggest not concerns, but one of my biggest second thoughts was man, I don't want to not be around this really, really good friend of mine. That's not going to happen. I'm actually moving into another property here locally in but, but more than my general manager, more than the person that hired me more than all of those things, is, I would say, one of my best friends. And I appreciate that. I appreciate that. I could give you 1000 stories, that would be interesting because our personalities are so different. Like he walks slow, it bothers me, I'm wanting to pick it up."
"When you make a decision like this, you spend time with your loved ones, you spend time with your family. I have a daughter who's out west in media trying to become what many of you are, and a son is in college, my wife Skylene, who we've been together for many years, 10 years, and got married last June. And I have confided in those guys quite a bit. And talked about these decisions quite a bit. And, and I appreciate them. And they've been extremely just good listeners. Because ultimately, we all want happiness for our friends. We want happiness and health for our friends and family. Those are the two things I think about maybe as I've grown older. If it's if your children are happy and healthy, then you're blessed, I think and so I feel like there's been a very steady listening group here. And yeah, without any angle relative to Hey, what is it that you're looking for? Because honestly, as I sit here today, in this is OK. I do not know what's next. And look, I I've read the reports. And I understand I've not spoken to anyone from a media outlet relative to doing television or radio (prior to stepping down), maybe that opportunity arises. But every time I read something that says he's in line for this job, I'll call my agent Don (Yee) and I'll say, 'Don, did you hear something because I have not heard anything. And that's OK. I think I'd like to do that. I think it'd be pretty good at but stepping outside, like in the cold weather today and being a little uncomfortable professionally or from a career standpoint is OK. I don't like the word retirement. Mr. B didn't like it either. He always said retirement's overrated. We get sold this whole image of retirement by these investment groups on TV and golf courses and retirement. I still have a vision for doing things in football. And I'll be honest with you, that might be coaching again, at some point. I do not think it is this year, I think maybe in the future, but that's not where my heart is right now."
"I want to thank the media. And I feel this way and I don't want you to nod your heads in agreement, you can tell me later. But when you come in, as a young coach, you make a lot of mistakes. Because you're trying to do everything you think you need to do. And it's not until you get older and more experienced that you realize the more important things are this and not that. And hopefully, in my latter years, you guys have found me very accessible, very friendly, very open and, and maybe eager to please or at least accessible. And that's what the Jeni's ice cream for is for every offseason and Christmas time. So but I do appreciate your jobs. And I recognize, especially in the last two years, how difficult those have been, people don't understand when all of a sudden you practice inside in (in the indoor facility and you aren't allowed in) with the Covid restrictions, the relationships that many of you have with our players, it's hard to do those jobs effectively, as you might like. I mean, when's the last time you've been able to go into a locker room after a game and we kind of missed that really, I do, honestly, in going into the presser after a game and looking at a laptop (and it's not the same). And so I appreciate every one of you. I think, and I've worked in a lot of places. I've been in New York, I've been in Philadelphia, I've been in Dallas, those are big media markets. But I appreciate the relationships and the manner in which you guys have done your jobs. And I mean that in probably knowing what I knew now I probably handled my first five, six, seven years differently relative to the media where you know where you're coming in, you just don't know enough yet. But thank you. And, and again, I'm going to see many of you for years to come."
"(I) want to thank the city and the fan base. I'm going to get into a little bit of 2006 and maybe the early journey. But I don't think any of us when we started certainly I didn't. When I started understood the dynamics and what took place post-Katrina, with that '06 season that I thought and I would argue is every bit as important as any other season that we've had here relative to where the city was. And it became much more much, much bigger than football. And I'll talk about that in a little bit. But this fan base has been amazing. And you do this and you travel to cities, in other venues. This is by far one of the most difficult places to play and unfortunately, we didn't win enough home games this year. But the fans or something else. It's not a wine and cheese crowd. People make decisions to buy season tickets here that goes into their budget relative to what other things they're choosing to do. We appreciate all of that. I can. I have a really good memory and can remember back in '06 when we drafted Reggie Bush and we drafted the rest of that class and the excitement level. I don't have an (exact recollection of) history. Tulane Stadium, Jeff (Duncan), I'm guessing held 70,000-something people. I don't know (exactly). But I've met 110,000 people they told me that they were there for that game and the (John Gilliam) kick return (for a touchdown) over the years. And the passion that has been handed down generationally is unbelievable. Because when you're a young kid you root for who your dad or mom root for. You don't know (who to root for). And so the amount of stories post '09 season, where (for example a) grandparent wasn't alive to see a Super Bowl. But they were. All of that just makes what we do fulfilling, pretty special. We're teachers but that's unique. And I don't know that any player back then when we signed on, or any coach myself included. knew quite actually what we were getting into. And that's the truth. So thank you, city of New Orleans, our fans. I'll be honest when I hear the Bengals and I'm rooting kind of for Cincinnati a little bit in the postseason, but the Who Dey thing that came after (Who Dat)."
"I don't know if any of you remember the movie "Jerry Maguire," there's a scene in that movie where Tom Cruise is in an office building. He shouts out who's coming with me and he grabs a goldfish. And Renee Zellweger says, I'll come. And they began a journey. In 2006, 16 years ago. It kind of felt that way at that time. There's a special spot in my heart for the coaches, the staff, the players, everyone who came when 90% of the cars were leaving, I can remember the traffic on I-10. And there was no traffic heading south but all of it was going north. Coaches like Pete Carmichael, Joe Vitt…Joe Vitt, he was the only coach that I hired that year, that had a number of other options. And he chose to come. Everyone else, every one of us that came were all promoted and just paid better. Curtis Johnson, Greg McMahon, Gary Gibbs, and I'm not going to be able to hit on every one of them. But those of you that coached in '06. I can't tell you how thankful I am. Because like we actually had a rule, we came up with a rule after our first month that no one could say the K (word. No one could say Katrina. Because there were a lot of reasons for why we weren't going to be successful and we tried to look past those. So to those coaches, I appreciate it. Here's what will help you be successful. (You have) Deuce (McAllister), you draft Reggie Bush in the first round, he plays 10 years (in the NFL). You draft Roman Harper in the second round. You acquire Jeff Faine, he starts at center. Roman plays 12 or 14 years. You draft Jahri Evans in the fourth round, he's going to end up in the Hall of Fame someday and you also acquire Hollis Thomas, a nose tackle who I was with in Philadelphia. You draft Rob Ninkovich I'm back to young and dumb here. I'm back to young and dumb and I don't have a vision. And so we let him out of the building. He comes back in the building (in 2009) and I tell him he's going to be a long snapper. And then he goes and wins two Super Bowls for New England. We make mistakes, but he ended up being a fantastic player. In the seventh round. you draft a lineman out of Northwestern by the name of Zach Strief. He plays 12 years. He does play by play (for WWL Radio) just because he wants to. And then he becomes an assistant coach here. And you draft Marques Colston with a compensatory seven. So when we talk about the quick window, we all have to get started, earn credibility, get your program off the ground, it has to include the procurement of good players. It has to and we didn't know it then. But those were the pillars along with any free agent that came. Pierre Thomas is going to come a year later. But those were the pillars of young players that we built on now. Mind you, we also signed in free agency Scott Fujita, he came. We knew each other (in Dallas). Mark Simoneau, we acquired a week before the season (opener). Scott Shanle, Drew Brees. That's a pretty good group of free agents. We took a chance on Drew at that time, because quite honestly, we weren't going to win any jump balls. And that's the truth. In other words, we had to be a little overly aggressive to win that. The game if you will, the status quo, it was the best chance we took and so I thank Drew and his wife Brittany and their family. I spoke to him at length last night about this decision for the first time. And he was fantastic. And I did call him during the season. And we discussed him coming back. And I think both of us agreed based on our lineup versus Miami. It was a good thing he stayed and it didn't come (laughter). I also want to thank the players that were here (in 2005) that were ready to win and wanted to join in. Bill (Parcells) taught me that remove the blinders when you're evaluating these guys in understand there's going to be good football players. Deuce we talked about it just a minute ago, Jon Stinchcomb I'm not going to hit everyone, the late Will Smith, Steve Gleason, Charles Grant, Brian Young Freddie Mac (McAfee), there were a number of players on that roster that were thriving for this culture change. And they're in like a little bit training camp at Millsaps. And that was difficult. So there's elements that went into that '06 (camp) that were extremely important. And back to those coaches, myself as the head coach, I kind of feel like we're in this business of serving. We're teachers at heart. And we're grateful to be in this position, quite honestly. I know. For me, it was play until they tell you you can't play anymore. And then it's like, alright, I don't want to leave though. Alright, then you have to coach. And I've always felt grateful to be able to teach and be part of the locker room, even though I wasn't playing. And our roles as teachers are those of service. And so I appreciate that group of coaches and that team and I still say to this day in '06, we've had a lot of teams probably teams that are better, but none tougher than that '06. None tougher than that '06 team. And that leads me back to that whole city rebirth and fan base, and people that's when I grew to know like, holy cow, this is bigger. This is bigger than anything…This is more than just football. I didn't know how to eat a crawfish at that time. I was kind of on the beignets, the King Cakes with cream cheese, a number of things, but everyone wanted to know hey, how do you like it here? And honestly in your first year, when you're not from here. You're figuring it out."
"Here are the players that have gone to a Pro Bowl or been selected (Associated Press) All-Pro in these 16 years. Terron Armstead. I want you to know this about him if there's one thing he is a tremendous leader and a tremendous player. Drew Brees. Jammal Brown Jermon Bushrod, who's working with us now. Tight end Jared Cook, Demario Davis. Tremendous leader, Jahri Evans, Jonathan Goodwin, Jimmy Graham, J.T. Gray, Ben Grubbs, Roman Harper, Deonte Harris, Mark Ingram, Malcolm Jenkins, Cam Jordan, Alvin Kamara, Mike Karney, Marshon Lattimore, Wil Lutz, Thomas Morstead, Carl Nicks, Andrus Peat, Ryan Ramczyk. Jeremy Shockey, the late Will Smith, Jon Stinchcomb, Michael Thomas. Jonathan Vilma, Max Unger, Larry Warford. So here's the problem. When you get married in the offseason, you can't invite your team when you get married somewhere in a different destination, you got to invite maybe your captains of your Super Bowl team but for every one of those players that didn't get an invite, I would have... That would have been awesome. And those that did they spent enough to make up for the rest of you."
"But I'm proud to have had the opportunity to work with so many great players. I'm thankful I mentioned the '06 draft class to get to the '17 draft class. You ready? Because we need another shot in the arm here. Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Marcus Williams, Alvin Kamara, Trey Hendrickson, who's still playing (in the playoffs with Cincinnati) and we wish him well. It's a people business. And the thing that I'm most proud of, is, collectively, in scouting Jeff (Ireland), in your group, and everyone involved in the procurement process, we've consistently found the right people that fit what we're trying to build. I'm not able to mention every player's name. But I am able to thank every player today. I can't hit on every coach, my current staff, I just in a staff meeting told them our record was 9-8, and we didn't get in the playoffs. We're rooting against the Rams right now because of that (laughter). But I'm proud of the job they did. This year, it was extraordinary. So for every coach who's been here, every scout, every staff member, the people that take care of the facilities, the equipment guys, security, the last word I wrote down is the building and I've heard that, that saying it takes a village. And honestly, it takes a building to be successful. Not one year, but it takes a building to be successful. Year after year. And for me to have a chance to be a part of that building, in a position to coach so many of these great players and be around so many of these great people. Jay Romig…I can't hit on everyone, but man, the tireless amount of time and energy people spend, especially in the last two years. I thank them. I thank them all right."
"That's a lot. We're going to have questions here in a minute. I don't know what's next. And it kind of feels good. The last thing I did before I went to bed, a Google search, how not to cry during a speech. And one of the items was drink water, and yawn. Well, I didn't want to yawn. But it worked a little bit (with the water). So with that, I'll open the floor to questions."
"Every year, you go to training camp. And the one unique thing about our job is it's entirely different than your summer. And I don't know if it was a year earlier, maybe depending on when Drew (Brees) retired. Look, he and I never discussed when his last game would be or when I'd be finished. I just felt like this season, it was challenging for everyone. But man, I felt like it was time. I kind of knew maybe heading into training camp this might (be it), but you don't you know, you don't share that with anyone. You think, well, let's see how the season goes and we're working hard and I felt the time was right. For me, I felt the time was right. And it's something that I have been thinking about. I think that you have close friends in the industry. I've lost a few close friends in this industry in the last two or three years. Forget football, there's other things. Spending more time (to do things and with family). There's a lot of sacrifices you make and so not many get to choose their terms. And I looked at it as an opportunity also to, to see my kids more, to travel more, to get in better shape…There's an attrition to (working until two) in the morning, and I know I hear people say, Well, you don't have (to do that). Yeah, I get it, but I need to. That's the way it works for me. And I think the attention to details are so important that it can be exhausting. And so I felt as this season was winding down that it was the right thing. And then the last week and a half. Yeah, I'm comfortable with that. And now here's the thing. Our division so we'd won four divisions in a row, and competed our tail off (against) Tampa Bay this year, (they) won the division and congratulations and yet, man, we battled against them. Atlanta and Carolina, they're working to get things going. And so I like the roster. Yeah, there's some challenges, but, man, we played good defense this year. Man, our kicking game Rizz (Darren Rizzi) and Phil (Galiano) were outstanding. consistently in the top five (Rick Gosselin's special teams ranking), and you see a lot of exciting football, but you also see a lot of bad football and it's hard for the fan to see it. And there's a young group of offensive players (on the roster). But it wasn't about that. It was a personal decision of feeling like you know…It's time. But not with any regret. There's some excitement like alright, what next? I honestly don't know what's next."
Do you feel that way going to training camp every year?
"No, you feel that way going to training camp every year. it's been the last season. Our thing about this game…You guys know this, that the losses are always challenging. The work week (starting) Monday and there's a little bit of grit that defines players and coaches. And when you get the right group you respond. We've had some challenging losses. We've had some great wins. And I've always loved how we've responded, I love when I hear people say, man, your guys play hard. They're tough. And those are important traits that hopefully, we're part of developing. But it still gets back to the players and the people."
How do you want to be remembered?
"It's too early for that yet. I just know this. The question is, how do I want to be remembered is someone who had passion and someone that cared a lot. Winning is important in that, it's important in that. I thought about my mom, if she were alive today, two things I wore this shirt because she always said you have to wear this color (that) matches your eyes. She'd be in her 90s today. Her and my dad are both passed away. But, they'd talk all the time about like leaving a place maybe better than when you got there to begin with. And I think we've done that. And it's not finished. We've got all these coaches that are sitting here with contracts and Mickey (Loomis) and the leadership in place to continue that. But yeah, we're not writing an obituary today. It's a step. Just another direction."
Would there be any thought to returning after a year off or when you would return to coaching?
"Mike (Triplett) that's hard to do any of that. Right. I think in fairness to Dennis (Allen) who's a great candidate in the building or any other coach that that possibly would be hired. I think that there's no half in this game. You're jumping in the deep end, and you're swimming in. If you elect to stay out, then that's fine. But I think that yeah, I think that that's the approach that I think has to be taken.
Any possibility of coaching this year?
"I felt like 10 years went by and we talked about the other team for a lot. And I get it, I understand it. But know that my plans are not to be coaching in 2022. That's just how I feel."
Do you have any kind of message for these fans that are watching this press conference today?
"Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to be your head coach for 16 years. I appreciate each and every one of them. So thank you for sticking with us in the good times, in the tough times. They've been outstanding. And so it's really that feeling of being grateful for having a chance to have been a part of this organization and coach for them. Thank you
Did you talk to a lot of people about this decision?
"Look, when I talk to Skylene or when I talk to my children. This isn't something that you can talk with a (lot of) people about. Today it (was) even (when) my siblings found out. So no, it was really back to trust your gut. And go with your gut. In other words, when does it end? Does it end when you get fired? I said at the beginning, I think it's easier to be fired. As difficult as that is you thank everybody and they say well, we wish him well he made but when you choose to leave I referenced, you know, whether it's been Tony Dungy or whether it's been Bill Cowher, or whether it's been who are the more recent examples just in how to approach this. But yeah, it was a decision ultimately that sat with me and I'm comfortable with it.
What are you most proud of and what is your biggest regret during your head coaching tenure here?
"All right, my biggest regret first, besides the Ninkovich debacle would be the double reverse against Tampa Bay. We ran a double reverse against Tampa Bay in the four-minute lost the game (2007). Then Mickey (Loomis) brought me a study on Ambien and its erratic behavior and mood swings with people; got a lot of regrets. I mentioned one of them. I wish I wish I've done I would have done a better job early on in my career with the media and hopefully, I corrected that. But yeah, there are always going to be personnel regrets decisions. But yeah, the double reverse, the Ninkovich decision that there's a lot there are. It's easy to say you're most proud of a Super Bowl team. But I'm most proud of the culture in the winning seasons. Our first year here was '06. In '07, we played in the Hall of Fame Game. in Canton. We played the Steelers believe it was their 50th…There was an anniversary for Pittsburgh. We had a player that we had just signed. I can't tell you his name, but he was on Pittsburgh's roster (previously). And it was during training camp, so we're talking about a 90-man roster, it was a wide receiver. We go to Canton, we're playing the Steelers, and come to find out. He was cut because the Steelers had found out he had stolen some stuff from the locker room and from some good players there. And so during pregame warm-up for a preseason game, like I noticed the level of intensity is a little bit unusual for pregame. And anyway, we played that game and got waxed. And we did a tour of the museum, the Hall of Fame. And aside from the Katrina exhibit, there wasn't (much resembling the Saints). There wasn't a Hall of Fame player, Rickey (Jackson) was going to go in, I think, a year or two later. And so I talked to the players a little bit about culture. And now many of them weren't aware of the Steelers story, with Chuck Noll in the years there, that they were close and close. And then finally, they get over the hump. And man, that timeframe is, is shorter now for young coaches, for new coaches. But if you can, that you can build something that will stay for a while. And so I would say Larry, it would be the (perspective from) how we're viewed today, by anyone who is 21, 22, or younger, is pretty cool. Pretty good."
What will you miss the most?
"What will I miss most I'll miss the people. There's a feeling when something happens in a game. And you watch one of your players do something and grow that any teacher I think would tell you is awfully rewarding. Regardless of whether he's a starter, a backup, or a practice squad player, but to see them improve or get better and do something extraordinary men. So the relationships and then you know the teaching part of it?"
Is this how you envisioned the ending?
"Honestly, you don't even think about the ending. Like you don't have time to think about what if. You don't have time to think about. So for the last call it maybe a week, I've thought about not the ending, but the presentation of the ending like this. But I don't think when you're young and going fast, and in trying to build something you're ever considering what it's going to be like, there's a motivation, a strong motivation, when you discuss a fear of failure that that's, I think, a very real driving force. I honestly had no idea. (For about) 15 years, you're just focused on just going and winning and winning. And getting more players and people that can help you win. And it doesn't seem like 15 seasons, honestly, it seemed probably more. I always say this when I see the children or our coaches. You know, when I see Dennis Allen's children or Pete Carmichael's children, or CJs (Curtis Johnson) children or Dan Dalrymple. That's what ages you because you remember their ages when you first started. But you see those other people like the same way you don't see the age, really, because you're around them so much."
Can you discuss the frustration of having to sit at home and watch that Tampa game on television?
"Listen, honestly, it wasn't excruciating, because we were winning. It was exciting. I was just like you. Now, not you covering the game, but I was just like you the fan. And you don't know how that game, you're playing a team that just won the Super Bowl. And you don't move your cup because it's in the right spot, all those things took place. And so that was one of that was a really good moment. It was a moment that I was so proud for our players and our coaches. And everyone that was a part of that when that was that was unique, obviously. But it was more just like a fan. There's communication early in the week relative to some early parts of the game plan. But man, those guys on our staff did a great job, everyone. Everyone jumped in and really picked up. The roles maybe were different a little bit. And you know, Ryan Nielsen almost got a bench foul for getting into a shouting match with (Tom) Brady. But you've when you watch that game you saw passion. And, like I told our team, they won the division. They didn't beat us."
Did the method and hours you worked make this more challenging?
"So the way you know how to do it is late in the night early in the morning. Yeah, the question relative to hours and workload, they were all different guys, I worked with Bill (Parcells) or Jon (Gruden) or any of these coaches. We kind of had a formula here yet vary depending on the game. Some weeks weren't as long. Part of it's me just wanted to go through it one more time. Yeah, as a coach, though, you would always be interested in the offseason, when you're at the Combine or the Senior Bowl talking with your peers, other coaches, like Hey, What's your schedule like with? Because we've been in the last five years have been man ever-changing relative to the offseason program that's changed and then look with Covid. It's even changed more. Right? So trying to always figure out the best schedule is something that you talk about to your staff, you talk about it, like, Hey, do you guys think we should be in pads today? We should be? That's something that you're always looking at."
Did this season particularly weigh on you? Was there one specific moment?
"The season did not weigh on me, Mickey (Loomis) knows this. I will be honest with you, and I want this to sound the right way. So we have evacuated a couple times. Right. But we went to Indianapolis. And then I would say we have had three warnings. In all three events, I want to go. I'm like us the perfect chance, not talking about a crisis. But you take a team and their family members in an organization to another city. There is a lot of work and money involved in that. This gets back to Mrs. B. And Dennis, will it help us? Yes. Here is why. And then someday a story on why we chose Jacksonville. And I think Jeff (Duncan), got a lot of it right. Those challenges are exciting. Because I have heard…look, I am not offended…but I have heard a lot of people say, man, he looked exhausted. It was probably more he looked out of shape than exhausted. I'm not offended. I'm alright with that. I'm OK. But that, that gets back to Doug Miller's Zoom. camera angle, honestly. And we miss Greg Bensel being here today. He's getting his gall bladder done. So I told Doug (Miller), I want a little elevation. I do not want any cameras that are just like staring at my neck from two feet away…The season was not exhausting. It was exciting. And us moving for four weeks was perfect. Obviously not for our city. But I'm just saying, relative to building a team, where training camps in the last couple years are just different for obviously, good reasons. And so here came this opportunity to develop a team culture and prepare for another season. And so but this question, you're asking this topic, like, there's been so many more times where Mickey's like, and I'm like, No, let's do it. Let's definitely do this. Mickey's like, it's a thunderstorm (laughter). Like, that's all right, we can, we can go somewhere, we can do something that heightens the level of awareness. Burnout stress and I understand that. Now, think about it. Mike (Triplett), when does the question get asked? No one asked the fired coach if he was (suffering) burnout. Right. You asked him, Hey, how was your time here? What are you going to do next, what have you and so we'll figure it out? It is like the next challenge sometimes like what's next."
Was there a specific moment that led you to this decision?
"Yeah, I don't think there was one moment. No, there wasn't a moment where it's like, holy cow. Look, no one had fun the week we played Miami. That was what it was and I understand it. But no, there wasn't that moment where you came back in and said, All right. There were moments that you felt like man, I don't want to be grumpy about something, soured on something. I'm pretty upbeat. And I would say raised by my mom in a way and I say this, both my parents (were upbeat), but my mom was very optimistic. And I think those traits, I feel like I'm that way. So there's times where you get heated in the game. And whether it's a player, coach, or anyone you might have just (pointed something out to), but I don't really think about it the next day. So there were there was not that (moment where I felt) this is it. I can't point to one."
Have you talked to many of your players?
"Well, I've only had a chance to talk with a few of them. It's kind of hard. Once again, it gets back to how do you do this? You have a team meeting (if something happens right at the end of the season when the team is still together) and then read about it all? I'll have a chance over the next couple of weeks to visit with a number of players. I saw Mike Thomas earlier. I saw Demario (Davis). I just missed Cam (Jordan). But one by one I'll have a chance to visit with these guys. It's difficult when everyone leaves after the season."
Do you have opinions about what the organization should do next in hiring its next head coach that you will share with the team's leadership or with us?
"Mickey and I barely (have had extensive discussions at this point). We shared time just discussing this with Miss Gayle and Dennis. That all take place at the right time. Listen, I will always have a place in a part of me here. I'm waiting to move into another residence. But those decisions will come with (time). I just had a meeting with the staff and reflected on a number of things and hopefully, you make an impression like others before me made an impression with me that I don't even know it, but maybe that I'm passing on to, to future head coaches, future coordinators, future GMs. Because I want every one of them to realize those dreams, like I root for Doug Marrone when he's been a head coach (in Buffalo and Jacksonville), and now at Alabama, and Curtis (Johnson) at Tulane, and Dennis (Allen) at Oakland, and any of these people that were part of this process here, regardless of where they're at, you root for them. I do, and because you want to see them have success. And it's important to our program and no different than our players. I think it's the hardest thing for a player sometimes when, when they end up on a different roster. Man, we're pulling for you. I'm pulling for Vonn Bell and Trey (Hendrickson), Eli (Apple) a little bit (laughter)."
Do you have any professional plans for the short term or long term?
"The short term is nothing. But I'll have to go to the Super Bowl for some marketing commitment(s) with Zebra, and that's great. They do a great job. And I enjoy working with their technology and meeting with some people. I'd like to try TV. And I've had some opportunities (as a guest analyst). I talked to Drew (Brees) a little bit about it last night. I don't I don't know that part of it that well. But that would be something that would interest me. And so I think the hardest part is sitting in your chair saying wait a minute, you haven't talked with a network yet? You haven't talked with (other opportunities)? Not a word. So hopefully that opportunity comes?"
Is there some stepping out of a personal comfort zone with this decision?
"Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, it's the unknown. All of us, we all get comfortable with certain things, right? We get comfortable in certain shoes, you know, you don't know it until your better half tells you you're going to wear that again? And you realize that it's on like a four-day rotation instead of a 12-day rotation, we get comfortable in our jobs, we get comfortable in our relationships, we get comfortable. And every once in a while, and I think this probably plays a big part of it…It's you don't want to have a regret relative to another challenge or another (opportunity). Retirement, I don't think is the right word today."
Have you had this type of uncertainty in your life before regarding that you aren't exactly sure what's directly ahead?
"I went through that year of trying to play (pro football) after college. Friends are getting married, and other friends have (jobs with) health insurance, normal stuff. They are out of college and I'm bouncing around from the Arena (Football) League to the CFL as a backup, (playing) over in London. your parents are like, what are you going to do? And I am like, well…I got hired by Steve Devine at San Diego State, he was in charge of graduate assistants. They had four then. I got hired over the phone. I flew from London to Chicago, Naperville where I am from. I had a (Chevrolet) Cavalier, it was an older car. I drove from Chicago to San Diego, I broke down in Denver. I didn't have enough money to have my car fixed (properly). So the guy helped me out. And there would have been a trip where you're like, man, what are you doing? Like, this is what you are doing and you have to. That is pretty powerful. Like you have to you have to. You have to be successful. Like whatever it is, you have to figure it out quick. And generally speaking, it is work hard, make a good impression. And so I am sure John (DeShazier) there has been other moments. Man, there's been setback. Just talking with Dan Roushar (at the) University of Illinois we get fired as a staff and (we are curious) where are we going. I think if you look at the path of a lot of coaches, there's that same adversity, maybe that, that also appears with players' paths, an injury or a setback. And this one's a little unique in that it's like you're choosing to go outside in the cold and do this. You are choosing to (to do this). But that's okay."
Did the ending of the 2018 NFC Championship game take a lot to get over?
"No, that was a hard way to end the season. No, I think we felt like, in all of these years, they run together. Look, we've won more games in the last five years than any team in the NFL except the Chiefs. And I'm proud of that. And unless your name is Bill Belichick or Tom Brady, all of us are running after the next one and the next one. And Andy (Reid) is wanting to get this next one. And Sean (McVay), is wanting to get his first one. Kyle is (Shanahan) wanting to get his first one. It's challenging, and difficult, and chasing it. Because here's the thing. And I think the hardest thing about the 18th season is you're a game away (from the Super Bowl). You get more excited for the players and the coaches on your team that have never been (there). They don't understand (how life-changing it is). And I recall saying this a number of times, I don't know what you think it's like to be in a Super Bowl and win it. So picture that question posed to a player or for that matter in any manner, anyone in here as part of the organization. And then I want you to times it by 100,000. That's how good it is. And it's like, really? 200,000. And even when you look back on those moments where, in '09 when the season ended, you're not ready to stop playing. You're like, I don't want this to stop. And so the frustration later in your career, is you know, you've watched something or done something and you can't wait to show your friend like, what do you see (in) this movie, and you really want to watch it again, almost more than they want to watch it for the first time. Or experience like when you try this dish and you're like, I don't want to try that. You're like no, I will eat it with you. That is the Super Bowl. And so that is one of the things that you look forward to doing is watching others reactions like when you see pregame warmup you're not going to feel your feet. Those are the things you (want others to feel). Mike Westhoff who's been in the league for however many years this is going to be his first chance. That's what you want for the players, the coaches, and everyone new in the building that that wasn't around for that (first one) it's the journey. To be part of it is the most amazing part."
What would it be like to possibly be looking at this thing from a fan or watching perspective in Week One in September?
"So I haven't seen the schedule yet. So I don't know if it's week one at home or on the road. Now, I think it'll be different. It was different. It was different in 2012 for sure. It was different for one game this year against Tampa but that ended up being pretty good."
If you had not won a Super Bowl, would that have maybe pulled you to a different decision today?
"I don't know that that impacted today, Mike (Triplett). It's a great question. Would this day be more difficult to step away as you not won a Super Bowl yet? But the problem is like, one is not enough. It is not enough. And championship games (are not enough). I called Mike Tomlin during this season, Mike Tomlin became the fourth-fastest coach to win his 150th game in the history of the NFL. And I knew that he was three weeks ahead of me. And it was bugging me. And he did it after 232 games (and) four weeks later we do it and I call him and I said, Look, I got to the gas station and they told me you were already here. And it drove me crazy. So there are all these things that are competitively in you that you want to excel at. And that's why I get back to and I say this with, with all due respect, and I mean that when we got here who's doing this better than anyone? And if you weren't studying New England, then you weren't paying attention. So anytime Bill (Belichick) would say or ask, Would you like to practice (in training camp)? Yes. And then when you're practicing, you were kind of like, Can we come in? Like, what do you mean? Can I look at your locker room? Can we look at your weight room? We want to learn? And I always find it (interesting). Look, I understand it's their job, but the whole discussion of was it the chicken or the egg? Bill or Tom (Brady). Tom or Bill? Are you kidding me? Like, alright, the Hall of Fame is pretty special. And it's got a tremendous legacy of players and coaches and people that have been involved in the game. And so now picture this for a second, Jeff (Duncan-Hall of Fame voter), you need to pick a starting lineup out of the hall and a head coach. And once their legacy is finalized, the head coach is Bill and the quarterback is Brady. And we can argue about every other position. I have opinions on who the receivers are. I have opinions on who the tackles are, who the defensive backs are. There's no argument relative to (who the head coach and quarterback are). There might be a backup Q, might be the assistant head coach that will help with defense. But that was the team and that was the crash course. How are they (accomplishing this)? And you know what? Culture, smart players, selflessness, team, all those things, and obviously a fantastic surrounding cast and a great quarterback like we were able to acquire here with Drew."
Get a look at the unique bond between New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton and legendary quarterback Drew Brees throughout their years in New Orleans.
Comfort level in this and contributions of Drew Brees and Mickey Loomis to your success as a head coach
"I'm telling you, it's like someone said, Hey, this is where you're going to be after 48 minutes. I'd be like, I'll take it because I worry about stumbling. When I talk with Mickey or about Mickey I worried about stumbling. When I talk about Drew Brees (I worry about) stumbling meaning having to drink this water and I'm just bringing up two examples. But personally, what those two people have meant to my career, you can't put a price on it. So I don't know that I feel comfortable. But I began to feel more comfortable I think after I gave Mrs. Benson the Ted Lasso biscuit."
Was it tough coming to this with the timing?
"It's hard. You know you have something you have to do and like you're just…you're not procrastinating it because quite honestly, it's a little embarrassing in that we're right in the middle of the playoffs you don't want to be (upstaging). We just had a great weekend of football. Unbelievable and we're getting ready to have another great weekend with the championship games and so you don't want to be a distraction to that honestly. And so it's kind of like that you want it to hurry up and you want to do it. And then it's like alright, how do I how do you do a good job of it? And do you thank everybody? Like who am I missing today? I'm sure I'm missing someone and I apologize but as a player here, as a coach here, someone that was a part of our organization. It's the building that's what I'm most proud of and that's what I'm grateful for."
Did you sleep OK last night?
"Well, that went back to the irrational behavior with Ambien. I slept OK."
Talking about how time flies with this
"Well, here's what happens sometimes Katherine (Terrell). The game (an actual game) ends. Like, alright, Connor and Megan Connor was maybe nine, when we won a Super Bowl, Megan 13. I'm just guessing ages, right? But I have pictures of them on the podium, Connor blowing a bubble, and Megan with a broken forearm from cheerleading. And man life is good to be the child of a coach who's just won that Super Bowl. And then there are these other games where it's been a tough loss. They see you afterwards. They're not tearful, but they're emotional. And they're like, how are you? And I'm like, I'm alright. It's what I do. But it's not who I am. And now they're at an age where they understand that. My daughter after seeing this over, the period of her young life decided I'm going to cover coaches and be a reporter on coaches, and my son who wants to become (an employee) in the front office someday scout and be a GM someday said I'd rather hire and fire the coaches. That's what I'd rather do (laughter). And he's awfully smart."
What's your advice for the next head coach of this franchise?
"I think there's two or three cities (like this). So Larry (Holder) asked a question (on) head coaching advice. You have to be yourself. The best advice I ever got and it was in a book. My head coach in high school, this gets back to being touched by the right people, and you don't even know what's happening. But as a parent, the greatest gift you can ever receive is when someone, teacher, music teacher, professor, anyone of influence loves your child for a short period of time every bit as (much as) you love them. That's pretty powerful. Like when someone makes an impact with your child that's (special). My high school coach did and it wasn't always perfect. But he had in the cover of his book (of rules), just be fair, it's much easier to be fair than trying to appear to be fair. You know how much trouble you get into when you're trying to appear (to) something then (that's what you aren't). That was pretty good. Relative to the fan base (you need) to sink it in and take it in. And it's a great football fan base. There might be two or three others in the world like it similar to (it). Man, how fortunate, like for me at a young age (for a head coach) to happen on a head coaching position with it. '06 season like right after and look some things like we got off to a decent start in '06. (We win a) tough game at Cleveland. I can remember like was yesterday. I can remember the song playing on the field pregame and it was a country song about Sundays or something. I can remember Green Bay is when the first time I thought Drew's (Brees) arms going to be okay and I kept yelling at Pete (Carmichael) before then like is this it? And Drew knows this story. Because I didn't have (direct working relationship with Drew), Pete had the reference as to what it was when it was fully recovered. But he made a (touchdown pass) to (Marques) Colston on a pylon for a touchdown. We came back, we were down 13. We won that game (and then) in Atlanta (Superdome reopening) week three, and then all of a sudden, like anything else, you guys have heard me say this, confidence can develop, but it's from demonstrated behavior. And that's what you're watching right now, when you watch San Francisco play. Like it's evolving. And they're the team that Tampa was a year ago. And that's powerful in sport."
Talking about some of the relationships here:
"I think that's an easy question. I think any time you're discussing relationships, it's the willingness that both parties have in making sure it's strong. And I think relative to Drew being the quarterback for that long, or Mickey (Loomis) and I, or Pete (Carmichael), or any coach, it's the common goal of like, No. 1, we like each other. But also we each want to (succeed). We're each pushing for the same success. And so those like-minded goals are positive. And I think they help that."
Did anybody try to talk you out of this decision?
"Mickey, Gayle and Dennis (laughter). That's it. I mean, because I didn't talk with anyone (else). But Mickey, then down the hall to Gayle. And then down the hall to Dennis in that order. And then Dennis again and Mickey and Gayle."
How you spent the time pondering this decision so you would feel good about your decision?
"I spent a week confirming what I believed and that was smart. But I wouldn't say man, we finished the Atlanta game, beating Atlanta, in the locker room watching the end of that (Rams-49ers) game. And overtime, that it was like, well, this is it. I wasn't saving programs. I think it was something a little bit more. I thought it could be it. This might be it and if this is it, and you beat Atlanta one more time, that's pretty cool."
How did you organize your thoughts in arriving at the decision?
"I don't know that you have to organize your thoughts. Arriving at the decision is more or more than just give thought to why? In other words? How do you see this next year unfolding? There's like a lot of things, you put a list together, things that you want to do like simple things, and then a list of more complex things, and then a list of like, what you'd like to do. And you weigh it against…This is important. I've got three more years under contract here. So I've just completed year two of a five-year deal, and it certainly wasn't about compensation, money, or any of that. Because of that, I'm able to make a decision, where there's uncertainty and yet it's a decision you couldn't make when you were younger because you had to work. That's all."
How much do you think the Saints brand has been elevated?
"How much? I think when you win this is always funny. I'd argue with the marketing people (I) think you got to win before you can market and marketing's extremely important but man the view never changes when you're on top and in that part the importance of having success and that's how we're measured in highly competitive field, that's extremely important. You work three years for a Hall of Fame coach like Parcells, you learned so much and prior to that you work for the New York Giant organization, go to a Super Bowl, playoffs you learn a lot. The Mara family, Tisch family, all those people that were instrumental in my early growth. Philadelphia, the Lurie family and my first job (in the NFL), getting hired by (Jon) Gruden and Ray Rhodes and those guys and here's the staff you ready; '97-98 John Harbaugh, myself, David Shaw, Gruden Juan Castillo line coach, (Joe) Vitt, coach forever, Emmitt Thomas Hall of Fame player, great coach Mike Trgovac. I'm going to keep going Bill Callahan, former head coach. All of us just working and to later then see the success that (that everyone had). And to be just a small (part of those staffs), like when I say man get coffee, cut up tape, but be able to be a part of stuff like that. It's not until later that you were like man, I was fortunate."
Are there any events you might have wanted to participate in that you have the time to do now?
"Thanksgivings are always good. (Sometimes) we play on Thanksgiving. It's not difficult. Christmas is hard. And I don't know. Outside of that, I thought Jazz Fest was like late summer. Oh, so yeah, Jazz Fest is not impossible. We haven't had it in a while. The biggest thing is the stuff you miss with your families and your children in…They're older now but they open up a gift and like it like. Yeah, but I know Mom bought it. I mean, it's hard. Some of those things are hard. But I think that's the case with any job. There's certain pros and certain cons, and so whether it's a night job, whether it's a day job, whether it's weekends, you're whether you're in the military, but I'm sure there'll be things. I haven't gone to a tailgate ever. And I go by one like every day on the way to the Superdome with the way I come in. I see them and I'm like they're having more fun than me right now. Make a left and a right go through the stadium parking and then it's always tough getting out, leaving but those people aren't worried about third down."
Will there still be Jeni's ice cream?
"Jeni's will still be possible I promised the tradition. What's the best way to say it for the near and coming future. So we do a thing here. Jeni's ice cream has been great and Christmas gifts get old after a while, the turkeys, the hams, whatever it is. But I think that's one little tradition. I was late this year. Sorry. And I guarantee I didn't probably hit everyone I always have where we make sure Greg (Bensel), Doug (Miller), we check this list. Is there anyone we are missing? But the challenge this year scheduling-wise was unique. So that'll be ongoing."
Looking back here at the facilities and also even in this indoor, how some things have changed over the past 16 years?
"Yeah, facility-wise this, this indoor was a great facility for us. We've changed how it looks, we are fortunate right down the road to have Crystal Clear Imaging, and you can pretty much take a picture and within, two days, blow it up and have it here. The banners (division titles, playoffs, and Super Bowl Cchampionship). Those have changed. There's a lot more of them. Weight room's completely different, meeting rooms, interior design. When I was suspended, there's was a remodel of the building. And Mrs. B was real smart to take advantage of that. And so I had like an old deer head and I never hunted before and an alligator. I had all these things that sat in the office of like, the stereotypical coach that you remember on TV. And when I came back, the building had been remodeled. And there was like an oriental carpet that's still in there. Pictures were like, to the tee. And I appreciate that. And so, so much has changed. And every year it's changing. We always felt like we wanted the players to come back to a look that was necessary but also different. A new training room which was remarkable a big deal. The locker room, cafeteria here in the future, the meeting rooms that are getting redone now. It's always improving, moving forward, not necessarily for recruiting. But really moreso for functionality and being (state of the art) Do we need it? Alright, and then what is it we need? And then let's do it and back to Dennis, Mrs. B, Mickey, and everyone that's a part of that. And it's important that it starts with do we need it? How's it going to benefit us?"