New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Conference Call with New Orleans Media
Wednesday, January 13, 2021
We know that you guys have been working on the development of Deonte (Harris) as a receiver, what are some of the things he's improved on as he's gone along?
"Well, he's someone that has good instincts, and the trick is, how do we get him the ball in space quickly? And I think when we're able to do that, oftentimes, he can make the first guy miss. So yeah, there are some skills. And I think he's a pretty savvy player, he understands the game and leverage. And that helps a lot."
When you're coaching a guy like C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who has the ability to kind of get in an opponent's head, how do you kind of find that balance to get him to be able to do that and stay true to himself and still not hurt the team?
"Well, true to himself better be in line with the team. And so, that's important, it's not okay, if you're drawing personal fouls. And I think that's something he's been good at. He understands where the line is. And he has to, because everyone's counting on him."
How did you think Cesar Ruiz did this week against Akiem Hicks?
"Not bad. A tough matchup. I think he was probably better in some of the protection elements. There's some things in the run game we have to clean up. But overall, solid."
How do you see the battle at linebacker going against (Lavonte) David as well as Devin White?
"Those are two real good players. They have good instincts, run well and are smart. So it's a challenging front, it's a challenging defense. But, that tandem's outstanding."
How did you see Tom Brady sort of evolve in Bruce Arians' offense as this season went on? Anything in particular that you think he's doing really well down the stretch?
"Well, I think they're playing well down the stretch. And I think you're seeing a combination, or a hybrid, whatever you want to call it. It really is unimportant, what you call it, it's this year's Tampa offense. And I think what you are seeing is the timing, the down the field throws and I think they're operating as efficiently as I've seen yet this year. I mean, they're getting the ball down the field. Antonio's (Brown),, you can see the deep shots to him, post, the gos, the seams. I think Tom's throwing it outstanding."
We're talking so much about Tom Brady and Drew Brees heading into this game. But what do you think we're missing as it relates to this matchup between these two teams? What should we be focusing a little bit more on?
"History would tell you, the offense and defensive lines of both teams are going to be important. That's generally where you're going to win or lose these games. And then the ball security. We talk all the time about that. I think the kicking game's big, too. And so look, it's a division opponent. It's someone we're familiar with, obviously. They're the same way. And here we end up with this third game. It kind of felt like all along that this might be the case."
I want to ask you about, a little bit of a leadership question about your style of leading your team and how you feel comfortable, maybe dancing with players after the game or getting slimed, and yet still being the authority figure and leader of the team and that fine line of walking that and how it connects to some of your younger players?
"Yeah, look, I think, man, we're so much different now, relative to coaching these players than we were in '06, '07, '08. In just how we present, how we teach. And I think there's an old adage, we adapt or we die. And I think that certainly falls on the teacher. You know, how they learn is different than how they learned. And that's constantly changing. And so, it's not just music, it's not just the visuals. But you know, the days of putting up a PowerPoint presentation or just a simple chart on a screen, that's got to be done with a movie scene. That's got to be done, We are still going to make the point. And we have to be a little bit more creative in how we do it. And I think lastly, and most importantly, we have to be ourselves too. And we cannot try to be someone we are not. And one of the great parts of this job, for me and for us as coaches is we get to be around young athletes and young people in general. And I think that's pretty good."
I was just going to follow up and ask you, what would Bill Parcells think of your gritty dance?
"What would he think? Well, listen, I think he follows us and he recognizes where we are at. And I think Bill (Parcells) was a pretty good dancer back in the day. Bill (Parcells) would probably say something like, well, that's just such and such, we were doing that back in, it's got a different name. In other words, it's already been, someone's already, someone else already invented that. But anyway, look, he understands human nature, he was very good. What people don't realize is, is how much he made you laugh and how much he could, he could pull you in, there was a personality about him, much different than what might appear from the outside. And you just didn't have 50,000 cell phones recording every second, every minute of the day. And the network, having a camera in the locker room, then next thing in the coach's office, and pretty soon, it's just The Truman Show."
You know, you talk about sort of the things that you've learned and you've got to adapt or you die. You know, one of the things that we've seen is some of the ways of thinking as you approach the season, the way you bubbled the players early, and even the way you managed some of these injuries. Where did some of that come from? I know you don't like to talk about the way the last two seasons ended. But does that come with just evaluating how we do things better? Or how we evolve?
"I think culture is first. I think it's first and foremost, you know, you're seeing staffs be shaken up right now. It's that time of the year, coaches are getting fired, new coaches are getting hired. And it is the time of the year where the GMs, you start hearing them come out of their little peepholes and they start having comments. And so, I think it's culture, before anything else. It's culture before marketing (or) analytics. And it is getting the right environment, and then finding the right players to fit that culture. And you become a little battle tested. And look, you start losing track of the games, and just keep winning and winning and winning. And that is what we are paid to do. And obviously, you want to be the last one standing, which is very difficult. But that's the goal. And I think it's still embracing the most important element, and that is your locker room, and the players in it. And anything outside of that puts you behind."
You signed Blair Walsh, and (John) Denney, over the past couple of days, I guess, what does that just say to having to be prepared for every potential contingency moving forward?
"Yeah, look, the onboarding process doesn't match an injury or COVID process. And I don't really feel like trying to kick or hold or snap. And so, it allows us to have them in the building. And then, put them to the practice squad and shuffle the roster a little, and if something were to happen to one of our specialist positions, you know, the answer is here. And we've just got some flexibility now. And I think that would be difficult if something were to happen. So it's kind of trying to think outside the box a little bit at each position."
Are you treating them kind of like how the Eagles did with Josh McCown and like shipping them away? Or will they be in the building, practicing and everything like that?
"Yeah, we're not looking at the Eagles for any model. But, these guys will be away (from certain other players). And we've got some flexibility as to how we bring them on and bring them off the roster."
You've got Drew Brees' birthday on Friday, do you have anything special planned for him?
"Oh, just a good red zone plan, short yardage and goal line (laughter). honestly, one of the tough things about this job is, it's not very, number one it's not very Christmas friendly, because it just falls in season and there's pressure. And the timing does not always work out and there's a game that's going to happen that week. This year it worked out pretty interesting that we played on Christmas day. But, you manage Thanksgiving, you know at least that is going to be on a Thursday. And so, a quick atta-boy, a quick shout out. And then, here we go, here's your red zone and goal line section. And I think that's probably how he would want it too."
When you're looking at a situation like bringing in you know, the kicker and long snapper, is it more of a determination of, you know, which position might be decimated if something were to happen?
"Well, I have a punter in the building, right? I have a punter in the building. I don't have another long snapper in the building. Now, I have another long snapper on gameday. But, another long snapper that I can access, should something happen. And then, I don't have another kicker. But, I have one now. And so, it's just kind of having like, alright, where are we going if...where are we going if all the running backs have COVID or have close contacts? Well, fortunately, Ty (Montgomery) is over with the receivers. And that's who we're going to use. So it's really just that. We have a punter in the building as a plan B. And now we have a long snapper and a kicker."
When you mentioned the line play earlier, how do you think the Saints' defensive line affected the previous two matchups?
"Did you watch the second game? How did you think they affected that matchup? I thought it was significant. The quarterback that has, a thousand-one, a thousand-two, a thousand-three, versus the quarterback that has just, a thousand-one, a thousand-two or depending on where you're from. The time and the clock in their heads is so important for both of those players, in any good quarterback, that trying to disrupt that position is going to be important. I think it's going to be very important in this game."
It almost seemed like they made the game kind of worse, Bruce (Arians) to reconsider protection plans and that they kind of evolved over the second half of the season since then?
"Yeah. I don't know. It sounds nice. When you look at the film, they're getting the ball down the field. And I can't say that. Look, they're in six man protections. They're in five man protections, their play action heavy. It's just finding a way with your coverage in front to slow the decision down for these guys and to hurry up the pass rush."
I've got one other question for you, Coach. When you look at your opposition, these playoff losses, you know, they've scored in the final 10 seconds. And when you look at Tom Brady, especially this season, they've gotten off to a really slow start in the first half, and then they rally back in the second half. I know you always tell your guys to play, until the final whistle. But, how important is it against the team like this, especially in the playoffs?
"Well, they're number one in the league in second half scoring differential. So in other words, they're first of 32. Obviously, this is going to be a game decided through four quarters, not in the first or second or even third quarter. And so, finishing will be important for both teams. But they've done a really good job of that, particularly in the second half."