New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton
Conference call with New Orleans media
Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021
I think you referenced how Tampa's evolved offensively. What specifically have you seen, I guess from week one to now because they've gone through several processes like most teams do during the season?
"I think every year you see that, but I even think more so this year with, you've got to remember, relatively no offseason. So someone like Tom (Brady) that comes to a new club, you're not provided those normal OTAs, call it minicamps where you're having opportunities to begin to put in a system. And I think that, without speaking for them, I think we saw that progression, that has probably still evolved throughout the course of the season. And quite honestly, with us the same way. I think, the minute as a team, I mean, sure, we want to correct mistakes, but I think you're constantly evaluating your scheme and the progress you're making and the changes you need to make and then what suits the personnel, especially if the personnel is fairly new. And so I think you've seen that. I believe I've seen that when I'm watching their offense, and this last half of the season or last third of the season, I think they're playing at a very high level."
During a normal season with normal circumstances, as you're going through that process with your own team, is there like a typical point where you would normally kind of know all those things and have it kind of settled?
"Well, it's never finally settled. I don't mean that, but you're always learning during the year about somebody who's playing better and not playing as well. But you have the benefit of a little bit more clarity as to what you think you want to be. And then some of the finer details of route depth, timing, protections, formation variations, some of those things, you're further along with. Yeah, and look, every team, all of us, we've all evolved this year, it's been a little different. It's been a lot different. But it's forced every one of us to make subtle changes, and then quickly adapt."
When you're looking at Drew (Brees) and Tom (Brady), I know there's so much that goes into their success and their sustained success over the years. But how much of it maybe, especially with Drew Brees, in your opinion, how competitive he is? Whether it's competing against himself in training, competing against other teams on Sundays, that sort of thing."
"Yeah, I think if you listed four traits that these elite players have. And this isn't about a comparison, or any of that. It's just good to great, what's the difference? There's a lot of good quarterbacks that we've seen throughout. And there's a lot of good quarterbacks that maybe end up in the Hall of Fame, but what's unique, you would have to put competitive nature in both of these top five traits. And you can decide where you want to put it, but it's certainly, arguably, in the top three. In other words, there's a there's a gift, athletically, of throwing the football, there's a work ethic, grind that fits in with this competitive (nature). I mean, just the mental and physical grind of what they do, is hard to even begin to fathom, relative to the preparation each week, each season. Countless receivers, I'd be curious to know the number of tight ends, receivers and running backs that these two have worked with in their careers. And just think about the mesh point, the play action, the route depth, the shallow cross, the timing of a deep end, the timing, this is all to get ready to play your best on a Sunday. And so that attention to detail, I mean, it's, just speaking from my vantage point of watching Drew is pretty impressive. And it can be exhausting."
Do you see that manifest even away from the football field like on the golf course?
"Absolutely, yeah, this isn't just like the old sheep dog and the fox where you just punch in and this doesn't go away. Some of you are too young to remember that cartoon."
I have to admit, I don't remember that cartoon. Sorry.
"Most of you are. It was kind of it was kind of cool."
*With the specialists you signed and released from the practice squad the other day, now that they're through the onboarding process, can they just keep testing every day? And I guess be available in case you need them, even though they're not signed at the moment? *"Pretty much so. Yeah, I mean, the key is the on-boarding. The key is the daily testing. The key is all of that. Pretty much so. We just don't want to be put in a position where, man, all of a sudden, it's Saturday. Or even on gameday, someone runs into your kicker or your long snapper. And then you're starting to say, well, we're not going to see him until Saturday in preparation for the next game, so we're kind of moving pieces."
If you had to go out there and kick a field goal, I wouldn't mind seeing that. That would give us something interesting to write about.
"It's been the whole season (laughter). What better drama, the Saints don't have any running backs. They're going to play the Panthers tomorrow, tune in. Well, I'm going to watch that game if I wasn't already. And so I think that element, it was impressive when you watch the Browns the other day and watch them playing a playoff game and they're missing a bunch of their important coaches, their play-caller and then you get introduced to new people. Yeah, I think it's good for television, so yeah, new kicker. Shoot, make it an overtime game-winner."
One day, this is going to make a really good NFL film. I bet they're already working on it.
"My gosh, I think you're right. It's historic, really. I mean, I mean that. You can reference this league, way back having played during, or taking a break during World War II, and just all these different things. This is something that's unusual, you know, I remember 9/11 and how that impacted our season, which was really, for the most part, a whole weekend of games pushed back to the end of the season. And that Super Bowl, I believe, was here in New Orleans. There are these moments in time that I think if, we are fortunate to be a little bit in the sports industry, because it keeps moving eventually. And it doesn't pay attention to the economy, to these other things and certainly some of the challenges this year, we've all had to deal with and we're continuing to."
In any way does that make you, I don't want to say prouder of the job you've done, but I mean, have you been challenged and tested and happy to be here after seeing all those hurdles this year?
"Listen, I'm very happy and appreciative. And, but depending on what day of the week that you get me, I mean, it's not DEFCON 5, but there's a lot of different moving parts. (Drew) Brees gave me a book called 'Breathe.' I don't know if that was a hint. But, it's the art of breathing properly through your nose and calming yourself. And I think, I do feel like I do a better job or we do a better job of spending more time on the things we can control, because it's exhausting if you try to pay attention to every, or give that amount of attention to every detail, you know. So, you know, what can we control? And then, let's go play."
Are you better at that now than you were in your first five years?
Was there a turning point or that's gradual?
"I think, gradual. What was the first year you guys got the ice cream?"
(Mike Triplett): That was the year?
"Yeah,I'm teasing. I think it's gradual."
Along those lines, I know you're deep in preparation, and the attention to detail it takes to game plan for a game like this. But is there a part of you as a fan or historian with the game that appreciates this matchup with Drew (Brees) and Tom Brady and what it means historically?
"Not yet. I get what it means. But I think, while you're still in a position to control history, that takes precedence over admiring or looking at history. And so, it's not daunting, it's like, man, we're still writing history. So, I don't want to look back yet when we can impact it. But, I just certainly have that appreciation, though. Look you kind of felt like this is a team, we were going to end up playing again. I did."
Why is that? Why did you feel that way?
"Well, it's pretty common. This year was unusual. Here's something unusual, normally the two seeds, home for the first game, bye the first week. And normally the two seed is, we don't play week one, we're home in front of 70,000 people, you can't hear a word. But they added the seventh team this year. So basically, the four divisions, three of them got two, two, two and the East received one. And when you just looked at our schedule, and you knew two we're going to come out of the South, that was pretty apparent midway through the season. I think it is pretty common. This is the third time for me, maybe the fourth that, in my NFL career that I am playing a division team that was in our division, that we've already played. At the Giants, we had played the Eagles during the regular season. And then sure enough, had them in the first round divisional game. It happened with us in Carolina here a few (years ago). I think it is pretty common. We saw the Rams and the 49ers or the Rams and the Seahawks. I'll bet (between those teams) there was that feeling like, we're going to see each other again."
Is there a challenge in that Sean, in preparation and gameplan?
"No, each one's different. I think it's a good question. But, it's the first two days you're having deja vu of these games. And, oh, these were thoughts and ideas. Nope, that wasn't Carolina. That was Tampa, and then you get brought back into things that are applicable, you didn't run last time. And you begin to put your plan together. But, I think that, I think it is what it is for both teams. There's a little bit more familiarity with personnel and some of the nuances. But you read, oh it's hard to beat a team for the third time, whatever. And I think statistically speaking, it is in the 60 some percentile that you do (win the third) or you do not? I think that is a little bit of a mess. If you really do the math."