New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, November 25, 2009.
Q: When you were watching the Patriots' offense in 2007, did you have any idea that could ever be duplicated?
SP: No, I think the thing that really has been impressive-and I just finished talking to our media about it-is really the staying power organizationally that they've had over 10 years. I don't think you look to duplicate, or try to duplicate. We spend more time doing all the right things and trying to pay close attention to what New England's done as an organization. Certainly, they've been at the forefront of our league and - I said this earlier - if you're in business, it would be silly not to pay attention to how they've been successful, their formula and their recipe. We tried when we came in '06 to begin to change the culture. We've got all the film at our disposal so we spent a lot of time looking through the top teams, not just offensively, but on defense and the kicking game. They're an organization that's done a lot of things well, overall, for a long period of time. We pay close attention each year to the different things that they're doing to have success.
Q: So how are you guys doing in getting there, so far?
SP: We still have a long ways to go. When you say 'there,' where they've been is pretty impressive. When you look at the playoff wins that they've shared in, there have been new faces there, and yet there's Bill [Belichick] and Tom [Brady and] there have been a number of people in the organization that have remained constant. When you have the success that they've had, certainly players and coaches are in demand. Through that turnover each year - to Bill's credit and to their team's credit - they've been able to develop young players, and come back out and win very impressively. I think looking closely at who's at the top of your industry or your business is smart. They clearly will be the best team we've seen to date on our schedule. You look at the speed and the way they're playing defensively - and they're a scoring defense. They have an offensive line that has great continuity. You can go on and on and on.
Q: I know obviously in 2003, you had already been an offensive coordinator for quite some time. But how did your experience with Coach Bill Parcells really prepare you for being a head coach?
SP: Well, I mean, there are so many things that in working with a guy like Parcells that you learn on a daily basis. I thought Bill was outstanding at understanding the human element of the game, and the preparation side of our game, and getting a team and an organization going in the right direction. To have three years of that is invaluable. I consider myself fortunate that I had those opportunities. Certainly, there's a lot of development and growth that takes place. And you begin to formulate and think about your own plan. His legacy is pretty impressive and the people that he's touched along the way is pretty impressive.
Q: Obviously you talk about that and a lot of guys have worked for him is there any one hallmark that they carry that his program is all about?
SP: There's obviously - as you mentioned - a number of different coaches and none of which are the same or none of whom are the same. There's going to structure and there's going to be ... There have been coaches that have been with him longer than others. You really date back and you really look at the history of Parcells and Belichick and the success that they've had - dating back to the Giants and then forward - is very impressive, and something that all of us hope to someday enjoy and understand how hard it is and how challenging it is, week-in and week-out to win in our league.
Q: Did you make a call to him this week?
SP: No, I spoke to him last week. Right now, we've just been busy with the game plan and it's hard in season to touch base with a lot of people just because of the schedule.
Q: Bill Belichick was talking about the many layers of your offense. How long has it taken to get to that level, to that complexity so that it's easy enough for your quarterback and your receivers to execute?
SP: Well, I think there's some change year to year with personnel that you've got to be willing to adjust with. Drew [Brees] is somebody who studies the game very hard and allows us to do certain things. Each year, I don't think you ever quite pick up where you left off, you go back to the beginning, then you're somewhat flexible with change. Heath Evans was certainly a large part of what we were doing early in the season, then with his injury you make changes. Then with Jammal Brown - with his injury in training camp - it forces you to make changes. The personnel year to year changes more so now than it ever has, so there've been some adjustments year to year and certain things you try to emphasize more. It's an on-going process. We've been able to run that ball better this year than we have in past. The continuity at quarterback I think is important.
Q: [Offensive coordinator] Pete Carmichael is from this area. Is there anything that he's brought to the system since he's been promoted from quarterbacks coach?
SP: He was hired as the quarterbacks coach in '06, a couple of months before we ever signed Drew Brees. And that was really more of a coincidence the fact that Pete [Carmichael] had come from San Diego. We were able after we signed Brees to take some of the personnel, and terminology, and some of the personnel terminology and use some things that he was familiar with because we were just putting it in for the first time. He's very intelligent. He's an extremely hard worker. I think he's one of those guys that understands very thoroughly offensive football and not just one aspect of it - the running game, the protections, all the looks you get defensively. He's really progressed each year. He's had opportunities to leave as a coordinator, and now he's in that position with us and he does an outstanding job.
Q: Coach Belichick talked today about the opportunity you had to spend together at the Pro Bowl a few years ago. What was that like for you and what do you recall about that?
SP: Well, my first memory was that [the hotel] put the Payton family in 303 and 304, and I know Bill was in 203, 204. My biggest concern was my little kids jumping off the beds in the morning at about 6:30 and bugging him below us. But it was a great opportunity for us. Anytime you get to spend a week and really just try to get someone else's thoughts and opinions, someone who has been as successful as Bill has been. For me, as a young coach after my first year, there might just be three or four different scheduling questions or things that you might want to get a better grasp on. He's a guy that I have a ton of respect for and I really enjoyed the time we had a chance to spend just that week. On the way to the stadium on game day at the Pro Bowl, they send the busses from the hotel, NFC bus No.1 and AFC bus No. 1 kind of leave at the same time, and then bus No. 2 goes 15 minutes later, and then bus No. 3. And on the way to the stadium, NFC bus No. 1 broke down and we were about seven miles from the Hula Bowl there. The bus pulled over to the side and the AFC bus pulled behind us and the driver said, 'Hey, we're not going to be able to go anywhere here.' So we all got out and what I can remember is all of us piling onto the AFC bus and sitting next to Bill. We're heading to the stadium and getting ready to play a game. And I turned all the way in the back and my son, Connor, who was six at the time, is sitting between LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. And he had no idea. But it was a good experience and one that I'll always remember.
Q: Can you talk a little about what Drew Brees means to the Saints franchise? Can you sort of link it to the Patriots up here with their success and Tom Brady?
SP: I think if you're going to have success, the quarterback position is where you have to start. That's certainly an understatement. But this is a player that is going to handle the ball between 60 and 80 snaps per game and make that many decisions a game. In order to win and to get where you want to go, you've got to have good play at that position. How you acquire the player can vary. In Tom's case, he was drafted by New England. In our case, we were able to sign Drew after San Diego. But I do think that to have the chance to win and win consistently, that position is extremely important.
Q: Do you see any similarities between those two guys? Obviously you're much more familiar with Drew behind the scenes, but just between the way they play?
SP: I think you would say that they're extremely driven. They're extremely accurate. And they're extremely thorough in their approach, in every detail as to how they take care of their body, in the film that they watch and all of the things that go into being successful at that position. I think that those are the things that you would find in common.
Q: Why was Drew so perfect for the system? Can you talk about the whole process of the pursuit of him from the time you first got there in New Orleans?
SP: Well, what happened initially, there was probably a month and a half where we were evaluating our options and looking at the draft. And it wasn't until probably after the Combine that all of a sudden, the topic of Brees came up and that he was going to be released by San Diego. We had to spend the time evaluating injury, like everyone. At that time, there weren't a lot of people jumping on busses to come here in '06, it was right after Katrina. He and his wife had taken their visit and then gone to Miami. There was some risk in regard to the injury. Some of the things that we just talked about, that we looked at with Tom and Drew, you're looking for somebody that's going to rehab and do all the things necessary to get healthy. I think it was our good fortune as an organization that we were able to secure him. He did a great job of rehabbing his shoulder. It took awhile, there was a whole offseason where really during the mini camps he was unable to throw and there were three weeks of training camp where he still wasn't 100 percent. But he's worked extremely hard at it. He's a guy that's extremely critical of himself, looks for challenges and each year has worked at getting better. I think part of the fit is us just really building an offense around him to some degree and some of the things that he does well and trying each week to take advantage of those.
Q: I remember reading a quote from Drew Brees on how big of a loss Heath Evans was for this team. Can you just explain what kind of a difference Heath made in the short time he was in the locker room.
SP: Well, when we got Heath in the offseason, we were looking for a couple of things. He provides versatility. He's someone that's athletic enough to fit on the linebackers in the running game and sustain blocks. He can run the football. You can ask the player to do a number of things. So I think the fit for him here was really a positive one. The play that he was injured on in Miami was a little bit of an unusual one after a reception. But he did give you the versatility that a lot of times you don't necessarily have in a fullback. It really started with his ability to help us as a blocker in the running game. That was an area that we thought we needed to improve on.
Q: I know that Mike Zimmer's son, Adam, is on your staff. I know the affect on Cincinnati has been easy to quantify. What kind of affect has that had on your team?
SP: We've dealt with a few deaths this year - Drew lost his mother in training camp and then with Adam's mom about two months ago. Adam was a college player at Trinity in San Antonio and when he finished school, I was able to hire him here as one of our coaching assistants. We're close with his family and Mike and I were together for three years in Dallas. Adam's one of those guys that's just always been around football. Certainly, when someone in your family or someone on your team - be it a coach or a player - has a death like that, loses a parent, it's always difficult. So it was a challenging time for Adam and it will be for awhile.