Sean Payton's Firecracker Approach Tipping Point in 2006

Randy SavoieAnalyst IIJuly 4, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - FEBRUARY 09:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints holds up the Lombardi Trophy as his team parades though the city after winning the Super Bowl XLIV on February 9, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

It's well before sunrise, October of 2006, and you're driving your black Mercedes S550  down the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway with Sports Illustrated' s Michael Silver in the passenger seat and Kenny Chesney blasting from the stereo.

It is the most relaxing moment you will have all day as you turn your attention to transforming the star-crossed New Orleans Saints into a Super Bowl contender.

You tell Silver that instead of focusing on the team's forgettable past or on post-Katrina woes, you prefer to focus on chemistry and discipline in this rebuilding job of yours.

Afterall, that's the way your mentor Parcells always did it. 

You were quietly doing the best coaching job of 2006 until you rocked the Philadelphia Eagles world, 27-24, in the Superdome; now you're 5-1 and the whole damned world is watching and this guy from Sports Illustrated wants to know who you are and what makes you tick.

Your outside linebacker Scott Fujita tells SI after the Eagles win, "Everybody was talking about this as a 'respect game,' a 'statement' game for us. Being able to win it, especially the way we did, is a real confidence booster, and that comes back to Coach Payton."

Four year later, the non-descript Fujita would be one of the cornerstones in winning you a Super Bowl.

The entire country picked Philly to kick your ass that day in 2006, but as a former NFC East assistant coach, you had beaten them nine times and you told your team on the Wednesday before the game, "Follow my formula, and we'll win the game."

You've always been a master at developing a plan. It's been a trademark of yours for four years. You probably told Tom Benson and Mickey Loomis in your interview for the job, "I know what needs to be done and I know how to do it."

You ran a hard ass training camp that first year in 2006. You pressed all the right buttons. One of the veterans told SI that you were just pissing on your turf, establishing yourself as the leader from the beginning.

You stressed teamwork over individual accomplishment. You showed the players tape of the 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team. You said, "Look at these coaches. Look at these players. This is one of the greatest collections of talent ever assembled. But they didn't win. They weren't the best team."

You made some bold and fiery statements back in those days. 

You told SI 's Silver, "You have to look at why they've only won one playoff game in 40 years. There's a reason. We're in a place where, within 10 minutes, you can get a daiquiri, sit at a blackjack table, and go to a strip club–and you can do it at four in the morning. If you've got the kind of people who are susceptible to that, they'll find trouble. So yeah, character's important. New England showed us the model the past years."

That was some hot talk. Just like the Gospel of Luke or something.

"Jesus said, 'I came to cast fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already ignited.'" I think that's how it goes, but never trust a Catholic quoting scripture.

So much like the way Bill Walsh did in San Francisco , you set about flipping the culture back in those days. No Michael Vicks. No T.O.'s.

You built with average Joes who possessed high character, a strong work ethic, and a knack for making major contributions on the field. You built an offensive line that surrendered zero sacks to the Eagles that day in 2006, and you built it around a talented fourth-round right guard named Jahri Evans.

You picked a wide receiver from Hofstra late in the seventh round named Marcus Colston, and he was so damned good that you parted company with former first-rounder Donte Stallworth.

In that 2006 game against Philly, Colston caught a TD pass from Drew Brees to give you a 17-3 lead over those Eagles. McNabb rallied Philadelphia with three straight touchdowns but Brees clapped his hands and told the guys, "We're all right. We'll be fine."

Ah Brees. A freakin' Nostradamus.

It's four years later. All those experts in the national media are saying you may have done the best coaching job in Super Bowl history.

You are Sean Payton, King of a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans .

And life just doesn't get any better than this.


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