It should comes as no surprise that Sean Payton's new book Home Team rose to No. 8 on the New York Times Bestseller List after just one week in bookstores.
It's just that good.
If this head coaching gig goes south one day, it seems Payton may have a future as one of those French Quarter raconteurs.
Laying on a beautiful beach in Florida last week and feeling glad to be away from New Orleans and all of its problems, I had to start reading Payton's book and be reminded why my hometown is such a special place.
Damn you Sean Payton.
Most coaches' books are narcissistic, chock full of coach-speak and cliches, and better seen than read. Not this time. Not this one. It's replete with amusing anecdotes and inspirational moments.
Chicken soup for the BP-fatigued soul.
Payton begins by telling the story of a young kid with a dream and no money.
"I told [San Diego State offensive line coach] Steve Devine I didn't have any money left to fly to California for an interview."
Devine offered Payton the job anyway and, says Payton, "Just like that, my football coaching career had begun. God, I had so much to learn. I flew from London to Chicago, gathered my stuff and drove three days to San Diego in a brown 1980 Chevy Cavalier that broke down in Denver. I really felt like I was onto something here."
And so began Payton's journey up the coaching ladder, but it was not without adversity.
New Yorks Giants head coach Jim Fassel hired Payton to coach quarterbacks in the Big Apple, but when the neon lights got a little too bright on Broadway for Fassel he promptly threw his young assistant under the bus, stripping Payton of his play-calling duties in a very public way.
Says Payton of Fassel, "I completely respect and grasp the decision. But I really disdain the public ordeal he [Fassel] made of it...the head coach [Fassel] and I had such a gap in our relationship, I knew that would be my last year in New York."
However, little did he know that he had an admirer from afar.
Soon-to-be Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells invited Payton to join his new staff as quarterbacks coach.
Much of Payton's coaching philosophy was formed in those years.
Payton absorbed everything he possibly could at the feet of the master.
"Bill [Parcells] understood the power of confrontation,the value of creating a crisis. Most people prefer to be pleasant. Most people would rather get along. But sometimes it really is more valuable to create a crisis, to face the confrontation...On a number of occasions in New Orleans, I would find myself doing much the same thing," said Payton.
After falling short of his dream job in Green Bay in 2006, Payton arrived in New Orleans, as the city was still very much in post-Katrina shambles.
Beyond every successful man there is a great woman according to the old adage, but there were times when even the loyal Beth Payton's patience was severely tested during those early days of her husband's head coaching tenure in New Orleans.
Payton recalls standing in a pharmacy line for over two hours with a sick child at home and a frantic Beth on the phone.
When he finally returned home with the antibiotics, Beth asked, "Sean, where are you bringing us?"
How could have Beth known at the time that husband Sean was bringing them to the pinnacle of the sports world—a Super Bowl Championship.
Payton tells the story of Drew Brees, a QB with a shattered shoulder but not a shattered spirit. Early on, Payton had his doubts about his new quarterback.
"There doesn't seem to be a lot of velocity with Drew's passing. Is this what we're getting?" a forlorn Payton asked assistant coach Pete Carmichael.
Charmichael assured his head coach that the best was yet to come.
"No, no, Coach," Carmichael told Payton. "It's not looking good right now. But this isn't it. This isn't his arm strength at all."
It wouldn't be long before Brees' formerly shattered shoulder was shattering the record books and the wins starting mounting, and, well, you know how the story ends.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Miami at Super Bowl XLIV, Payton feared that Beth would never find him in the middle of this mass celebration. He found her. He hugged her. He told her he loved her and lifted her six inches off the ground.
"It's like an exclamation point on whatever your feeling when you do that. That's a hug you might give every four years."
Saints fans are hoping the hug becomes an annual affair.
HOME TEAM , by Sean Payton and Ellis Henican. (NAL, $24.95.) The head coach of the New Orleans Saints describes the team’s Super Bowl victory, which raised the city’s spirits four years after Hurricane Katrina.