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New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton Monday Media Q&A (Oct. 24, 2011)

New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton
Press Conference
Monday, October 24, 2011

Opening Statement:

“After meeting with the staff and going through the grades, obviously in a game like that, there were a lot of good things.  Out players were in on their own today schedule-wise with weights and film.  Tomorrow will be their off day and then we’ll get started up on Wednesday.”

Was there a different approach to practice this week such as challenging yourselves instead of scouting the opponent?

“I think there’s a process with the opponent that has to take place in regards to the scouting report, first day install, third down, that has to take place.  But as the week was unfolding and we’re getting ready to kind of put closure on the week and get ready to play a game, I thought it was important that we really needed to look closely in every one of us at good news, bad news.  We’re six weeks at that point through the season, so I said we’re really two weeks away from being at the halfway pole.  That’s just the fact.  We’re sitting here at 4-2.  That’s good news but certainly we’d like to be better.  It’s like the parent with children who are capable of getting A’s and might be getting B’s or capable of getting B’s and is getting C’s, as a parent you’re always mindful of doing your best.  I think the same things exists as coaches and as teachers in making sure that we feel like our team is playing its best and if it’s not then it starts with us with what we can do differently.  There certainly wasn’t a different approach to practice but it was the thinking that at some point here if we’re wanting to be a really good football team, we need to see it.  The approach was all of us in here, players, coaches. All of us need to look at it.  We’ve had some good runs and some good spurts, but we just haven’t in my opinion put our best football on the field.  That was really the windup to the week as opposed to the daily practice routine.”

Were you trying to draw attention to something?

“Normally in a regular schedule for us, during the course of the week after each practice, I might talk for a few minutes about some things that are pertinent in this game and by Friday maybe have ten minutes of something that I think is important.  Normally the Saturday night meeting and in this case the Sunday morning meeting because it was a night game, Joe Vitt would go through a statistical analysis, what were the keys for us to win, recap the week, and we might watch a highlight tape.  Because of this week’s schedule with the surgery and everything, Joe found himself more at the end of practice in handling some of those things.  I went ahead and kind of took the night before/Sunday morning meeting, and it was really just observing, just trying to be brutally honest for all of us.  It wasn’t that we were trying to call people out or anything, it was really just this is where we’re at heading into the half pole here.  We’re not there yet, but let’s be honest, this is where we’re at.  I was please last night.  Someone asked the question late in the press conference, ‘What were you most pleased with?’  I think a concern always as a coach is when you go up 21-0 and then you guys have seen it many a time where there’s that lull, the other team gradually gets back into it and maybe you just don’t play your best, and last night we didn’t allow that to happen one time and that was encouraging.”

How did Brian de la Puente respond?

“He played very well.  He graded out well.  He had a real good game.”

Are you happy considering the craziness of last week with Olin Kreutz?

“We have confidence in Brian and certainly it’s helped that he’s played already this year.  But he graded out very well.  A lot of those guys on the offensive line of course graded out well.  I thought we blocked them both in the run and the pass well.  I thought we kind of neutralized the ends that are two very good players.  We did that with the tackles.  We did it with nudges and chips and cracks and a bunch of different things to just change up the rush because those are guys, when you talk about a Dwight Freeney and a Robert Mathis, those are guys that despite everything else that happens in a game they can single-handedly take over a game.  I thought the plan our coaches put in place offensively was dead-on and I thought the players’ execution of it was dead-on.”

How much more of this week will the conversation about bringing Chris Ivory back occur considering Mark Ingram’s injury?

“I think that’s a good question.  I think it would be predicated on where we feel like we’re at with Mark.  I know today’s Monday, but it depends on what his progress is like 24 to 48 hours after.  I think that’s something we’ll monitor just as you guys should.”

Do you get the same emotional jolt where you sit now up in the press box compared to being down on the sideline?

“It’s different.  It’s quieter and more removed from the emotion.  In our box, and I know that varies by team and by stadium, but we’re up pretty high.  Obviously you have great vision as to what’s taking place below you almost like you were watching the wide copy film.  There’s a large plate of glass in front of you, so you’re removed from the noise element and the emotional element, it’s just a much different environment.”

When the time comes to make a decision on when to go back to the sideline, is it going to weigh on you that you might have an advantage sitting up higher?

“When I’m healthy I’ll go back down to the field.  I just think it may be December, I’m not sure when.  I think we have some goals as to when I can leave the crutches and when I can get to this podium in three seconds instead of thirteen seconds.  Generally when that starts to happen there’s a good chance I’ll start to go down to the field again.”

Is that even if you have so much success from being up there?

“Yes.  We’re not going to reinvent the head coaching spot on Sundays.”

Do you expect your phone to be ringing this offseason calling about Pete Carmichael Jr.?

“I’ve said this to you guys before, I like it when my phone is ringing.  Be leery if it’s never ringing.  I think that means that we’re finding the right guys.  I think Drew (Brees) said it best yesterday, everything we talk about with this program is not just players or front office or coaches, but it’s all about the team first and the individual accomplishments or accolades second.  That really transcends whatever it is that comes up for us.  Yesterday Devery (Henderson) had one catch for nine yards.  You don’t realize that.  You have a game like that and I get the totals and I start looking at production, and all of us watch the game but we might not know specifically the numbers.  Four weeks ago Devery was over a hundred yards I think a couple weeks in a row.  It’s no different from the running backs position or a special teams player or a defensive player be it Tracy Porter or Patrick Robinson.  It’s hard to get to that in this industry because there are so many things that pull you away from the team first.  We understand them, but saying it and actually having it in a program are two different things and it’s something you constantly pay attention to.”

What different way could a team prepare for your offense from knowing whether it will be you or Pete Carmichael calling the plays Jr.?

“I think you defend the scheme and the system and the offense and the plays.  I think maybe over the course of time there are certain tendencies that once you had volume, once you had a large group of snaps, that you can begin to (figure them out).  We always try to self-scout those and play the role of the other team to see if there’s anything sticking out.  And yet there have to be subtle differences because there are so many variables.  If there are 150 plays on a board and everyone in this room got to call 70 of them, there would not be the same combination of 70 amongst any of us.  I think more importantly the process that begins early in the week and the process of seeing it at practice, it’s a play but how did it look at practice and how did the quarterback respond to it at practice, those are the things that go into saying I like this play come Sunday or I know it’s still in the game plan but it didn’t look as good and we’re not going to just try to ram this thing home.  It was incomplete or intercepted once, then we’re not going to call it or maybe next week we’ll try to get it up and going again.  But that process I think and the system is what’s most important in the fundamentals of running a correct route and the timing and the protection.  If you just take one play and this is just a good example, the questions you have to ask last week are whether we’re neutralizing (Dwight) Freeney on this pass play? Who’s primary, who’s secondary and who’s third in the route?  Where are we going if there’s pressure?  How’s (Robert) Mathis being affected?  So there are a lot of little things that go into 70 or 80 or 90 plays in the passing game.  You’re not going to be a lancer on every one of those, so when you have a play for instance that’s not going to affect Freeney, then the quarterback knows in his mind that the clock is going to be a little bit quicker than the one that maybe has something in it that can slow him down.”

Was last night one of the better performances you’ve seen out of Drew Brees?

“When you play zone defense which is what we got for the most part, you’re counting on that rush and it was a game that snowballed.  Drew was outstanding.  He had great command.  I thought the tempo we played with was really good.  In other words, we were in and out, up and down, and on and off the field like we preach a lot.  I thought we handled a lot of different substitutional packages.  I don’t know how many there were, but we had a ton of personnel packages.  There were more than normal in this game.  We had Pat McQuistan playing and two fullbacks so there were a lot of things that as a coach you get some concern with whether that can go smoothly.  The other thing about it is we don’t signal the personnel.  You get worried about 12 in the huddle or 10 in the huddle, so that went fairly smooth.”

What were some of the benefits from you being upstairs and some things you missed?

“What you miss from not being on the sideline is the emotion of being right there.  When you’re up in the press box, again it’s that quiet and sometimes more analytical.  You’re watching just like you would a wide copy film angle.  What I ended up doing more and I do this to begin with, I click back when I’m on the field in a normal setting, I click back and forth and then I click over to special teams and listen and then every now and then put about certain reminders.  When there’s an element that’s removed and you’re upstairs and that’s a pretty big element in regards to actually calling, it’s potentially a reminder to Pete (Carmichael Jr.) about something.  The one thing you have up there is this great vision of the back end and your eyes can see the point of attack and who might have missed a block much easier than when you’re down on the field and it’s not until Monday when you put the tape on that you see it.  Now you’re up and you see all this and you just have a different vantage point.  In Pete’s case, it’s just listening in and offering support, reminding him of down and distance, potential, and just really paying attention to what we’re seeing run or pass and then clicking over to defense, same way with this vantage point.  It’s amazing what you see different defensively from that elevation than what you see on the field because what you see on the field is generally you can gaze the back end, but the habit coaches can get into is following the ball no different than the fan.  So you have to put your eye somewhere and from up there it’s much easier to do.  It really became more of just managing the game and staying in constant contact with the offense and with the defense and the kicking game.  There were certain things that we might have said we wanted to do differently and instead do this and then last night with how we were going to handle substitutes later in the game.  That really began early in the third quarter at some point, discussing let’s see if we can get Jimmy Graham off the field to rest his ankle. Let’s see if we can get Jon Vilma and a few of these guys that have been nicked up, but it flowed pretty smoothly.”

Did you make corrections during the game at any point?

“Yes.  We ran a running play, if you’re on our bench to our left, kind of an outside run that got cut up and tackled for a gain of a yard, but from up there you could see that there was room outside and it was closer than what it might have looked like if you were down on the field.  If you’re down on the field you might not get back to that running play and later we scored with it, so it’s those types of observations that say that’s a good play and let’s not be afraid to come back to it because the space is outside.  That type of thing.  I’m giving you an example no different than defensively.  Gregg (Williams), you’re in a real good defense there, we just missed the tackle as opposed to it’s a big run.  There’s a reason.  Then beginning to look at how the game was going to unfold, how we can make them have to run the ball with what we’re doing defensively because they do so much at the line of scrimmage I think is one of your everyday duties as a head coach without calling plays as well.”

When did you decide that you were going to replace Drew Brees with Chase Daniel?

“It wasn’t until I think when we hit the 40 mark.  There was a score that put us over 40 and they were at seven and I think the discussion started.  It had already begun with Vilma and it had already begun with Jimmy Graham and it had begun with a couple guys, and then it begun with Drew and eventually it started.  The challenge in our league though is it’s not like in college where your whole lineups can be changed.  You just don’t have enough linemen or other players.  I think it begun in the 40’s.”

Was there a point where you looked up at the scoreboard and enjoyed the victory?

“I’ve said this before and it goes really with the wins and losses, and it probably isn’t the same with losses, but with the wins, the time in which the game ends until the time you fall asleep is the time you get to enjoy it.  Here comes today and there’s stuff we have to do and now certainly the Mondays certainly are easier after wins than they are after losses, but when you play a night game there’s less time after a game before you go to bed and get up and get started.  Unfortunately I think with the losses, you dwell on it after the game when you go to sleep and you might wake up or not sleep as well.  But at some point we’re in a process of constantly trying to digest either.  Bu I think to answer your question accurately, human element or human nature exists where you feel like you’ve played some of your best football and that’s rewarding.  I think that’s something that we all enjoy about the sport or the competition is how good it feels when you win and then coming back after a loss and all those emotions you go through.  When you’re able to have success, it’s I think something that when it’s all finished is something you miss the most.”

Is that probably the most complete performance you’ve gotten from your team?

“I don’t know.  Obviously it was a one-sided game.  We’ve had some pretty big wins and I wouldn’t just look at the score.  The win against Philadelphia in the playoffs by about three points probably fills you every bit if not more than a win like last night.  That was a regular season game and it was our seventh game, but I think we’ve played some really complete games before.  This might sound like coach’s talk, but there’s some stuff on film that we have to do better.  There are some things, and there’s just not as many of them on yesterday’s game as there were the week before.  It was an important win for us because it was the next game.  I would also say this, if you really look closely at Indianapolis, their past three or four or five games be it they lost, they’ve been in position within a touchdown to win a number of these games.  Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there have been a number of games where they’ve been right down to the final.  We certainly appreciate how this league is and how difficult it is each week to win regardless of who we’re playing.”

Can you talk about your defense creating turnovers last night?

“Everyone of us that follows our game and everyone that’s involved in it understands the significance of the loss of a player like Peyton Manning.  That game had a different feeling to it the week leading up than probably NBC anticipated in August or whenever it was announced.  You quickly shift your focus to who’s behind center and what are his strengths, what are his weaknesses. Are there some things we do defensively that we may not have done against Peyton? Sure, because there are three or four or five games on tape of Curtis Painter and so you begin to put your plan in place to defeat that team.  It’s funny in two and a half years how things have changed in our league really with all of our teams.  I’m not just talking about Indianapolis, but New Orleans and everywhere else there’s change.  And it doesn’t even seem like two and a half years, it seems like longer than that.”

It seemed like a lot of fans were nervous about what to expect with you being up in the press box.

“Whenever there’s change, there’s uneasiness with everyone.  There’s change, something’s different, how’s it going to go?  I think that is probably fairly normal for people that are avid fans that follow teams when a players not in the lineup or there’s been a change at quarterback or there’s a new player or a new coach, whenever there’s change in the middle of a season.  What we do know is that’s fairly common if you look at the course of sixteen weeks for teams.  Do you stay healthy?  Who do you lose and who do you replace them with?  It’s not like if that happens, it’s really when is it going to happen.  You hear me talk about the crisis in the middle of a season that every team has.  There’s going to be a point where you’re kind of pushed up against a wall a little bit.  Maybe you don’t play as well and it seems like you’re tested and all of a sudden you need to answer the bell.  That’s coming for everyone in a season.  Those are all things that happen in a year.  What you don’t know is when and who and how it’s going to affect you and so I think that explains a little bit of uneasiness with what you’re used to and what you’re familiar to.”

Do people have nothing to worry about going forward?

“Against the Colts they don’t.  I think there’s more made of it.  Our jobs are to get our players ready to play and get them in position to excel and focus in on the details.  So by the time the game comes, there are a lot of things that are important that are taking place during the game, but there’s a lot of repetition on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and a lot of repetition that takes place during training camp from a scheme standpoint that you stay with throughout the whole year.  I think the one thing that’s hard to appreciate is, each week when you put a game plan together there are some things that you just do each week and how you do it or what you do with how you handle the defensive end or how you change up the matchups.  There are subtle changes but you certainly want your players to have a strong confidence knowing what they’re doing so they can play fast and they can play without having to think and it’s more spontaneous.  They’ve known it and they’ve done it time and time again and they have confidence they can execute it.  Periodically there are some wrinkles you put in. We don’t have a choice.  That’s the only place they can put me.  We just have to keep that separate from where we’re at as a team.  The one dynamic that’s changed is I’m always in the training room so that’s a different atmosphere.  There’s a certain dynamic because players go in there to get their treatment and all of a sudden the head coach is in there every time they’re in there.  It’s like your parents being at prom.  It’s different.”

Does it surprise you how well Drew Brees is playing given he’s playing with a couple new offensive linemen and Darren Sproles?

“Nothing surprises me in that he’s so driven. I think to some degree the lockout and him having even more to do with organizing player workouts and setting up the facilities at Tulane.  When you find yourself that embedded and that involved to an extent where he’s already been, in other words he’s season schedule is amazing, and if you tracked his Monday or his Tuesday, it is so routinely driven with when he gets up, when he arrives, he’ll take a nap after practice after the first film study before he’s going to watch red zone film study.  We all get in these routines and these players that are exceptional at that and very consistent with that.  We had a diversion this week where we were at a different hotel.  We were at a JW Marriott.  We’re never there.  So typically the night before we play games, we have a certain snack and it’s always the same.  It’s cheeseburgers, pizza, spaghetti, cold cuts, salad, there’s always this lasagna, and then there’s this beefy mac that Brees likes.  It’s just beef and macaroni and I think there’s maybe a couple other people, but there’s not many that eat it.  We get to the buffet on Saturday night and I’m there first.  The players are still finishing up their individual meetings and I’m kind of hobbling through and looking at the food and there’s no beefy mac.  There’s no lasagna which is what I like to eat, so I’m thinking there’s no chance of these guys getting a long-term deal with us.  They don’t have Brees’ meal and they don’t have what I like.  So I sit down and I’m eating the spaghetti and pizza and finally Drew comes in.  I said, ‘We have a little issue here,’ and he asked, ‘What’s that?’  I said never mind and I watched him and he’s meandering around, so he goes on to plan B and he takes a hamburger patty and chops it up over spaghetti and tries to make this homemade beefy mac  I guarantee you it was on the menu list that had to be prepared and they didn’t get it done.  It’ll be the last time we’re there.  I asked him if this has ever happened and he said it’s happened a couple other times.”

Did you get any extra appreciation of his game from being upstairs?

“Yes, because what happens when you’re that elevated, people say it looks like a video game and I get that a little bit, because video games are so much clearer now.  From up there it looks so much quicker and faster to some degree, but from an accuracy standpoint, it’s such a different vantage point.  The last time I was ever up in any coaching manner was in 1996 in college.  But it was much different and it gives you a great grasp as to the spacing in the passing game and the spacing in our coverages we play, the angles we take in the kicking game, they become so much clearer, well they’re no different than what we look at on Monday when we watch the film.  You’re watching live film and that’s the difference.”

 

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