Payton's look is enough to keep Saints on track
A T-shirt shop on Magazine Street in New Orleans is finding it dificult to keep Saints-themed shirts such as "Datman" and "What Would Breesus Do'' on its shelves.
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METAIRIE, La. -- Sean Payton has "the look." All 53 players on the New Orleans Saints' roster have seen it. Fred McAfee, the team's director of player development, even has a bulletin board hanging in his office of pictures of Payton with "the look," along with a warning: You don't want this look.
"You know who I look at like that?" offensive tackle Zach Strief said. "My dog. It's the look I give him when I get really mad at him. It's a disgust kind of thing."
Running back Reggie Bush said Payton coaches "angry." That's something general manager Mickey Loomis didn't know about Payton when the Saints hired him.
In 2006, Loomis was looking for a young, energetic offensive assistant to become the franchise's 14th head coach and sell a team and a city trying to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina.
He became interested in Payton when he watched Payton's interview tape, one of 30 the Saints received from the league in their search to replace Jim Haslett. On the tape, Payton described what he was having for breakfast the day his phone rang offering him his first job.
Loomis said Payton had "magnetism" and showed "great communication skills." It didn't hurt that Payton was only 42 and had an effusive personality that earned him the nickname "Dennis the Menace" from his mentor, Bill Parcells.
"After Katrina, given the circumstances around the city, given the 3-13 season [in 2005], we were going to have a difficult time attracting players and assistant coaches just on the merits of the team and the city," Loomis said.
"We needed to have a coach that we could sell and say, 'Hey, come here because we're going to get this thing going.' Sean's got that kind of ability to sell. ... He's got 'it, whatever 'it' is."
Without Payton, the Saints wouldn't have signed quarterback Drew Brees, a free agent in 2006.
In other words, the Saints wouldn't be where they are today -- or the team they are today -- if they hadn't first hired Payton. He was the beginning to their end.
"From Day One, he's been a great mentor, a great teacher, a great communicator and a phenomenal head coach," said Brees. "I wouldn't want to play for anybody else."
Payton, though, is just like somebody else. The three seasons Payton spent under Parcells as the Dallas Cowboys' assistant head coach rubbed off on Payton.
Payton, a communications major in college, is media savvy.
He keeps a poker face at his news conferences. He offers little information about injuries, only the minimum the league requires. He is aware of almost everything written about his team, recently using the term "nervous Nellie" in a news conference after reading it in a story describing him. He had linebacker Jonathan Vilma cancel national radio appearances that weren't approved by the team's public relations department.
Payton sometimes catches himself using Bill-speak, the motivational sayings Parcells has, like "don't eat the cheese."
"Bill had a great knack for pushing the right buttons to keep the focus, which is our challenge over 16 weeks, and that's hard," Payton said.
First Published December 20, 2009 12:00 am