Sean Payton Breaks His Silence, Insisting that the Saints Can Still Win the Super Bowl and Calling the Wiretap Report “Garbage”April 25, 2012 – 5:45 pm by Brad Gagnon
To nobody’s surprise, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton has been extremely quiet since the bounty scandal excrement hit the fan nearly eight weeks ago. Payton made an appearance at the owners meetings in March, but he’s now suspended for 2012 and no longer able to discuss football with his colleagues and players.
There remains a chance, though, that we’ll see more of Payton this year. He’s still weighing opportunities to do television during his season-long suspension. But on Wednesday, he simply played some golf at a Pro-Am for the PGA Zurich Classic. Afterwards, he was forced to face the media.
Suspended Saints head coach Sean Payton joined Fox Sports Radio to discuss the controversy plaguing his team. He first addressed a fresh report that the team listened in on the communication between opposing coaching staffs early in the decade, and then was of course asked to discuss the bounty scandal. Payton touched on his plans for his time off and expressed his confidence that the team will be successful without him on the sideline.
On the report that GM Mickey Loomis listened to opposing teams’ coaches during games via a wiretap early in the decade:
“Certainly that occurred — what they’re reporting is that it occurred in 2002, 3 and 4. And I would say this, knowing Mickey, and I consider him a close friend and obviously a great general manager: I just know the nature of how this report began, and I know it began with a guy — well, he starts down here with a phone list and there’s phone calls. It doesn’t start with a lead. It starts with, ‘Hey, head to New Orleans and see what you can find out on any story.’ And so, just hearing it from afar, I think it’s garbage, and I think the longer and the more information we get — and I know Mickey well enough that he’ll want all the facts to come out — I think it’s…the thing that I’m most interested to see is what kinda things happen after something like that’s reported that’s not true. [It is mentioned that it could lead to a lawsuit.] Yeah, I’m hopeful that — because listen, to come down here for a month and a half on a leave is, I think, normal reporting. To come down in here and check into a hotel room and start calling employees and asking, ‘Hey, is there anything?’ [It is mentioned that that is not journalism.] No, not at least the way we’re used to it. So, I think this. I think the thing that’s most important for Mickey or for any of us is our peer group in this profession, and the other general managers, ownerships and coaches in this league have great respect for the job he’s done. He’s been a huge reason why we’ve been as successful as we’ve been, having won 41 games in the last three years, a Super Bowl, two NFC championship games, playoffs. I mean, all that is a big part of Mickey’s leadership post-Katrina, and signing Drew Brees and bringing in the right people and managing the salary cap. And so I really don’t give any credence to it and hate that we’re even talking about it. But it’s necessary, I understand that. But I’m anxious for all the facts to come out.”
On the idea that listening to opposing coaches via wiretap would be useless:
“The thing about it — it would be like putting us in the air traffic controller tower and saying, ‘Hey, land one of these planes.’ You know, the idea of — and then what was most interesting: halfway through the afternoon, ESPN then began to list, ‘Well, we don’t know if he ever used it.’ In other words, that started coming on your ticker at about 1:30 in the afternoon. [It is mentioned that ESPN was covering its tracks.] Absolutely. Absolutely. So look, it’s unfortunate that you have to go through something like that. Mr. Benson I know has been very supportive and will be, and our team, our players, our organization won’t flinch at all.”
On his plan for the period during which he’s suspended:
“I think I’ve started to at least look at somethings and put together a list of some things that are important, and try to really put down some priorities. And that starts with our children, our family and spending more time with them. I’ve kind of avoided or held off making any decision on doing network work with the NFL. There’s a few opportunities — I just don’t want it to interfere with some of the things that I’d like to do. I’d like to work and coach my son’s football team, be a part of that, and be at the games where my daughter’s cheerleading. You know, normally with what we do and what I do, you miss so much. And you hear about it, you see pictures, and then you try to catch up and get as much as you can. This is an opportunity for me to be at a lot of that and that’s gonna be first.”
On the players expected to be punished any day now for their roles in the bounty scandal:
“Well, I haven’t been able to talk with any of them beginning the suspension. Prior to that, I talked to a few of them on the phone. We’ve got — and I say this very humbly — but we’ve got a very tough, mentally tough locker room. We’ve got great leadership and we’ve handled a lot of adversity and we’ll continue to, and we’ll handle this. I think they’re probably, with me just guessing, anxiously awaiting what those penalties will be.”
On his confidence in what will essentially be a coaching staff by committee in his stead:
“I’m very confident. I think that the natural progression for us — and if you ask the players or anyone else in our building — it would be Joe Vitt. In other words, he handled this when I was injured a year ago. His experience — he’s been with us since the very beginning. He’s very close and has been a huge part of our program. And so, I really look at it as: it’s Joe Vitt all the way through, and then there’s just that six-week block where it’s not. In other words, because remember, we’ve got May, we’ve got June, we’ve got July, we’ve got August training camp, we’ve got the preseason games. So there’s a lot of time there where he’s going to be involved, obviously acting in that role. He’ll miss the first six weeks of the season, and then he’ll be back. So I think the bigger question is how will that six-week transition be? And that’s to be determined. And I think Mickey and our owner, Mr. Benson, will do a good job of weighing out the pros and cons of who will take over. We’ve discussed that prior to my suspension.”
On no one in the organization pointing fingers at one another:
“No, it’s a great locker room … Listen, it’s part of why we’ve been successful, and it’s a big reason why we’re going to continue to be successful. I mean, it’s hard to win 41 games in three years in the NFL. In the last six years, four of those years in the postseason, a Super Bowl, two NFC championship games, a divisional win — you know, that comes with people, the right people, and it starts with, obviously, our commitment at ownership, Mickey Loomis I mentioned, our scouting departments. But it’s also — and we’re getting ready to start with the draft here in a few days — and that’s why that character and that toughness and intelligence is so important with the people you bring in. Because you’re gonna have some tough times. You know, we’ve experienced it, we’re seeing it right now, and you know the response is gonna be exactly what you want. And that gets back to what we’re looking for when we draft players.”
On if the Saints can still manage to host — and win — the Super Bowl at the end of the upcoming season:
“Absolutely. Absolutely. … I think early on in our program in ’06, 7 and 8 it would’ve been much more difficult, but if you look at the offseason we’ve had — and that’s kind of been back-page news — but Curtis Lofton coming here as a linebacker, I mean he’s a fantastic player. We’ve had to see him twice a year in Atlanta. A few of the other linebackers we’ve signed. (Brodrick) Bunkley as a defensive tackle. All of the things that we’re discussing now hadn’t really made any of these guys flinch professionally at where they wanna play, and that’s encouraging. So I think we’ve got the right type of players to handle this, to answer your question, Tim. And I think they’ll embrace it.”
On the Saints being particularly well equipped to bounce back from this:
“We just took a swig of water, we’re out of the corner and we’re on our feet. And we’ll be just fine.”