New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton was interviewed by WWL Radio’s Bobby Hebert and Deke Bellevia Tuesday night. Listen to the interview here.
Below are some highlights from the interview:
On the 2012 season: “As challenging as it was, it’s still a scenario that was unprecedented and I don’t know how you prepare for it besides trying to make sure your plan before you leave is in place and the program you set up is in place. It’s difficult. It was challenging during the year. We don’t make any excuses. We have to play better defense, run the football better and improve in the return game. Regardless of who is standing on the sideline, there is never one specific reason. There are always a series of things. It’s important when you are going back through, looking at the tape and evaluating the season prior, the eye is on it and what you see is things you need to improve on. You can’t pull yourself; you have to be brutally honest. All of us collectively, coaches and players, have tried to set a standard here and last season was disappointing.”
On some fans criticizing the hiring of Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan: “It’s great to have an opinion. I am certain we have some of the best football fans in the world. The interest level in our program and our team every year, not just through the season but when you look at the Combine and leading up to the NFL Draft. That’s just the excitement that our fans have. They’re passionate.
“What’s most important is making choices and decisions that aren’t based on popularity. Rob is a guy that has a great pedigree. He is a guy that is confident and brings a certain amount of enthusiasm to his units. We have faced him before and I have known him for a long time. You spend your time, do a lot of homework and clearly you have to do what’s best for the program. Those decisions aren’t made with any type of popularity poll in place. That’s not what we do. The most important thing we have to do is win. We have made every decision the last six or seven years with that in mind – to help this team win. We feel like he is going to do an outstanding job. I am fired up he is on board. I think he is going to be fantastic with our players. I think we have to help him in regards to looking closely at our personnel.
“There’s a series of things that have to take place for us to play better. I like everything about him. We went through a pretty thorough process. Not just in hiring Rob on the defensive side of the ball but with a handful of the other coaches we hired. We took our time. Looking back on it, the mistakes happen sometimes when you do hurry or you feel like you have to make a decision quickly.”
On how they handle veterans such as Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith and Roman Harper when dealing with the salary cap: “First off – I do envision those guys in a Saints uniform and yet I am also realistic and understand that every year since the beginning of free agency the percentage of players on your roster that turn over is different than it used to be. There was a time when you had your draft and you wondered what two or three rookies are going to beat out the veterans that were currently on our roster. It’s different now. There’s an economic factor to it. It’s as simple as a household budget. If you are going to have cable and heat then you may not be able to have something else.
“You really have to look closely at your production and the (salary) cap. Mickey (Loomis) does a great job with that and Khai Harley (as well). Those guys spend a lot of time and are busy with contracts now and a handful of restructures to get us below the cap. It’s not just a New Orleans Saints challenge. It’s a challenge of the 31 other teams in our league.
“Often times you weigh production, you weigh players that have been in your program. You mentioned Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith and Roman Harper – those guys have all won a championship on our 2009 team. There is no one set format. You take each player into account. You look closely at their grade and where you see your team going. You make the best decisions you can that are based on what’s best for the team.”
On what his top priorities are heading into the season: “We have to be able to, and these two things go side by side, but we have to be able to play better defense and run the ball better. They go hand in hand. I think statistically, week four or five in the season last year we were ranked 32nd in defense and 32nd in rushing. Those are bad numbers that equate to losses. It was no coincidence that we were 0-4 at that time.”
On weighing selecting a position of need versus the best player available in the NFL Draft: “You go in, and you begin to clump players. Today we did a few different position groups; we were watching a cross section of pass rushers for instance. Tomorrow will be defensive backs with corners, nickels and safeties. You are looking at those top 15, 16 or 18 players depending on whose board you are looking at.
“I do think you have to pay attention to what the value is how they are graded. That being said, usually you make sure you like 15 guys if you are picking at No. 15 or at least you have rated your board so you are prepared for each scenario. I think you have to be careful you don’t try to invent or create a position. In other words I think sometimes your mistakes are made in your value when you are saying you want a safety and you are trying to create a safety and you tend to grade a little higher so you can pick one. All of a sudden you have passed up on a good football player.
“We are looking at how we have these guys graded but we are also paying attention to what we need. It goes back and forth. I think from my experience here when we have drafted, when there is a player’s magnet that is sitting well above everyone else’s, we discuss it, talk closely about it and we have ended up with some pretty good football players. I think that is the key.”
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