Sean Payton Q&A Transcript from the NFL Owners Meeting

Here is the long transcript from coach Payton's Q&A during breakfast at the NFL Owners meeting in Orlando earlier this week. All courtesy of the Times-Pic. Pretty good stuff here, including his now famous obsession with Juicy Fruit. Read, enjoy, comment.  

  

"I'm good. First I get this coffee going here and I think I'm in good shape."

On Mike Bell:

"It's always a difficult decision with a player that has been a big part of what you accomplished the year before. I know Mickey (Loomis) and I spent a lot of time on that decision and it's one of the challenges of free agency or restricted free agency. We think Philadelphia is getting a real good football player. It begins to deal with your own economics, and your own dollars. We felt like when Mike came to New Orlans we were able to get a young talent back that helped us in a lot of ways and it's tough knowing that last night as we ate dinner at 7:30, quarter to eight, Mickey and I are still talking about it, only four more hours left. But I think overall we looked closely at the club and the organization and how, you know, this puzzle is bigger than just one player. Which makes it hard."

Bell's departure change Saints draft thinking?

"No, I wouldn't say that. There may be opportunities for us to sign a running back prior to the draft. Number one, it would be fair to say we've got real strong opinions on Lynell Hamilton, certainly Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush, but when you lose a player like Mike you lose some depth so that's something we'll have to replace. How we replace it will be up to us in terms of whether it's a veteran player or a younger player. But you have to replace those carries somehow. But I wouldn't say it was going to be just through one area."

On overtime rule change:

"I think it's always interesting, I think typically there's been a good process in which the items themselves are - I finally got the schedule down, it took me four years. But there's a Wednesday vote, there's Tuesday discussion, there's Monday for information and regardless of who is for, who is against I think the feeling - and not just with the coaches I think general managers - they kind of slipped that in the back door. That's a taste you have in your mouth that something like that takes place that is bitter. I'm against it, you know I really don't like, I mean honestly I hate the policy because I don't want to have to explain something. My older sister is just now figuring out the challenge system. So, you ready for this? In the regular season but in the post season it's this and if you choose to kick a field goal and the other team scores a touchdown you're going to be sitting in front of a microphone and, 'coach, can you explain to us why you didn't go for a touchdown rather than a field goal?' But that's how it was done, surprising to everyone."

Where was he when he learned of overtime rule vote?

"I just had lunch with Arnold Palmer so we were coming back to the building. I wasn't playing in teih golf tournament, I was just down the road here. I think the system we have in place, the required number of votes all that is healthy. I think it just caught a lot of people off guard when it was being done which tells me there may not have been all that much confidence that had it been done in the normal itinerary it would have passed and so it's pretty interesting if you ask me."

Darren Sharper situation:

"We'll see. We'll do that process, certainly he's a guy who was a big factor in our success a year ago. You know he's a guy who not only us, I'm sure a handful of teams are paying attention to."

On the Detroit Lions and Anthony Hargrove:

"I think when you win games you know your players, your coaches become more attractive and that's part of the business. But Anthony had a fine season for us. I also think this, that a good portion of free agency has come and gone and teams are beginning to look closer at the restricted free agents and spend time on that. The idea of compensation. We've got a number of restricted free agents, Mike Bell for instance who just went to Philadelphia, I have a feeling Anthony won't be the only one some people look at."

No trade with Lions because Saints want Hargrove?

"I don't know that there's been any discussion of a trade. I think it's been pretty simple. We tendered him at three and this timeframe you can fly those players in, you can go out to dinner with those players, sign them to a contract, not sign them to a contract. If you do sign them you have a week beginning at that moment to match and sign so, you know, I've only probably read just what you've read in regards to the different positions he might like, or might play. But he did a good job for us."

Would Saints match Lions?

"I wouldn't comment on what we might do. If he was to sign I think we would look closely at it. It would be hard for me to comment on what Detroit might do."

Interested then in getting him back?

"Well, you know, we want the player back."

Anticipate Hargrove as a target?

"I think we valued him just there. It's always hard when you do this, when you go through this process. I think you explain to the player, you know, all these guys we have an interest in keeping. We don't want to lose five guys off our Super Bowl team without being able to replace them. You look closely as to the value and the tender and really, hey, you just can't put a number on him. When you put a third round tender on him it equates to X number of dollars as would a 2 or a 1, and I think all of us in the process felt comfortable with what we were going to tender him and comfortable with what he did this year."

Is Hargrove in a better place than when the Saints decided to sign him?

"You know, to his credit that's something he works on and fight daily. We're proud of the progress he's made. That's something he's going to have to battle with every morning."

Where do Saints stand in draft preparation and how good does he see this year's draft?

"Well, I think you know there's some positions that have depth. Overall, we think that certainly as you put it on the board there appears to be depth. You know the old saying, if you're picking 32 you've got to like 32 players. Certainly you've got to have the flexibility and we'll spend a lot of time evaluating these guys. You're always looking for positions of need but not at the expense of taking a player that's not graded significantly higher than another. In addition to trying to find guys that fit our profile that we set up four years ago and began implementing: guys with character, guys with toughness, guys who like to play football and that's kind of the approach."

Overtime again:

"It was just surprising because I think I was under the impression the overtime rule was going to be voted on today so it was kind of one of those back-door deals. I guess nothing surprises me anymore. I guess disappointing. The debate and the argument over a new rule is healthy and oftentimes one will pass and one won't pass. But the way this was slipped in shows me there was some concern in wouldn't have gone in the normal way and that's what concerns me. Again, it affects teams that have been to the playoffs. And the people pushing for this, people who are in the playoffs or are familiar that, I don't know. But what I do know is it changes the mindset when you have that possession now. I'm not really a big fan of our replay, I think college has a better replay system than we do. Now I just figured out, 'with first challenge you keep your flag, second challenge you get an additional one, but if you don't get the second one right then you don't get the third,' it's not 2 out of 3. So, anyway, just disappointed a bit surprised."

Does a team have to have an outstanding QB to win the Super Bowl?

"Two things. I think you've got to have, when I say this, you have to have a dominant defense or an outstanding quarterback. Now, if we just said those two things, one or the other, and we backed up 10 years and said which team had, you know the Ravens had a dominant defense, the Bucs had a dominant defense, they really did. Then you get to a roll with Brady, Roethlisberger - you could argue dominant defense in that Steeler first Super Bowl - Manning, but to win and get seeded how you want that player is critical."

Can you say enough about Brees in Super Bowl XLIV?

"He was magnificent. He got on a run there in the second quarter, third quarter, I don't recall the ball hitting the ground. Very confident. He had a great idea of where he wanted to go with each play. There were a number of plays that he handled at the line of scrimmage, plays that were passes that went to a run or vice-versa. I think as that game got closer, later in the game, he continued to play better."

Were you concerned when the Colts got an early lead and dominated the first quarter?

"Well, you begin to adjust a little because that's not how you envisioned the game starting. But to go down 10 quickly like that was somewhat concerning just because it seemed that it happened pretty fast."

Ever consider deviating from the game plan?

"No, there was a lot of time left and it seemed in the second quarter we were able to gain some of that momentum. Although we kicked field goals we were able to move the football and I think at halftime 10-6 I think probably both teams felt pretty good about coming out in the second half and winning the game."

Any moment of post-Super Bowl celebration that sticks out?

"I think the two things that I recall were pretty interesting. The bus ride from the stadium back to the team hotel, the same guys that are always on Bus 1, Bus 2, you just wanted that to go on forever because you knew when you got to the hotel you were going to see 500 people, talk to 500 people, but really never visit with 500 people. It was just going to be crowded. That bus ride, you knew it was the last time that team collectively was going to be together. Secondly, is that opportunity to just see your family, your immediate family, my wife and two children right afterwards on the field and just hugging them amongst the confetti and all that. There's so much that went into that, everyone - players, coaches, and everyone that was a member of the organization can reflect on their own trials and tribulations, decisions to living there right after Katrina. And all of that kind of, in a very brief moment, was kind of revisited. And it was important that they were there."

What kind of reception has he gotten at the owners' meeting this week?

"They're great, you know these guys, the GMs the same way, I think all of us - if there's one thing that drives any one of us, writers, coaches, managers, it's respect in our industry. I mean that drives us, that would be number 1 as to what's important in your career. Obviously money and success, all that. But your respect in your industry is something that I think drives all of us. So when you're at an event that is centered around your industry after the Super Bow, it's good. It's a lot better than coming here after a losing season."

On the continuing saga of Caymus wine with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:

"We were out with Jerry the other day, for dinner, and so were going to (can't make it out) some more Caymus wine together. We keep getting it sent to our office so it's not a bad thing."

Does a change of scenery help Jake Delhomme?

"Well, I think it does. I'm a little biased a bit here because I like him. When I was in Dallas, Bill and I we tried to sign Jake, and he visited Carolina first and then he came to Dallas. I spent half a day driving - I took him to every horse farm I could find trying to get the edge. We were like $2 million off. He ended up at Carolina. But I like his instincts, his moxie, I think he's got what it takes to win. It's real easy to point to the last season and a half and say, 'well, this guy can't...' I think he'll have a chance at improving that position greatly in Cleveland. Yeah, I think that's fair to say."

Would a text to his office at 2 a.m. find him?

"Probably not at 2. you can get me late, or early morning. There's a good chance if you call I'm on a bridge, being that 45-50 minutes in is a bridge and 45-50 minutes home is a bridge so your odds would be there's a good chance I'm on the bridge if I'm not in the office."

Balancing personal and professional responsibilities:

"It's something that I pay attention to and try to pay attention to daily in regards to schedule. Try to get a workout in in the morning and then come by and pick the kids up and take the kids to school in the off-season. In-season it becomes more difficult. You become very regimented. In the off-season, though - look, the challenges of winning a Super Bowl and coming back from that schedule and looking quickly at track meets and cheerleading events and the same weekend that there's an awards ceremony. Well, you know I need to be at the soccer game. Those are the things."

Overtime again:

"Number one I'm not a big fan of the rule that was just implemented. Well, because I'm going to have to probably spend a half an hour explaining it to my wife or any fan. That if it's the regular season we're still in overtime, it's only in the postseason, listen, if we score the first field goal then they get the ball back but if we score a touchdown the game's over. But listen, if we don't score a field goal then we're in to immediate overtime and when we're 4th and 2 I've already been asked that question by Peter King, 'would you rethink your strategy?' I hate it. The old system was an asset, not a liability. I think it was the most exciting overtime in our game. But I'm probably one of the few, or one of a handful...not just the coaches now, the general managers were out, too, eating lunch or golfing. That kind of got stuck in the back-door, interestingly, at around 4 p.m."

Does he think opponents, 'got pulled a fast one?':

"Well (laughs) I thought that's what today's meeting was, for Wednesday so I might just go golfing today. I'm having trouble keeping up with the itinerary."

Revisit the NFC championship, and Hartley's 40-yard game winning field goal, with the new rule in effect:

"We're kicking a field goal. I'm not far enough along with the idea of how it changes playoff strategy regarding the first possession. But probably from that down and distance we're going to kick the field goal and play defense. You know the shame of it is when that ball goes through the uprights and hits the fleur-de-lis it's just not (can't make it out; something about not the end of the game any longer). Now the finality and the great cheer is when the fourth down pass fall incomplete for the other team. It just doesn't seem as nice.

So does he think it shouldn't be just in the post-season but in every game?

"Yeah, put the ball on the 20-yard line to start overtime and not allow a return to 38. I think, listen, one of the best things we do is discuss, debate, give thought to a rule such as this which is significant. I think what's most disappointing is the process had begun and then all of a sudden there was a quick (can't make it out). I was sitting next to what I thought was seven, 'no's.' I looked at it (his Blackberry) and it said 7 nos and then it was 28-4. And I thought, I don't know how it was 28-4."

So the owners didn't think the same way he did? "Yeah, but I would say this though: I would say that a handful of them weren't ready and prepared to (can't make it out) exactly. (You mean what they were voting for?)

"Yes, and that became perfect timing for those if you were trying to push this thing forward."

Any chance a great defensive team will now defer if it wins the overtime kickoff?

"No, I think you're still taking the ball. I think you're taking the ball regardless. I think that, listen I think this: I think our replay is substandard to the college game. In other words, if you look at time taken away in the college game it's very simple, if they see an error made they (something) down look at and change it. I'm just now taking out the red flag and going 2-for-2, or 2 of 3. If I get the first challenge and the second challenge and first half challenge as opposed to a second half challenge, so I get concerned with rules that...because there isn't a week that goes by where, 'coach, did you consider challenging?' and, 'coach, did you consider?' and when this rule came up and was discussed I see the press conference right now. I can write the questions. 'Why did you kick the field goal and not go for the touchdown?'"

Given Brees famous accuracy, though, doesn't it mean the Saints could be more aggressive on their opening possession because they have no fear the quarterback will make a mistake?

"Yeah, I don't disagree, I think teams will think about their approach to scoring touchdowns. I don't disagree with that at all. But sit and try to explain it to someone for 10 minutes and then go back and sit with them again, like your wife, and say, 'alright, here's the deal. It's overtime - and at some point they'll say, "just tell me if they score is the game over or not?" and you know what, it used to be pretty good that way. And now we have this, 'oh, by the way, on the first possession only after a field goal nonetheless in the post season...' I don't like that."

Is New Orleans having too much fun? How does he respond to people around the country that say the city and Saints and Saints fans are celebrating way too much? Are you going to be a team with the Super Bowl hangover?

"No. I think they're jealous. (Peter King: Me, too) "I think that, listen, if you've never been to New Orleans, really, that Super Bowl party began 27 years ago and they're just...it will never end. So our players will be back from their off-season break and back in the swing of things in April. We're working hard right now on restricted free agency, free agency and the upcoming draft. I think celebrating these things the right way is healthy for the city and I think it's great that they've enjoyed it as much as they have. We were out at Arnold Palmer's golf course, Bay Hill, yesterday, the tournament's in town this week, the PGA Tour, and we had the Lombardi Trophy out there next to the player's trophy. It's like the Holy Grail - people really enjoy it."

He treated Lombardi Trophy like hockey players treat the Stanley Cup. Why is so important? Why do you feel such affinity for it?

"I think it's important to tangibly put your hands on, hold, spend time with a symbol as strong as that that represents a world championship. As you move forward, that hunger for getting a second one is stronger. I think the celebrating, celebrating the win the right way is a good thing. And that's it. We did research on that trophy, talked about it to a group out there yesterday, when it was named from Tiffany to Lombardi, how much it weighs, the process by which one is made, and there's nothing like it."

Did he study stats in college?

"Yes. Eastern Illinois."

Which ones does he think are most important for determining winners and losers.

"The statistics that are most important, you start with the turnover margin would be number one, OK? That would be something we play closest attention to."

Passing efficiency?

"Passing efficiency, especially down the field we think is important."

How about a 'correlation co-efficient?'

"Tell me what a 'correlation co-efficient' is."

It's linked to winning.

"Yeah. We think explosive passes or runs have a direct result. We think kick return statistics has very little bearing on wins and losses, in other words where your field position is. We think third down conversion will have some bearing on wins and losses. There you go. That's pretty good for early in the morning here."

Is it tougher dealing with free agency after having a championship team?

"It's unique in that it's the first time around with this set of circumstances, it's a little different. Your hands are tied a little bit more as it pertains to free agency, you know that. But that would be the one thing that's different, that you hadn't gone through before or prepared for before."

Losing guys?

"I think that's fairly common. I think the key is sort of replacing some of those parts prior to the draft."

How do you impress upon your team that it's a new year?

"I think the key element is the time from win this year ended that you were able to talk with the players about closure on the year that just finished. I think you have to be careful that that discussion doesn't start to soon. We have another month before our players are back from the off-season. There needs to be that gap like there would be during the regular season. Seems like we just got home from the Super Bowl and I had a March madness form to fill out. And this was the first year I didn't fill it out because when you fill one of those forms out you've got to take eight minutes to sit down and do it. Normally you have that time and this year, I just remember seeing the form and thinking, 'ah, no.' So I can't even tell you who's in and where they are right now. It just seemed like it came quick. The players, I want to make sure that feeling doesn't exist. And then begin the path of making corrections, getting better, staying on top, kind of maintaining the edge. Acquiring some new talent and putting the team together again from the very beginning. I'm not every trying to pick up from where we left off. We start all the way back at zero."

On Dolphins coach Tony Sparano:

"He's a close friend and ally and someone I respect a lot. I think a lot of him as a coach; just seeing what he's done there and what he's doing. Our wives are close - we spent an hour and a half yesterday together. You might have 2 or 3 coaches who you truly trust and are close with, he'd be one of those coaches for me."

What about Parcells - did he say anything when Saints won Super Bowl in Dolphins' stadium?

"No, I think he was excited. Again, they're in the AFC we're NFC; I think he was excited. He had a chance to speak with our players briefly at Saturday's walk-through practice and that went well. That whole crew - when you look at Jeff Ireland (sp?), Bill Parcells, and tony Sparano we were all in Dallas together for quite a while and so they're close friends."

Bengals d-coordinator Mike Zimmer is also a close friend - his son, Adam, is a defensive assistant with Saints. What was that like seeing Mike and Adam celebrate winning the Super Bowl given the death of Zimmer's wife in 2009?

"It was awesome. You know in Dallas Mike and his late wife, Vicki (sp?) and Beth and I would go out. She was always taking care of our little kids. Her daughters baby sat for our little children. We had a very close relationship and so the news of her death was hard. It was hard for a lot of people. It was hard for our children to see that, there's that sense of vulnerability for someone young they begin to think that could happen to their own parents. So it was difficult and then here we were months later at the Super Bowl and Adam Zimmer who's with us as a coach and there's Mike and there's Markie (sp) and to be able to go over there and give him a hug and just talk to them. It was unbelievable."

What about his tie to Miami of Ohio?

"It's a pretty special place; they've had a lot of successful people go through there. I was fortunate enough at a young age to be impacted by that school and a great coach, the late Randy Walker. We had two real good years there. Eastern Illinois might argue with you that they're the cradle of coaches now that they've got three in the NFL and if Mike (Dinger?) would get his act together they might have four. I think stops along the way are critical and I've been very fortunate with those stops in places such as Miami, Illinois - Eastern, or San Diego State or my time with the Giants and the Cowboys - I mean all these stops you reflect on. There's a coach with me now, for instance, at the Eagles - Joe Vitt '97-'98. And San Diego State there's Curtis Johnson and Brett Engles with me now; Miami of Ohio Dan Dalrymple, Aaron Kromer with me now. One of the neat things when you become a head coach you can hire not just people that you know but people that you think are going to do a real good job. And that's kind of cool."

"You don't ever take that for granted. When I got hired here it was right after Katrina so every phone call that you make and you talk to the assistant coach and at some point the hand went over the phone as he began to talk to his wife about New Orleans and Katrina. The hand went over the phone and then, 'alright, I can talk again, Coach.' And you know what was being said is the wife was looking like him like, "really?" You know the idea of possibly moving there was challenging and that's what made it, when the game was over, so special, because a lot of people sacrificed a lot."

More on Caymus wine:

"This is, I would say this first. I have one superstition on game day and it's Juicy Fruit gum, no big deal. But once that gets out there isn't a week that goes by I don't get a pack of Juicy Fruit sent in the mail or a box of Juicy Friut. In fact sometimes I don't even have to open it, I can smell the Juicy Fruit and I can just send it down to Chief, our equipment guy, for our stash. And so after that Indianapolis/Caymus win heist, if you will, the makers came and sent a bottle over and then one of the local suppliers sent a case over. And I remember turning to Sondra and thinking, 'boy I wish I had done the Caymus earlier because I sure like getting the Caymus over the Juicy Fruit.'" But the other evening we had gone out to eat and the Cowboys were right behind us, about 10 minutes back in our rearview mirror. And now the owner of the restaurant is from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana."

The name of the restaurant? (Ocean Prime).

"Anyway, we sat down to eat. The owner is a huge Saints fan so he's just going crazy. The menu's got fleur-de-lis on it, the whole deal. Then in comes Jerry and the Cowboys and it was just coincidence and we laughed with them and had a good visit. And Jerry looked and he knew right what I was thinking so I quickly brought the owner of the restaurant over and said, 'I just want you all to know that the owner here is from Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, and he's assured me that if there's any Caymus in this building we're going to have first crack at it and if we're not interested in drinking all of it then we'll send it your way.' Jerry looked up and I warned the waitress, I said, 'this guy's hard to say no to." Truth be told there was no Caymus in the building and this guy had sent out and located two magnums at different locations and both tables had begun to eat and drink. And so we had a presentation, like a formal presentation, all we needed was the torches, and the Saints officially presented the Cowboys with two magnums of wine and we had some laughs. It was good stuff."

On the AFC North:

"It's always been a physical division, number one. It's played great defense. You watch, historically Pittsburgh, Baltimore, I think Cincinnati's changed dramatically and Cleveland has begun to make their improvement. So I think you look at good defense right from the beginning. And now you're getting a healthy Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, your quarterback in Baltimore who is playing better. And when the schedule comes out I know this you look not only for those four teams but you look for December/January and when you're on the road. The way (the Bengals) play defensively and offensively is impressive. Mike's done a great job on defense there, Carson's been healthy, they're running the ball better, it's good football. I don't think they lost a division game a year ago."

Does he have first speech planned when team gets together to ensure they've got their act together?

"No, they get together here in three weeks I would say, middle of April. But to answer your question, no, we'll start the off-season program, talk a little bit about some of the changes, lay out the calendar. What they have in front of them now is a calendar that takes them all the way to the first day of training camp. Literally. There will be some distractions in there, things we've got to handle whether it's a trip up to Washington D.C. or the ring ceremony, those are some things you have to get fitted into their schedule that you wouldn't otherwise be doing. But I think we'll be able to outline the challenges and trying to have success after you've already had it."

Is it harder to stay on the top of the mountain than to get there?

 "I think this, if you use that analogy I believe that once you get to the top of the mountain you've got to come back down and begin the journey to go back up. In other words I don't think that you just stay there. You have to start with this offseason and start with the mini-camps and then get through training camp and you have to, hopefully, climb back up the same way you did the year before rather than you just stay up there trying to defend it. I think all of that, the journey, the process, is what you have to focus on."

Have you talked to Belichick about repeating?

"Yes. I haven't, but that would be a real good point that you would want to reference somebody who has done that successfully and there aren't a lot."

Was Orpheus' crown this year a visor?

"It was a visor that was made for the Orpheus krewe. What had happened was before we even got started I was handed a ball from a lady below on street level. And I signed this ball but my impressions were it was a random ball, in other words that it was one to throw out. So I threw it out someone took off with it. And then as soon as I looked down I realized her 5-year-old boy was crying. Screaming. It was his ball. And I knew where that ball just went and it had no chance of getting back to him. And I said to the mother, 'I'm sorry,' and she said, 'do you have anything?' And I said, 'you can write to the office, I'll send you a ball here," and then I took this visor and signed it and handed it to her. And that kind of reaction, I was like, 'I can't believe I just did that,' and so I put another visor on but that was Orpheus."

He seemed so excited as Orpheus it looked as if he might throw the Lombardi Trophy, yes?: (laughs)

"I'm glad that that neck is strong because where it comes to a point where the ball is you keep thinking, 'this is going to bust off.' But there's actually a steel rod that is placed in the middle of it and from the top of the ball to the base of the trophy this rod sort of secures it. It's important."

Drew Brees seemed much more relaxed in the Super Bowl than he did in the NFC Championship. Was that game in some ways even tenser for you?

"It was different in the kind of defense we were playing. I think he was very mindful in the championship game about not turning the ball over. Maybe somewhat conservative by design, by that's kind of what we thought we needed to do. That the type of defense versus Minnesota was going to be a little different than what we saw against Indy. But there is a stretch in the Super Bowl - second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter - where he was really something. And you could see that in his play calling."

Overtime again:

"I'm not a big fan of it. Certainly not a big fan of how it was voted on. The plan was Wednesday, it just caught me off guard. It was just us, the GMs were gone, I just got to do a better job of paying attention to my schedule. I didn't do a good job of that. There was confidence in how that was going to unfold. Probably would have went thourgh it's moment of protocol Wednesday. I might have slept in yesterday. Don't see why to be there at 8:30 and have muffins when it's already been decided on."

You thought Saints would vote against it?

"That was our plan."

Still on overtime topic:

"There's a handful of guys who don't have a lot of postseason experience. I don't know that it mattered that I was at the meeting. So just tell us what we're doing. Number one I would be for doing whatever we're doing in the regular season in the post season. I don't like the rule in which I've got to spend really an inordinate amount of time trying to explain to my wife or anyone who enjoys football, "alright, are you with me here? If we score a touchdown in the beginning of overtime in the regular season, if we score at touchdown in the beginning of overtime in the post-season we win. If it's a field goal in the regular season we win. If we kick a field goal at the start of overtime in the post-season, stop, hold up, we don't get that, they get another chance and if they score a field goal it's back to overtime rules and if they score a touchdown they win.' 'Coach, can you tell me why you decided to kick a field goal 4th and 2 on your 12, when they had a lot of momentum?' 'Coach, can you...' I hate it."

So what do you do with 4th and 2 on the 12?

"Hey, we've got to start evaluating our overtime strategy starting today. I don't know yet. We'll look at it. I'm sure it's going to depend on how the other team is scoring. I just don't know - I would have said to you it was an asset, that our current format was an asset. I think it's hard to come to the Ritz-Carlton for four days and break from a meeting schedule like this and only have tinkered with maybe how the clock actually stops at the end of the half or game. In other words you usually have to come away from one of these meetings with some chunk. Or else we could have done this by speakerphone. We have to have something substantial to give.

Where were you when you found out?

"We didn't play golf. We were over with Arnold Palmer. He's got the Tour in town. So I was over there having lunch with Arnold Palmer."

Did you ever think you'd say that?

"It was awesome." Word came from text message. "what I thought was, often times they'll do, 'this is what we think the vote will be.' And there was a group of six of us that I thought would be 'nay' votes. We just thought tomorrow we'll figure out where this is at and it's probably going to be close. It was a little coup that took place in the evening there."

How do you balance personal/professional with players you like, look at it dispassionately?

"A, you always have to be honest with the players. Scott (Fujita) and I had, still have a great relationship. He was the first guy we signed to come to New Orleans. When he signed with Cleveland I felt the disappointment and the loss of a player and I also felt the excitement for him. Truly as coaches you want good things to happen for your players who have worked so hard. You want to see them have success. So with Scott that part was easy. Now with Mike Bell last night you have that disappointment of losing someone that you really picked up and developed. He's going to have a chance now to maybe play a more significant role in that offense. But that's one of the challenges of what we do because it changes from year to year. And I think it becomes more difficult when you win or accomplish something and then you lose these little pieces of the team gradually. That's why the bus ride after the game there was a little post-partum because you know that's the last time that coach's group is going to be together. It was the last game. And so you just kind of ride back and you realize, 'hey, there's no more games to play.'"

Coach follows owner but you're also the face of the franchise and you're supposed to lead the players either by example or by direction. How difficult is that then to get the right quarterback to complete that?

"Well, I would say this. It's difficult finding, you're right with what you just said. Finding that though, the player that has those characteristics and traits and work ethic: intelligence, skill set that's the trick. Because there's so much more on their plate. It's a lot like the airplane pilot and regardless of who else is on the plane - the various other players and coaches and management - at some point the quarterback gets in and flies the plane. And what I mean by that is he can fly the organization right into a frickin' mountain or he can land you safely. But he touches the ball 70 times a game. 70 times a game he has the football. So anyone would tell you he's the most important person in the building. What we're talking about, when he's playing no one impacts the game more than the quarterback. Because he's the guy that holds the ball, he's got the ball in his hands. And if you tried to really evaluate, alright, how many decisions in one game did the quarterback make? Forget the physical throws. There might be 72 things where he had to think about a, b or c. So you're also hoping you have a guy who just by nature makes good decisions. But they are hard to find."

Easier to have expanded playbook with that kind of guy at QB?

"I think the answer to that is yes. In other words, I think with a quarterback as invested as Drew Brees or Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, those guys are dying for more thoughts. They can handle that and they want more. So the challenge for us is always to keep feeding them different thoughts and techniques. These guys don't want the car with just the simple AM/FM radio now, are you with me? They want the keyless entry, they want the crazy button back seat, they want to know all about this little button here on the right that heats the back seat - they can operate all the little bells and switches."

Other end of the spectrum?

"The guy that just wants the cassette? You know, it's alright. We've won with players like that. You just have to know what kind of race you need to get in. You've got to do what's best with your players and give them the best chance so it might be a new strategy."

Red zone defense tougher?

"We see a lot of different - we don't see the same things anymore. Certainly it's tight quarters so it's harder to throw the ball, but hat changes week by week depending on who we're playing. We always try (to score from anywhere on the field) because certainly when the field gets smaller the challenges get greater. That's something we practice on and talk about - you know, explosive plays."

What about drafting big guys?

"Here's what I was taught. That if you make and begin to make too many exceptions then three years from now you can look and say, 'why don't we have a big team?' But I do think that exception needs to exist and if it's a short corner then he's got to be exceptional in these other areas. So I think you need to be careful and you do have to have some parameters at each position. And yet you can have that exception. You try to pay close attention (to size parameters) in the beginning. Maybe a player has two of the three you like and now, well, maybe you wouldn't have drafted him in the third round but now you might in the sixth round. Make sense?" 

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