Fiftieth installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
You can’t overstate the importance of a head-coach in a football team. He’s not only the technical leader; he must lead also a large group of men including the coaching staff and even the front office.
But if you got an organization used to win and with endless financial resources, everything tends to go smoothly. When you have to face a team used to be the laughing stock of the NFL and its home town just endured a hurricane and a flood, it’s another story. And that’s exactly what Sean Payton had to face.
Patrick Sean Payton was born December 29, 1963 in San Mateo, California. When he was seven, the family moved to Newton Square, Pennsylvania where he attended grade school and middle school. In high-school the family moved to Naperville, Illinois where at the Naperville Central High he was starting quarterback in his senior year. He managed to obtain a football scholarship and went on to be successful playing for the Eastern Illinois University.
Payton was not drafted and his professional career developed in the Arena Football League, the Canadian Football League and even in the UK Football league.
Upon returning home, he began his coaching career as offensive assistant at San Diego State University. He then landed positions as assistant coach at Indiana State University, Miami Ohio and Illinois, before going to the Philadelphia Eagles as quarterback coach.
He was then offensive coordinator at the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, before getting the invitation to a head-coaching job at the New Orleans Saints.
Now, of course, for a guy that was always an assistant a head-coaching job is a dream come true, but think about it for a second: he was going to a devastated city, to a team that had just coming out of a 3-13 season getting a quarterback that heard from a lot of doctors he would probably never play again. Not exactly football Shangri-la, is it?
He even had a discussion with his wife about it. It’s all thoroughly and deliciously explained in his great book: Home Team: Caching the Saints and New Orleans Back to Life.
The effects of the Brees-Payton partnership were already felt in its first year. First, with the historical blocked punt by Steve Gleason against the Atlanta Falcons on the day the Superdome reopened his doors after being destroyed by Katrina. The play was ordered by Payton and today is immortalized in a statue in front of the stadium; then, with the Saints going to their first NFC championship, but losing to the Chicago Bears in a miserable Windy City cold.
After making some improvements on the roster (the story about managing to get Reggie Bush he tells in his book is great), in 2009 the Saints had a 13-3 regular season and after a thrilling game against the Vikings at home, they won the NFC and went on to the Super Bowl.
In the Super Bowl against the heavy favorite Indianapolis Colts and losing 10-0 at the half, Sean opened the second half with an ONSIDE KICK! How many coaches would have the guts to do that? This play turned the game around and the Saints won. But it was not only that, in his book he tells everything that went behind the curtains (including giving prizes even to the player’s wives!) to build a championship team. And these things were all instrumental in Saints victory.
I know the last few years people (myself included) had been critical of some of Payton’s play calling and other things, but this cannot take out the brilliance of his achievement. He won a SUPER BOWL with the New Orleans Saints! This is huge and eternal and makes him always a hero to me.
Therefore, Sean, come marching in to the Hall of Idols.
Salem’s lot – Stephen King
Breaking Bad – Season V
Be sure to check out my book “Straight and Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.
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