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Saints on the march

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; All signs have been positive for New Orleans since Payton took over as its coach. They're posted all over the New Orleans Saints practice facility, at first-year coach Sean Payton's behest, motivational slogans in Saints black and gold. The first ...

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Old 10-27-2006, 05:38 PM   #1
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Saints on the march

All signs have been positive for New Orleans since Payton took over as its coach.

They're posted all over the New Orleans Saints practice facility, at first-year coach Sean Payton's behest, motivational slogans in Saints black and gold.

The first one is in the hallway, on the left.

A New Orleans Saint will be: Strong/Tough/Smart/Reliable/ Disciplined/Well conditioned.

In the locker room, you can't turn around without reading one.

Ability is important, but dependability is critical. Individuals play the game. Teams win championships. A few bad character guys ruin even the best of teams. Three fights every day: Division from within/Your competition/Public perception.

Hokey? Maybe a little. But Payton had to try everything he could to, as he put it, "change the culture" of Saints football.

So far, all signs are positive.

A year after Hurricane Katrina left them fractured and distracted, the Saints are unified and focused. After going 3-13 and finishing last in the NFC South, they are 5-1 and atop the division.

Payton has changed the culture, the roster and the outlook for a franchise that has won one playoff game in its 39-year history.

"He's created a great atmosphere around here, a great attitude," said quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints' key free-agent acquisition from San Diego. "He does everything the right way. He's strict but fair. There's a certain way we're going to do things around here, and it's the winning way to do it. There's no compromise with those sorts of things."

One example: The Saints traded their leading receiver from last season, Donté Stallworth, who had a questionable work ethic and a series of nagging injuries. They entrusted the job to seventh-round draft pick Marques Colston, who leads all rookies in receiving yards (414) and touchdown catches (four).

Another example: The Saints had the fifth-most penalties for the third-most yards last season. This season, they have the 10th-fewest penalties for the seventh-fewest yards.

"We've just got a lot of guys paying attention to the little things and believing in one another," said cornerback Fred Thomas, who has been with the Saints since 2000. "That's the whole big change."

But how did that change come about? Did the winning happen because the atmosphere improved? Or did the atmosphere improve because the team started winning?

The latter is the more obvious answer. As Brees said, "It's easier to come to work when you're winning." But to chalk it all up to that 5-1 mark in the standings diminishes the work Payton and the Saints have done.

The deeper explanation is that rebuilding - with new coaches, players and, yes, hokey slogans - brought them together, much like the denizens of the city in which they play.

"We've got a lot of new guys in the system," Thomas said. "We all had to learn it at the same time, which gave us the opportunity to learn each other."

Payton and Brees had the shared experience of new challenges. Payton had a distinguished NFL resumé as an assistant, most recently with Dallas, but never had been a head coach. Brees developed into a Pro Bowl performer with the Chargers but had to prove he was worth a six-year, $60million contract after suffering a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in the final game of last season.

"We knew that we were going to have to rely on each other to help drive the ship," Brees said. "Obviously, there are a lot of guys in here involved with that. But being the head coach and the quarterback, you have a bigger responsibility there."

Payton and Brees were among the first in a wave of newcomers. The Saints turned over more than half their roster, adding several relative unknowns and one big-name college superstar in USC's Reggie Bush.

The Brees and Bush acquisitions had the city abuzz. And the enthusiasm hasn't faded since. Thomas hears it every week at the barbershop.

"That's all the guys talk about - how good we're doing," he said. "It's a big difference. A year ago, I'd go into the barbershop, and those people didn't even want to talk about the Saints."

The Saints have treated their fans to three exhilarating home victories, the last won on a last-second John Carney field goal. The 27-24 triumph over Philadelphia sent the Saints happily into their bye week. But Payton didn't spend his Sunday off idly.

"My wife had a list of things for me to get done," he said.

Did you check everything off the list?

"Most of it."

Payton could have been referring to his team, too. For all the good vibes he and the Saints have generated, they still have 10 games to go. Several recent Saints clubs ('02, '01, '98) collapsed in December. Payton's work isn't done.

He believes his players understand that, and they do have one thing going for them: Because everyone is still so new, there's room for further growth.

"So many players, they just got here," fifth-year defensive end Charles Grant said. "To me, it's a dangerous thing because we haven't jelled yet."

If the Saints' 5-1 start is merely a sign of things to come, that would be dangerous.

For the rest of the league.

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Old 10-27-2006, 06:04 PM   #2
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RE: Saints on the march

hookie yes. but all true. funny how they forget the small things that make a winner.
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Old 10-27-2006, 06:08 PM   #3
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If someone would have wanted me to wager that the Saints would be 5 and 1 at this point in the season in late August, I would have lost a lot of money.

What a pleasure to watch a quarterback that actually knows and understands what he is doing. It has been a while since I have seen this.

How about going 8 or 10 plays without a false start penalty???

What a pleaseure not to enter the second half of play with no chance of winning and also no hope of winning.

You have to be able to play, but you also have to be able to think---see the New England Patriots team.

We have a coach who can evaluate talent in players as well as asissitant coaches.

I never thought the team could change this much in so short a period of time, and I love it.

Our 40 years of suffering a Saints fans may be over, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and its not another train.
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Old 10-27-2006, 07:38 PM   #4
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RE: Unbelievable

Great post Tigger, thanks...
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