this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Plan comes together for Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints By Nakia Hogan, The Times-Picayune One day during just another ordinary offseason workout last spring, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton looked at all of the personnel that he had helped ...
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Plan comes together for Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Plan comes together for Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
By Nakia Hogan, The Times-Picayune
One day during just another ordinary offseason workout last spring, New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton looked at all of the personnel that he had helped assemble, and it hit him.
If everything fell into place, if the injury bug could be avoided, if the players could stick to the game plan, the 2009 Saints could be special.
This was his fourth year of offseason workouts with the Saints, but it was the first time he was gushing with confidence.
"We felt in the offseason we had a chance to be good, " Payton said. "You don't know how injuries are going to treat you. You don't know how the schedule is going to treat you. There were some challenging games when you looked at it before the start of the year that you knew were going to be tough hurdles."
But Payton thought the Saints had made all the right moves to get the team where it is now -- Super Bowl XLIV.
The Saints will play the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday's Super Bowl in large part because of some shrewd personnel moves since General Manager Mickey Loomis hired Payton as coach in 2006 and months later signed quarterback Drew Brees to be the organization's franchise player.
The Saints didn't stop there, though, adding integral pieces to their NFC championship puzzles along the way.
Although the Saints won the NFC South title in 2006 and played in the conference championship game that season, Payton said he knows the franchise is on much more solid footing now.
"Well, I think in '06 it was hard to project maybe the success you would or wouldn't have, and certainly in my first year -- there's some uncertainty in regard to how good you are.
"We felt like there were still a number of holes to fill, and there were questions about Deuce's (McAllister) health and Drew Brees' health. But each year slowly and steadily we've been able to find the right players and instill a winning attitude and approach to how we do things in the offseason, how we do things from A to Z. And it starts with getting the right players and just giving them a chance, giving them a decent plan where they can be successful, having the right leadership, and putting the team ahead of any individual's goals."
Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune
New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith is one of six players who remain from the Jim Haslett era.
Since that first year with Payton, the Saints have appeared to make all the right moves in building their team. Only six Saints players -- tackle Jon Stinchcomb, defensive end Will Smith receiver Devery Henderson, guard Jamar Nesbit, defensive end Charles Grant and offensive tackle Jammal Brown -- remain from the Jim Haslett era, the coach who preceded Payton. And Brown and Grant are on injured reserve.
Along the way, the Saints have had to make some tough decisions, cutting ties with fan-favorite receiver Joe Horn after the 2006 season and releasing McAllister after the 2008 season.
In cutting ties with McAllister, Loomis said, it was one of the toughest decisions he's ever had to make. It's hard to argue now that it wasn't the right move, however.
"It was sad to see a lot of those guys go, but in the same sense we knew we had guys that were up and coming that nobody had heard of, " said Smith, a 2004 first-round draft pick. "Those guys all did terrific things for the organization. But for whatever reason it didn't work out here. When they departed, guys stepped up and came up big."
It hasn't hurt that the Saints have hit on several of their drafts under Loomis, who has been the general manager since 2002.
Perhaps the 2006 offseason was the front office's finest moment. Besides hiring Payton and signing Brees, the Saints also had a stellar draft.
Of the eight players selected in the 2006 draft by the Saints, five are still on the roster, including four starters -- running back Reggie Bush, strong safety Roman Harper, guard Jahri Evans and receiver Marques Colston. Reserve tackle Zach Strief also was a member of that draft class, which has served as a cornerstone of the team.
"Obviously every year in the draft can be hit or miss, and you never know how guys are going to pan out in the NFL, " said Bush, the No. 2 overall pick. "Our draft class just happened to be one of those years where we just happened to have a lot of good players."
"It's been one of the better drafts we have had here, " Harper said. "It's been a very productive class. Everybody has had a large part of the production that we've had here."
Even with a few solid drafts in 2007 and 2008, Payton and several Saints players said they didn't start to fully feel comfortable with this team until this past offseason.
That's when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was hired to take over for Gary Gibbs and the secondary was shored up with the additions of free safety Darren Sharper and cornerback Jabari Greer.
"We've always been doing what's in the best interest of the team, and not all of them have been easy decisions, " Brees said earlier this season. "Bringing in Gregg Williams was a tough decision, because we all loved Gary Gibbs.
"He was a great guy. That was one of the hardest things that had to happen around here. You bring in a guy like Gregg Williams, and I think we've seen the result of that in regard to how the culture has changed on the defense and the attitude and the confidence and the way they are playing. I use that as an example, and there's plenty of others, but we're always thinking about what's in the best interest of the team and how we can get to the level that we want to be at."
Payton said the moves were all a part of a blueprint the organization was following.
"New England showed a lot of people the way, if you were paying attention, " Payton said. "If you weren't, then it probably wasn't going to matter. But if you were paying attention, you saw a team that did a great job of preparing hard and working together and having success, and that's something that I think in any business you've got to look closely at who's doing well in your industry, or else you're going to fall behind."
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