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Sean Payton Remembers Tom Benson, a Stickler for Organization and an Invaluable Mentor

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana are in mourning, and should be. Tom Benson—a giant of an owner in all ways, and my boss with the Saints since 2006—has passed. I just wish every Saints fan ...

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Old 03-17-2018, 06:24 PM   #1
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The city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana are in mourning, and should be. Tom Benson—a giant of an owner in all ways, and my boss with the Saints since 2006—has passed.

I just wish every Saints fan had the privilege I had. I got to be mentored by Mr. Benson for over a decade. Almost every day since I got the job coaching the Saints, Mr. Benson, a very behind-the-scenes owner, would give me some football—and life—advice.

I’d walk into his office in the morning. He’d always have a bowl filled with Tootsie Rolls and Hershey Kisses. I’d grab a couple of pieces of the candy and sit there for a few minutes, maybe longer, and listen. This is when we’d talk on a variety of topics. In every meeting, some piece of wisdom from his life in New Orleans, his business life, his military life, his sporting life, would pass from him to me.

“Retirement speeds your aging, you know. Don’t retire. It’s the most overrated thing ever.”

“You got plenty of time to coach, Coach.”

“Accountability, Coach. Be on top of your coaches. Make them accountable in everything they do.”

He hated a mess. He wanted everything to be neat, organized. He was a military man, through and through. One day in one of those meetings, he’d seen our mail room all messed up, and he said to me, “Coach, we’ve got to get that mailroom organized. Can’t have a mess.”



One time, we’d lost two or three games in a row. The fans were down on us, the media was down on us, everyone was down on us. Not Mr. Benson. I come in to work one day that week, and there was a handwritten note on my desk.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going, Coach.”

Of course you’ve heard that before, and you wonder what good that does. But it just showed you he cared, and he wanted me to know he cared, and it doesn’t matter what walk of life you’re in—sometimes you just need that. With Mr. Benson, it was unconditional.

I’m out in Los Angeles right now. I found out he died Thursday while I was on the way to UCLA’s pro day, and it was hard to pay close attention to all these drills. So many good memories about what he meant to me and our city raced through my mind. We’ve all had days like that—we’ve been somewhere, but we’re not really there. That’s what this pro day was like.

The hallmark of a great owner is knowing what’s important to the football team, and doing what he can to help in every way. I cannot think of one time when we asked for anything remotely important and he said no. I wanted to take the players on a team-bonding trip to a water park once. It cost $8,000. No problem. Never a problem.

That even extended to sleep—and to his organization and neatness. Lots of coaches in the NFL periodically will sleep one or two nights in the office. With Mr. Benson, the challenge was getting the sleeping bag rolled or the couch folded up before he walked down the hall in the morning. He hated our offices looking sloppy. So he ended up footing the bill in 2016 for a high-tech sleep room at our facility—climate-controlled, built-in chargers for a phone, blackout shades on the window and door. No more excuses for a sloppy office, and the coaches loved it.

read more on SI

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