Benson, Lauscha, Payton strike right tone at NFL owners meetings

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The void left by the loss of Tom Benson was bound to be a large hole to fill. Without a doubt, that remains the case but also without a doubt, the hole is being filled quite nicely.

That was evident once again at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Gayle Benson and Dennis Lauscha are playing a good tune, hitting all the right notes. The same is true of Sean Payton.

Since taking over after the passing of her husband just over a year ago (March 15, 2018), Gayle has maintained a steady hand and a steady approach, using steady words to oversee the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans. Many observers have hardly seen any difference, though she is certain to put her own personal stamp on both franchises in due time.

The one thing that is obvious is that Lauscha remains her right hand man. The New Orleans native is the most trusted arm of the Benson family and has been for quite some time.

On Monday, Benson once again reassured followers not to worry about the future of either franchise.

While the Saints are on solid ground, with a very successful product on the field and great fan support in a football-crazed metropolitan area, the Pelicans are not a successful product on the court and have struggled to maintain solid fan support.

Last season was a revelation, with a playoff series victory and lots of promise heading into this season.

Then came injuries. Then came the Anthony Davis fiasco.

Now, Benson, rather than panicking, has remained poised, both publicly and privately. She has taken a deep breath to evaluate the situation and is wisely taking her time to make a proper decision about the direction of the franchise.

She already made one decisive move and it was the correct one to jettison Dell Demps.

Now comes the decision to hire someone to run the franchise.

In reaching that conclusion, Benson is doing the correct thing once again in taking Mickey Loomis out of the day-to-day operation of the NBA team, a place he never should have been.

Loomis is a football man and a good one, a proven winner. He has no skins on the wall and likely never wanted the responsibility of overseeing the Pelicans, a role thrust upon him by Mr. Benson.

Mrs. Benson said Monday there is no way she will ever sell the Pelicans and that she values the Pelicans as much as she values the Saints.

When Tom Benson chose to purchase the Pelicans, it saved the franchise for New Orleans, much as was the case when he purchased the Saints from John Mecom and prevented that franchise from relocating.

Gayle Benson was an enthusiastic supporter of her husband buying the Pelicans and she truly enjoys basketball.

Lauscha has not hidden his fervent desire to make the NBA successful as well, aggressively partnering the Pelicans with many youth entities throughout the region. He will regularly engage you in conversation about how much he values the Pelicans and wants to see the team succeed.

Mrs. Benson was nothing but class in addressing the situation with Davis, stating her disappointment with his decision but wishing him the best of luck, saying he needs to do what he feels is best for him.

In addressing the now infamous “Nola No Call,” Benson was pure class as well.

“Life is not a bed of roses and we aren’t promised that,” Benson said. “So we just deal with the situations as they happen. That’s what life is about. We have to accept whatever is given to us and work through it.”

While there will never be closure for fervent, passionate fans, the language used by Benson and by Payton was simply perfect.

You cannot change what has already occurred, you can only change what may occur in the future.

To that end, Benson, Lauscha and Payton are aggressively lobbying other NFL owners to exact change in rules and allowing additional challenges to obviously blown calls, including judgment calls.

Payton correctly stated that expanded replay would not lead to more challenges. Payton addressed the elephant in the room, whether he and the Saints needed to lobby for change to placate fans. Payton also said he liked the idea of a “sky judge” to fix terrible calls.

While he stated that he “absolutely” wanted to speak up for Saints fans, he added that making change is all about the betterment of the game itself, saying that when you’re gone and there’s another group, you can look back and say that changes were made which had a positive affect on the game.

Payton also correctly assessed that so-called “All-Star” officiating crews for the playoffs are a bad idea, that crews which work together in the regular season should stay together in the playoffs.

Finally, Payton put the onus on NFL owners, stating that if no change is enacted that ownership is saying they are comfortable with what happened to the Saints.

Benson displayed a humble nature which will serve her well and was a glimpse into her character.

While she understands the incredibly important responsibility she has as owner of two major league franchises, the New Orleans native has a grasp on the reality of the situation.

“I don’t really truly think we really own anything in life,” Benson said. “We take care of things for the next generation, or the next person who comes along.”

I could not have said it better. We are all caretakers for our children and our children’s children, for our professional successors and their successors.

We are only here for a short while.

Benson, Lauscha, Payton and Loomis get it and are working hard to make both franchises successful while saying all the right things and placating and pleasing passionate fans. Tom Benson would be proud.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

Owner/CEO

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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