Saints coach Payton adjusts to culture, times to maintain respect from players

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Sean Payton
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton takes notes during practice at their NFL football training facility in Metairie, La., Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Pool)

Everyone is content to be in his or her comfort zone.

We all have our go-to ways and means of living our lives daily.

To be successful and to maintain success, we must have consistency in approach and demeanor while having the ability to reason when some degree of change is necessary.

Looking back, about 15 years ago, I would not have ever envisioned owning and operating a successful sports website, embarking on several social media accounts and posts and embracing new media, not with a three decade career in traditional media.

Change occurred. We are fortunate and blessed to bring you the content you see, watch and hear daily on

Sean Payton arrived in 2006 on the heels of Hurricane Katrina when New Orleans was a city on its collective knees.

He quickly built a winner, established pride and established a new identity for its team, which reflected his brash, gambling, creative, competitive nature.

Since that time, Payton has seen players change, coaches change, rules change, music tastes change and society change.

He saw it coming and earlier today, he reflected on the journey of 15 years in New Orleans.

“Man, we’re so much different now, relative to coaching these players then we were in ’06, ’07, ’08 and just how we present, how we teach, and I think there’s an old adage, we adapt or we die,” Payton said. “I think that certainly falls on the teacher.”

The teacher is using totally different methods now than he did in the beginning of his regime.

“How they learn is definitely different than how they learned and that’s constantly changing,” Payton said. “It’s not just music. It’s not just the visuals but the days of putting up a Power Point presentation or just a simple chart on a stream. That’s got to be done with a movie scene. We’re still going to make the point and we have to be a little bit more creative in how we do it.”

Payton then emphasized the most important aspect of changing with the times.

“I think lastly and most importantly, we have to be ourselves, too!” Payton said. “We can’t try to be someone we’re not. One of the great parts of this job for me and for us as coaches is we get to be around young athletes and young people in general and I think that’s pretty good.”

What would Bill Parcells, whom Payton has relied on as a mentor, think of Payton’s dancing?

“I think he follows us and he recognizes where we’re at,” Payton said. “I think Bill was a pretty good dancer back in the day. Bill would probably say something like, ‘well that’s just such and such. We were doing that back in the day. It’s got a different name. In other words, someone else already invented that. He understands human nature.”

Payton maintains that Parcells wasn’t the gruff, sarcastic, biting persona we frequently saw in interviews.

“What people don’t realize is how much he made you laugh and how much he could pull you in,” Payton said. “There was a personality about him much different than what might appear from the outside. You just didn’t have 50,000 cell phones recording every second, every minute of the day and the network having a camera in the locker room and the next thing in the coach’s office and pretty soon, it’s just the Truman Show.”

For the record, The Truman Show, made in 1998, is one of my all-time favorite movies with Jim Carrey and Ed Harris.

It is the ultimate reflection of the most honest reality of a person’s life.

What would anyone’s life look like if it was on camera 24 hours a day, seven days a week?

There would be nothing to hide, no lies.

Sean Payton is revered by many, reviled by some. That is the nature of the business of coaching and the nature of society today.

It is impossible to gain unanimous favor, to get total, widespread approval.

We all want to be liked by everyone.

That is not only unrealistic, it is not going to happen.

As I have stated on many occasions, it is imperative that we tolerate and understand each other and all points of view. That requires making comfortable change.

It is equally imperative that we do not compromise our standards and beliefs. To do so would be in the truly uncomfortable range.

Now 15 years into his regime, Payton has grasped the concept perfectly.

At 57, he understands tolerance and changing times.

Payton has adapted, adjusted, adhered to cultural shifts to relate to players young enough to be his grandchildren, in some instances.

That would explain dancing, incurring penalties from the No Fun League and getting slimed by Nickelodeon.

The culture has captured Payton as well, witnessed by “Hit The Sean Payton,” by Shamarr Allen.

Those who do not change with the times are dinosaurs, extinct, fading into oblivion, not worth a plugged nickel.

Payton remains hip while his team hops deeper into the playoffs.

It may not be what he envisioned when he took the job in 2006 but the vision is now clear as day, to relate, to meet players where and how they live, to earn respect and to see them buy in to win.

Payton and the Saints continue to win as the seasons change.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan


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

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