UN AUG. 7, 2016Saints Camp: Why Sean Payton Is Smiling

With his young team—built with a focus on character and toughness—back on the upswing, the coach has taken on a relaxed demeanor heading into 2016. Quarterback Drew Brees understands why

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — I’ve noticed, and I know others have too. Sean Payton, now with a decade under his belt as Saints coach, has looked more relaxed through the first seven months of 2016.
And so I asked him, after a competitive Saturday practice, if there’s anything to it.
“There are just certain things that you begin to focus on a little more clearly, and the others you have less control over, you don’t let those derail from working towards the main goal,” Payton told me. “It’s hard to evaluate that. Obviously, the consistency we’ve had from our ownership to general manager to head coach, to having the same quarterback throughout that timeframe, that’s something you appreciate.
“I’m excited about this team.”
That team will need a bit of introduction.
Only Drew Brees, Zach Strief and Thomas Morstead remain from the 2009 champions, the product of turning the team-building page over the last three offseasons. On a snaps-played basis, the Saints relied on rookies on defense in 2015 more than any other team. And at least four 2016 draft picks—defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins, wide receiver Mike Thomas, safety Vonn Bell and running back Daniel Lasco—figure to play early this year.
As Payton sees it, the burgeoning new core correlates to where the Saints were a decade ago, when he first arrived. And he saw that even when his future was very publicly in question as last season wound down. So it makes sense that, with a team that he again believes is ascending and his own situation settled (he signed a five-year deal in January), he’d look more content.
In a lot of ways, for Payton and the Saints, this feels like the start of a new era.

Photo: Chris Tilley/APIt’s been a noticeably more relaxed Sean Payton this summer.

“The best way to put it is he has a plan,” Drew Brees said after practice. “He has a plan for, even going back to a year ago, how we’re gonna build this team back to being all about character and toughness. … I don’t wanna call it relaxed, I don’t wanna call it content. It’s purposeful.”
As a result, Brees says he sees a Payton who can forecast things coming before they happen, and knows how to push the buttons accordingly, which goes to the efficiency Payton cited.
And Brees didn’t have to dig too deep to come up with an anecdote to illustrate it. A shining example had just played out a couple hours earlier on the practice field.
“He knew everyone was gonna come out today and be sluggish to start because we’ve had a couple hard days in a row, it’s the dog days,” Brees said. “He knew ahead of time, ‘I’m gonna have to jump some guys’ asses early on to get guys going,’ because everyone was gonna come out here feeling sorry for themselves. Sure enough, that’s what happened. And then we ended up having a good practice.”