A reflective Sean Payton talked to the press for more than an hour today after he announced he intends to stay with the New Orleans Saints.
Whatever happened over the course of the 2015 Saints season to cause the rumors that Sean Payton's time in New Orleans was nearing its end did not
, in fact, lead to Sean Payton's time in New Orleans coming to an end.
But it did
lead to perhaps the most remarkable press conference of his career, in which he first confirmed he has no plans to leave the Saints — ever! — and then spoke to reporters for over an hour.
It may have been the most unexpected possible result of the many days and weeks and months of speculation.
The gruff Payton to which Saints Twitter has referred as "Grandpa Sean" for the last couple years was gone. In his place was an emotional, humble and even jovial Payton who sounded both nostalgic and sincere over everything from his relationship with his kids to the New Orleans boil water notices that occasionally force him to shower at the Saints' facility instead of at home.
"There will be more moments," Payton said, at a point that turned out to be quite early in his presser. "More wins. More playoffs. I promise you there will be."
Payton seemed more at ease and more eager than he has since before 2012, at the very least, and maybe even since before then. With tears in his eyes, he sold lines about his relationship with the city where he has coached football for a decade that the best tourism board copywriters couldn't dream of replicating.
As Saints owner Tom Benson looked on from across the room, reporters asked if they could assume quarterback Drew Brees would return. Payton, laughing, said, "That's probably a safe assumption."
Reporters asked, with Saints front office members everywhere, whether interim defensive coordinator Dennis Allen would return permanently. At first, Payton tried the old we haven't discussed that yet
routine, but quickly changed again to straightforward and smiling honesty: "I mean, he may say no, but I would hope he'll be here."
"In many ways," Payton said, "I'm just as excited and as nervous as I was during my first press conference here ten years ago."
Later, he glossed over a question about why Benson and so many front office members were in the room with him if there was in fact nothing to the rumors that was on his way out of town. The official line, surely, was there was never anything of substance to the reports.
But plenty of snippets slipped through regardless. Grandpa Sean had a careful coach-speak facade. But this Sean Payton let slip that General Manager Mickey Loomis may have felt out possible compensation from other teams for Payton's services.
Payton eventually got to talking about "clouds" and "blogs" and "posts" and that, along with such bits as the aforementioned, implies something
happened that filtered out into the so-called cloud. Over the past year, and increasingly in recent days, Payton and the Saints have had some sort of changing — let's get overly poetical and use the world cleansing —
What, was was there a Christmas Carol
event on Airline Drive? Did the Ghost of Paytons Past show up (it was probably Buddy D) and show Sean where he came from, and did the Ghost of Paytons Present drop by and show him that every other patch of grass in the terrible mess we refer to as the NFL is the same shade of burnt brown as the one Payton directs here? I won't speculate about the Ghost of Paytons Yet to Come — but you get the point.
In the coming days, people with connections will surely produce information about what happened behind the scenes. They'll try to, at least. Maybe they'll find nothing. Hell, maybe nothing actually happened. Maybe all the reports and rumors were just the sports industrial complex at work. Maybe, on top of being one of the best offensive coaches in football, Sean Payton is also a gifted actor.
But you know you wish you had been a fly on the wall in the meetings that recently took place between Payton and Mickey Loomis.
I know I do.